Ninety-nine point eight percent of my home fries have what mental health experts candidly refer to as common sense, or what the elderly call Mother Wit in overdrive. Unfortunately, the majority of people I encounter Down Americaís Mean Streets lack such prudential wisdom. Hereís why .
During a recent visit to the Petticoat Junction, a popular Bohemian hangout for musicians, I overheard a young Asian woman in dirty jogging attire, initiate a conversation with a group of equally unkempt listeners. "Ladies, listen carefully," she said, looking around to see if anyone was in ear shot. "If you want to eat at this restaurant for free, all you have to do is smile at the owner and he will give you anything you want." She had an audience of five, three Whites who nodded knowingly and a Black couple who looked puzzled.
A tall blonde standing nearby cooed, "Honey, donít forget we have cornered the market on Black people. They love us so much they will go so far as to kick each other to the curve for a chance to be in our presence or have us as a friend." The Black couple, visibly embarrassed by the conversation got up to leave. The woman who made the comments about kicking each other to the curve smiled nervously. "Why are you guys leaving?" "I guess you donít get it," said the man, his voice rising in anger. "You act like Black people donít have common sense. And since we donít like the tone of your conversation, weíve decided to ditch this dump." Yeah, letís go" said his companion. "I have a feeling that if we stay, itís going to get awfully hot up in here.
"You know when you look at it," said the woman who started the conversation. "You really shouldnít get mad, especially when you look at the things African-Americans allow to happen to them. For instance, the way you all kill up each other. The world just takes it for granted that you people simply donít like each other."
"Woman, what the hell are you carping about? " said the man peering down at the gold carpet blanketing the floor. "Weíve come a hell of a long way from where we use to be. And weíre not going to let people like you forget it," he said pointing to the three Caucasians sitting at the table. "Yeah, that might be true", said the Asian woman. "But when I talk to Blacks and they say everything is okay. That leads me to conclude something is SERIOUSLY WRONG."
Almost in unison, my eyes met those of the couple. And while no words were exchanged, we felt an eerie uneasiness. Moreover, we knew from what source the thinking of the Asian and Caucasian woman originated: the mixed messages we send to the world. On one hand, we say we want to be treated fairly and equally, yet fail to take the necessary steps that will assure us of obtaining this fleeting mirage.
People of European origin are bewildered by African-Americans who feel an overwhelming sense of pride when they flash a crafty smile in their direction, or say hello. Yet are stunned when these same people turn their heads when they see another Black person, or move out of harms way to avoid eye contact. Come on you know the drill. I have acquaintances who are so enamored with White people; they literally turn cart wheels when they see them. But let a brotha cast an eye in their direction, and they give him the evil eye. Come on people, get up off of it.
Speaking of common sense, have we taken a good look at whatís happening? My god, itís 2010, yet we are still stationed at ground zero, pardon the pun. The progress weíve made over the years has been thwarted by our lack of sound judgment. We keep crying "We want to do better." Yet, keep looking for others to come to our rescue.
African-Americans as a whole have made tremendous progress. However, when I enter banks and other public facilities, the faces I see are usually White, with the exception of a few minorities languishing in the background. We say we want White collar jobs, but are afraid to apply. Where is the common sense? Granted, you may lose the job to someone less qualified or of a different race, at least give it a try. Remember; no pain, no gain.
Likewise, we crave formidable political representation, yet refuse to vote. Where is the common sense? We say we want our kids to get a quality education, yet we donít encourage them to study or complete homework assignments. Where is the common sense?
Although I grew up in a predominantly lower middle class home, my parents saw to it that my sister and I developed common sense. At home mama taught us to treat everyone with courtesy, but not to be a fool. Setting such nostalgia aside, however, it is clear that in the new millennium we must learn to recognize our weakness, and rectify them by any means necessary.
We talk a great deal about our current plight regarding racism, unemployment, health care, and other pertinent issues affecting people of color. Yet we never murmur the phrase Common Sense. By refusing to open our eyes, we are hampering our progress.
As I have stated over the years, our mental shackles keep us anchored in a swamp of broken dreams and empty promises. To quote former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, "A slave who dies of natural cause will not balance two dead flies on the scale of eternity." That readers is a fact African-Americans still have to face. We can accept it now and try to correct the problems. Or we can deal with it later when there wonít be anything left to do or talk about.