son and I are of differing opinion as to how people achieve
their success or status
in the world. As with many parents, I am constantly on his
case about finishing his education and “making something of himself'.” I
mean he does all right in retail sales for himself. Young single
Black Man, working two jobs, driving a black Mustang that attracts
more attention from law enforcement than from the ladies. He
fashions himself a player, part of the Hip-Hop community. He
is quite convinced that most people obtain their status in
the world through their associations with others, and not through
personal conviction, sacrifice, and dedication.
know that my opinion comes from growing up with a father who
worked hard every day
and expected the same from his children. My father didn't have
much in the way of money, or celebrity, but he was a man who
through the value of his knowledge was able to take care of his
family. My father was not afraid of any man, and he had a presence
about him that, I won't say commanded, but more or less engendered “respect.” He
carried himself in such a way that people seemed to understand
that this man considered himself worthy of their respect. He
was a man who would help the neediest, and our community knew
that when times got hard, when the cupboards were bare, when
the holidays were upon us, they could “go see John.” You know
what I mean! Most Black communities have that John, or Miss Jones,
or Henry round the corner, where a fella could get a meal or
a few dollars when things just wasn't clicking. You also know
that these are the kinda folks in the community who don't take “no
sass” from nobody. They have a personal value and integrity recognizable
anywhere in the world.
me and the son are heatedly discussing certain people in powerful
owe their success to their individual accomplishments and others
who are successful through their association with other people’s
accomplishments. Incidentally, we begin discussing Amiri Baraka's
description of Condoleezza Rice as “skeeza.” He felt rather strongly
that this was an unfair attack on a Black woman who has attained
a great position.
to view entire image
the interests of trying to find some way to diffuse his growing
anger at Black
folks putting each other down, I attempted to explain a little
of my thoughts on the subject, so I said: "Calm down son.
Condi Rice can certainly take care of herself, physically and
philosophically. She has elected to join the club of those who
subscribe to the politics of personal power. You know about this
club among the black community of gathering 'personal power'
unto themselves in order to ‘prove’ their worthiness to those
whose personal power exceeds their own.”
I had to repeat that twice, so it was clear who I was talking
about! Now you’re
forming an image of the club. You know who they are. Ok, let's
go on and see if you can better define this club. Let's look
at two figures in the Black community, say Colin Powell and Andrew
Young. See – you thought I might go for Clarence Thomas and Al
Sharpton, didn't you? Colin hasn't totally subscribed to the
club because he brings some personal power of his own to the
club. His power does not spring from others or from some chance
encounter with the power people. His personal power stems from
his personal determination to be better than those around him.
This being one of the tenets of those who practice the philosophy
of personal power. Whereas, Andy Young has never considered himself
a powerful entity unto himself. He knows that he was raised up
by community, brotherhood, and consensus. Andy never had to push
himself into any club because his community is what elevated
him to power. Now you begin to see the difference.
Colin has squandered much of his personal power by giving over
his personal convictions to follow the “party line” with George
Bush. Of course, I'm talking about Bush Sr. This has lowered
his personal stock among the Black community and certainly among
the world community. The world looks and listens to Colin today
and they say, "Where is the exit strategy from Iraq?" So,
what we need now is an Andy Young to put credibility to promises
of Iraqi freedom, both from terrorists and quasi-colonial powers.
that we're on the same page, you understand that Condi Rice “don't really have
no power.” You know damn well that she was appointed "national
security advisor" to Bush because of her ability to work
as a mentor with “special” students. Dr. Rice simply does Mr.
Bush's heavy reading. Don't believe it? How come Condi is not
plugged into the national security apparatus? If she really was
then she should take the fall for 911, because she failed to
bring to the President’s attention the immediate threat of terrorism. The
National Security Advisor compiles the reports of the CIA, FBI,
and all other intelligence agencies and then briefs the president.
The National Security Advisor uses these reports to prioritize
the national security agenda. So 911 falls squarely on Ms. Rice
in failing the President and the people of the United States.
Of course, the “Politics of Personal Power” allows the President
to lend her some of his personal power and fill the position "according
to his needs."
You see, personal power
extends from others or to others. It is not homegrown,
grassroots, community driven, or divinely uplifting. Personal
power is given and taken quite naturally by contact with the
orbits of other personally powerful people. Naturally, because
this is certainly the way the physical world works. Atoms more
powerful lend tiny electrons to lesser atoms in order to make
new compounds useful for progress. This is a powerful argument
for personal power.
Condi Rice as “skeeza” may not be literally correct, but where
does she draw her personal power from? Whose powerful orbit
has she encountered
which lends her this aura of personal power? Now make your list,
check it twice, and try to be careful with regard to defending
and/or offending those who come to power, or who wish to come
sure my son only gave me the courtesy of listening, at first.
as young people are prone to be, and always were. But it gave
him pause, and I was somewhat relieved when he said, "That's
'old school' Dad. I know I have to do my own thing and be my
own man, but I gotta get into the community before I get back
to the books." My reply was, "Son, your community wants
you to get back to the books, it's just that they don't want
you to get lost on your way back home."
views expressed above are mine alone, and are not meant to
on either side of this conversation. They are simply a small
expression, by one Black man, of cultural diversity in America
today. The writer is: a survivor of New York’s South Bronx
community, a Vietnam Veteran, a former single parent, and presently
belongs the diaspora of unemployed American technology professionals.
He may be reached via email at email@example.com.