Sometimes, we look at people in a way that reveals exactly how we feel. We can look with love, or we can look with hate. Sometimes, we can look with indifference or with judgement of those we assume are beneath us.
We do this when we see people on the street, asking for money.
An old saying goes: “Don’t look down on a man unless you’re going to help him up.” We need to take a look at that right now.
Some of us just want to crush the people who we look down on.
As a people, we have to get to the point where we focus on bringing others up even if we disagree with what they are doing or what their station is in life.
Typically, when we hear bigots say “you people,” they only want to look down on and crush “those people.”
Sadly, we see that in our own race when well-off Blacks talk about poor Black folks as “you people,” which clearly demonstrates a disconnect and a lack of respect.
It’s easy to do, but counterproductive to look down on “those people” who are making mistakes and doing the wrong things, including nefarious activities, going to prison and in general falling out of the bottom of society, because any of them can become something beautiful and necessary with the right people, places and things touching their lives at the right moments in time.
Witness the destructive criticism of Malcolm X even when he was cleaning himself up. He was one of the worst pieces of human filth, destroying Black women as a pimp, helping to destroy Black men and women with drugs, and destroying himself with a collection of negative behavior. By the time he ended up in prison, even he embraced his nickname of “Satan.”
Yet, due to a convergence of people, places and things, Malcolm Little the piece of human filth, was able to transform himself into Malcolm X, the beautiful and necessary revolutionary who touched lives inside and outside of his own epoch with speeches, writing and activism. To quote the late Ossie Davis, Malcolm became our “Shining Black Prince.”
I take it personal when some in the Black community direct hatred, ignorance and arrogant rhetoric to our brothers and sisters at the bottom, because I, too, came from the bottom.
The college career counselor at my school urged me to avoid college. She said that “you people”–referring to young Black men–lacked the discipline required to do anything productive in life. She did nothing to bring me up, yet disparaged and discouraged me for being poor and allegedly without focus even though I had good grades.
I easily could have taken her advice and answered the call of the streets, because I know many other brothers who did. And, please believe that this destructive program is still going on in our schools.
But a convergence of people, places and things came into my life to convince me to stop listening to folks who criticized me without helping me. And, today, it is one of my great goals to lead other young Black men away from those who would crush their spirits with negativity partnered with disconnect.
That’s why I rage against the throngs of disconnected Blacks who want to talk about Black people on the bottom without trying to bring them up with action, instead of empty, criticizing rhetoric.
For example, college is not for everyone, but some folks look down on those who don’t go.
Some of those who don’t go don’t have the resources or don’t know about the resources they have available to them. Some of them have challenges that make college a tough choice, some of them are in trade school or the military, and frankly, some of them wouldn’t make it through college anyway.
The Black men and women who are going to jail are not all born criminals. Some of them didn’t even commit a crime. Why not give tools to those without tools, instead of chastising them for doing the wrong thing in a world that has limited their choices? Is it really that they are just bad people with bad behavior?
The men who are not in their children’s lives are not all deadbeat dads. Some of them are struggling with other issues. Some of them are actually prevented from being in their children’s lives. All of them had partners in the poor decision that brought the children into the world without proper preparation.
These are not excuses. These are real examples of how a convergence of people, places and things can take any one of us to a place that we don’t really desire to be–places that we don’t have to stay. Or, those same people, places and things can take us to a better place in life.
Any one of us can talk about how sorry the people on the bottom are. But the only way to make a difference is to bring them up.
After all, when we stop looking down on them and start looking at them, in the end, things will start looking up.