"I hated Duke. I felt like they only recruited Black players that were Uncle Toms." -Jalen Rose
"Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today." -Grant Hill
Read earlier story about the exchange between Hill and Rose
The story of Black America comes from many sources; it is a dilemma that has been analyzed and captured in politically correct language, gangsta rap, movies, and just about every other genre of communication and media. The Grant Hill/Jalen Rose debate is an extension of this story. It's about how the language of "we" from the 60s became "us and them" later. It's about those left behind to fend for themselves in the harsh world of inner-city poverty. The debate is necessary; and it could prove to be a teachable, healing moment if handled correctly.
Currently the state of Black America stands at a crossroads. The crossroads is not necessarily about what's possible—it's about the chasm between those who have remained behind in spite of the tremendous strides of many other Blacks. It's about:
1. Out of wedlock rates (72 percent)
2. Suicide as the third leading cause of death
3. Homicide as the leading cause of death for males aged 13-34
4. 1/3 of Black males being supervised in some form by the judicial system
5. A nearly double unemployment rate for Blacks 15 percent versus 8 percent for Whites
The axiom that lies before us is this: We can do better; we simply must.
Jalen Rose spoke from a deep personal wound and exposed the "Us vs. Them" mentality. What he alludes to in this sports documentary is a perfect microcosm and window into the underlying realities our communities face. Blacks have been handed the ultimate identity crisis via the Willie Lynch strategy. This still plagues us today because we have allowed dysfunction, distrust and our personal insecurities to become the developers of our social norms. Rose played at Detroit Southwestern, and those of us who knew him, and lived in that environment, understand where he is coming from. Chris Webber's story is different. He went to a private school, was raised by both parents, and grew up in an affluent household. Rose was speaking from the perspective of a young Black man without an identity. At times, young Black men struggle during their pre- teen and high school years. They have questions on what, who and how they should be as Black men. As a people we all have different stories, backgrounds, advantages and disadvantages …. but it's the "We" in this sentence that should be the focus.
The struggle continues, and those 'without,' frequently place guilt upon
those who 'have.' This mental STRONG HOLD divides Black America. The foundations of many inner city youth are shattered annually when they fail to realize their athletic dreams.
They trusted their athletic ability to deliver them out of the hands of their neighborhoods, devastating home environments, and a life of bitterness and resentment. These aspirations were mostly based on the previous and continued choices of their parents. The introduction of sports—for most inner city youth—serves as a hope for single struggling parents to find a way out as well. It's a tragedy and many of them will fall victim to the system based on their daily interactions with friends, family, and the perverse mindsets of the men who infiltrate these environments, where the epidemic of fatherlessness is the norm.
The remedy for this lies in changing our perceptions. The haves can look down on the have nots and the have nots can't Uncle Tom-"ize" those who do better. Are Black parents who raise their children in less toxic environments for access to competitive, quality education "Uncle Toms"? Are Black parents who work multiple jobs, pursue education for the betterment of themselves, children and generations afterward, somehow less "Black"? To suggest this was Rose's intended viewpoint is a matter of opinion—but it is the implied perception. We shouldn't apologize for parents who attain careers and education better than previous generations. We shouldn't apologize for living in neighborhoods where barred windows, graffiti and gunshots are not the norm. This is a disservice to our ancestors who fought and died for us to be valued as "equal," "human" and not "property." Why would we deny ourselves this destiny? Yet those of us who have done well should not abandon the sprawling masses of Blacks not so fortunate. The solution is "we." Use the word frequently. The solution is a new dialogue where classism does not divide us. Join our MC2U challenge; let's continue the conversation on how to empower our communities.
This article was written by the Executive Team Members of L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. 1ST, all who are African-American. The L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. 1ST Executive Team consists of: Derrick Boles (President & CEO), Chris Cannon (At-Risk Youth Prevention Specialist) of Detroit, MI and San Antonio, TX; Nicole Hayes (Media and Production Services Director) of Topeka, KS and Washington, D.C., and Hakim Hazim (Intervention Specialist) of Topeka, KS and Boise, ID.