BENEATH THE SPIN • ERIC L. WATTREE
I Had a Dream
I dreamed that I opened my eyes one morning and all of America was wide awake. I could hear the echoes of the Bush/Cheney consortium desperately proclaiming their innocence from deep within the Hague, but the world had long since stopped listening. I dreamed that Rush, O'Reilly, and FOX News had imploded into a metaphor for latter-day McCarthyism, and the phrase corpo-congressional alliance was a new vulgarity that had become a part of the American lexicon.
I walked through the hood (which had been redefined "the community"), and the only crooked caps and untied sneakers I saw were worn by two-year-olds, and the only pair of saggin' pants I observed was due to an unattended diaper. Yes, there was still hip hop, but the lyrics were literate, and the new message proclaimed the way to be hip, was to hop into a book.
I saw young Black families sitting in the park, with proud and respectful Black men fawning over beaming young women. These young men took pride in opening doors and standing when their women entered the room, teaching their young sons by example what it really meant to be cool.
Michael Jackson was still remembered as an icon, but his significance to the Black community was very carefully placed into perspective. While he was held up with great esteem for being the very best at what he did, what he did was never confused with the best that the Black community had to offer.
It was clearly understood that Michael's greatness was based on his excellence, and to be excellent in any endeavor deserved recognition. But it was also understood that while he was an excellent entertainer, entertainment represented the toy department of life.
The Black community had totally reassessed its priorities. We rewarded our children for the ability to think above all else. Instead of waking young Johnnie to show Uncle Willie how well he could sing and dance, he was awakened to show his uncle how well he could do calculus, even as sleep still clung to his young eyes. And instead of crowding into basketball courts to see Johnnie's three point shot, the community crowed into science fairs to applaud the brilliance of his electromagnetic propulsion system.
Johnnie was a genuine superstar in the community, and the young girls flocked to his side. They'd been raised to understand that Johnnie represented the future of America. And they'd been taught to see right through the few swaggerers who were left and professed to "keeping it real." They saw the swagger for what it was - a farcical mask designed to hide ignorance and insecurity, and a prelude to deadbeat parenthood and irresponsibility.
These young girls were under no illusion. They understood that all of them wouldn't be lucky enough to fall in love with a young man of Johnnie's brilliance, but it wasn't brilliance alone that would insure their future - character was the key.
They understood that happiness wasn't based on materialism, and that swagger, flashy cars and bling was a blazing red flag that screamed of a young man's misplaced priorities. They were taught from birth that swaggering flamboyance was a sure sign of frivolity. What impressed them was a young man willing to catch the bus with a sack lunch in order to feed his family.
This epiphany in the community came about almost by accident. After buying into the conservative scam of educational vouchers, the exodus from the public school system resulted in its near collapse. It would have been a complete calamity had the private schools not overplayed their hand.
About three years into the voucher program, the private schools thought, prematurely, that they were comfortably entrenched. So they began to raise their tuition far beyond what the poor and middle class could afford. In addition, many of our children came home speaking in tongue, and spouting fundamentalist dogma. As a result, many of the overburdened and horrified parents tried to return their children to the public system. But due to three years of under-funding the public system couldn't handle the number of returning students. That led to a crisis that opened the public's eyes to how they'd been misled and manipulated by their so-called representatives.
That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however. While it caused the community to become enraged, it also caused them to become engaged in their own welfare. So the first thing they did was followed the example that America had made of congress, and purged all but the most community oriented incumbents from office, and replaced them with a group of politicians who clearly understood their role - to serve the people, not feather their own nests. These new politicians clearly understood that if they failed to serve the people, no campaign war chest would be great enough to save them from the people's wrath.
In order to assist the public school system, parents pledged to take an active role in the education of their children. Then, as a result of their effort to help their kids with their homework, they found that they were being reeducated themselves. And those parents who lacked the education to help their children found that their children gained a renewed motivation for learning through the opportunity to educate them. In many cases the parent and child truly bonded for the very first time.
With this new sense of empowerment, the community began to insist that BET and other businesses, organizations, and individuals who had preyed on the dysfunction of the community, begin to contribute to the community's new sense of empowerment. So now, instead of the BET Awards repeatedly rewarding the same old entertainers swaggering up to the stage indulging their egos, the entertainers were assigned a secondary, but more appropriate role - as entertainment for the young scholars and community leaders who were being honored for their positive impact on the community.
And the fact is, it became a much better program, because now, when the entertainers were even allowed to speak, they were forced to search for something intelligent to say in order to be in tune with the environment. And on that rare occasion when one did think that ignorance was cute, the resulting contrast and deafening silence that he'd get in response became an excellent object lesson for the young people. It demonstrated first hand that there was nothing hip about being stupid - it simply leaves one looking silly.
Then finally, the community did another thing that was long overdue - it insisted that all of the poverty pimps and photo hogs stop trying to speak for the Black community, unless they'd been specifically elected to do so.
Oh, what a dream!
Eric L. Wattree
Religious bigotry: It's not that I hate everybody who doesn't look, think, and act like me - it's just that God does.