I didn’t grow up in Kinston so what I considered racist was pretty much an everyday thing for everybody else then. I still remember sitting in lenoir county jail mad, yelling about I can’t be arrested just for being black (actually, I was speeding, but it got ugly when the cop said something about how us niggers just didn’t have any sense- after that, I didn’t care if he had a badge or not). Everywhere else I grew up before (Rosemont in Sacramento, Tokyo, Alamogordo, etc) there weren’t a lot of black folks to begin with, so I just made friends with the locals. I thought it was retarded the first time someone told me “you shouldn’t have white friends like that”, especially when it came from adults. Like everything else I learned the hard way.
Even after all these years later, I’m still happy to say that I didn’t have just black friends or white friends, but true friends, many who still keep up with me on FB – you know who you are, or you wouldn’t be reading this. The ones that kept pushing the race issue, haven’t spoken to them since I bounced out after graduation with my duffel bag thrown in my Rocky and burned down I40 for the West Coast. But Kinston did give me a lot of pride, not just about being black, but what it meant to be where I am because of what a lot of folks went through before me – my parents, my grandparents and their respective generations.
When my Jazmen was just a kid, I took her to where Harvey’s used to be, and the old “colored” fountain was just a pipe coming out the wall, I tried to tell her the story my own dad told me about the fountain and life as a black kid for him there, but I just ended up crying like an idiot in front of a run down building. Amazing to think how much the world has changed within one generation. And how much of it is still the same when you look around Kinston.
Out west, I have to keep myself from choking the mess out these young kids (black, white, asian, latino, whatever) who use “nigga” like nobody’s business. When they ask why, I tell them I came from a place where I always got arrested whenever someone tried to call me that to my face. Even out here, when I say that, the black kids shut up and give respect, the white kids either think it’s funny or I’m way overreacting. Whenever a latino kid comes at me like that, I just say “nothin much, wetback, what’s up with you?” they get it, they call me by name after that. The Asian kids are the only ones who actually ask me what it was like for me to grow up like that. The closer to 1st generation immigrant they are, the more respectful they are of my position. The more Americanized they have become, the more disrespectful they tend to be.
I know that the n-word is just slang these days. But like any slang of any group of any generation, there are things you say among your friends, that you don’t say around strangers. This generation needs to be reminded of that, and we have only us grown folks to blame for that, by not enforcing mutual respect. We complain about “kids these days” but we don’t try to put them in their place. Well, y’all don’t.
I’m just saying, when we lose respect and appreciation for the sacrifices made for our freedoms and liberties, we risk losing those very benefits we take for granted. The kids these days, the same ones hanging out at lightrail stations bumming cigarettes, not in school or at work, living off their parents or pregnant girlfriends, they are going to be left out in the cold. Just look at the economy today, and where it will REALISTICLY be for the next 5-10 years. Is this really the time to be uneducated, unskilled, unmotivated? And it’s not just their fault. And we can’t just blame the government. We as parents and members of our respective communities need to get back to the truth of the generations before us.
Latrice and I raised our kid – she’s grown, got a job, and striking out on her own as an adult taking on the challenges of today’s world. In fact, I’m both embarrassed and proud to say that she’s more responsible than I ever was at any age. I tried to raise her the way my parents tried to raise me, and put my own twist on it since the world she’s growing up in is different than the one I did. I’m glad she got to be raised in Kinston, but I made sure she saw the world beyond Lenoir county. I can’t tell any other parent how to raise their own children, but I ENCOURAGE them to prepare their child for the world they will inherit. I strongly recommend pushing that kid to see and experience things that we didn’t get to. Sign that kid up for every field trip, summer camp, anything that requires a permission slip. Can’t afford it? Stop buying gaming systems and flat screen tvs. Make them get a job if they want $100+ sneakers they’re only going to wear for a month. They want to be spoiled, teach them to spoil themselves. Let them learn the value of an earned dollar. And teach them to listen. And try to teach them tolerance. Otherwise, they’re going to open their ignorant mouth and say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and next thing I’m explaining to a cop how I was just teaching your kid how to respect boundaries. A lesson that should’ve been learned at home.