Monday, October 23, 2017
Cultural Awareness
By Darryl James (Columnist)
Published November 6, 2008

I wrote about the need for African Americans to promote a Cultural Revolution, outlining the reasons why we need it and making recommendations on what it should look like.

This week, as I write this installment of The Bridge, I have faith that history will be made and that Senator Barack Obama will be elected America's first Black president. It will be a mistake to believe that he will make our lives easier just by taking the oath of office.

But our lives can become easier, if we use the symbolism of a Black president and work to make his job easier by becoming a stronger people.

That will not occur with the participation of all or even most of us at first.

Like any other revolution, it can begin with only some of us. And it can be centered around the election of a Black president.

When that occurs, those of us who are awake and active must take action to give support to President Obama. We must do that by creating a new set of goals.

But first, we must understand the reasons why we are in such horrible shape as a people.

We need to first understand that we are in bad shape because we believe that we are and others believe that we are not very good people.

Our current state is to accept whatever the worldview of African or African American happens to be.

Due to the commodification of our culture, we are now only as deep as the outlets issuing our culture back to us. As opposed to creating new extensions of our culture and then sharing it with each other, the world now takes from us what they want and eventually, it is packaged and sold back to us–presented as authentic Black culture. We consume this artificial culture as the rest of the world does and it is sickening us as a child who eats too much sugar.

We are cultural children. We are not fully developed as a people, because we don't know who we are, what we stand for or where we are going. Many of us don't even think about it.

The best that many of us can manage is to be whatever white folks are trying to be in their secondhand, deviant duplication of culture stolen from us. Blind to our own obfuscated culture, we embrace it as though it is true culture, which explains the success of someone such as Eminem.

And when we do play Afrocentric, it's like children who play house but never really become responsible adults and parents. We can see throngs of Blacks with Afros, Dreadlocks and Braids claiming to be moving closer to their roots, but nothing else about their lifestyle or mentality is African or intrinsically African American-whatever that is.

But as far as our true and longstanding culture and legacy, most of us are no longer aware of anything that Blacks have contributed to the planet. Our history in this nation and in the world has been hidden, obfuscated, twisted and crapped on to the point where it is counterculture to embrace the truth. After having everything good about a people stolen, stomped on and lied about, it is no wonder that some of the people begin to hate themselves.

We are now seeing the deleterious results of the historical abuse of our culture, our minds and our collective psyche. We've embraced the worst things said about us and we joke about how horrible we are on the world stage. In our regular lives, we talk about how horrible Black businesses are and expect consistency. We open businesses and perpetuate stereotypes about our employees and walk into Black businesses armed with stereotypes against them.

And, we fight against anyone who speaks against the ugly distorted culture that has become the status quo.

But we once had a tight hold on real culture.

Our grandparents were serious people. The times that they lived in dictated that they live as serious people. They would have loved to be carefree and pretend that they were okay as individuals, but they realized that as a people they really weren't okay.

Then our parents came into the sixties and seventies and were handed resources which could have been used to build a Black nation, but they were used to build good things for the first few who lined up to get them and share with no one.

That was the first generation of people to become all about self and we now see the result. The white hippies were able to crap on their status quo and then clean themselves up and go to work for daddy. Blacks who did it just fed off of their families and resources, which lead to the first generation of wholly dysfunctional families.

Our parents came from a movement that was revealed as hollow and at its roots revealed as superficial. Only a few people were Martin and Malcolm, while the rest were dressed up for the occasion, which explains how the "movement" stopped short when a handful of people were killed.

Now, just like white Americans, many of us watch television for cultural cues.

Black men in their thirties and forties who watch rap music videos are being silently affected by the second rate candy-culture, which is why we see grown men with sagging pants, talking like stupid ass rappers and thinking like them, which is killing us.

White women can watch shows like Sex And The City, but Black women who allow the imaginary socialization to seep into their psyche are damaging themselves and their potential for real relationships.

The world ain't fair, and it ain't cool. Black men are being left out and left behind, but the useless, counterproductive gangster lifestyle is still being glamorized. AIDS is at the doorstep of Black women more than anyone else's, but yet, they still want sexual freedom. Freedom from what?

Baby daddies and baby mammas who both know that they have nothing financially, morally or culturally to give a child, still continue to have them. Fantasia's ode to baby mammas was a cultural signpost of the comfort held in being a single parent. Why celebrate and glamorize a wretched situation just because you overcame as an individual?

But we have begun to operate as individuals, while we continue to talk about the Black community. We are disconnecting from the struggle, even as we are still struggling.

The longer you make people struggle, the more you filter them out and wear them down and collectively they eventually acquiesce. Over the past few decades, more of us have begun to circle the drain, even while others claim to be "balling out of control" with heavy debt and few real assets. Now, we have people who don't even sellout, they give everything away for ninety-nine cents or for nothing.

Our most salient issue is that we think we are free. We think that we can make choices without paying a cost, not realizing that many of us get nothing and still must pay a dear price.

Financially, we are in danger of becoming irrelevant. Comfortable morons can talk about the growing Black middle class, but as a people, we are worse than ever, because the real growth in our population is the group of people who have nothing and will not find a way to have anything. There are more of us who are getting pushed out of the game, yet there are more of us pretending to be at the top of the game.

When one of us makes it, we pretend that we are different from the rest of the race. How could we have role models when the fist thing a successful Black man or woman does is disconnect and speak about how different they are from the rest of us?

Whatever we create as individuals will never benefit the collective and if the divide between the haves and have-nots is growing among whites, then it is growing exponentially among Blacks no matter how many sweet lies we tell.

Spiritually–the best many of us can do is embrace Jesus and refuse to look at anything else even if we don't really understand. If you don't fall in line you will be chastised. If you question the norm in any way, you will be attacked and/or ostracized. Yet, many of us are dying a spiritual death while zealously beating others over the head with a religion.

Ignorance and its fallout have become cultural cues for the destruction of what we were and what we could become.

Without a real culture that we can embrace, there is nothing to hold us together, or even keep us solid as individuals. We have never been at a lower point in male/female relationships, cultural identity, or mutual respect.

Many of us are so far from anything substantial and real that anyone who poses as aware is embraced as something near to a god.

We have developed such poor cultural habits that it appears that we have truly accepted our place as second class citizens.

At some point, we will witness Blacks dying off. We are morphing into an entire segment of society that cannot provide for itself-spiritually, financially, culturally.

Our choices are simple-We can take advantage of the symbolism in a Black president, and work to be a stronger people, or we can have faith that Obama, Jesus, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny will do all of the work and save us.

There is no guarantee that we have to exist.


Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology "Notes From The Edge." He released his first mini-movie, "Crack," and this year, will release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at



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