If Black people build it, the rest will come

Letter to the editor







By Leonard R. Daniel, Jr.

Contributing Writer 


Being born Black and American is a metaphysical dilemma I haven’t conquered yet, nor do I have the desire to do so. What I do dream of conquering is the negative stereotypes that accompany being born Black in America.

While watching the local news, I saw images of a large physical altercation among young African Americans in a Minneapolis high school. These images forced me to ask myself a simple question: What if?

What if young Black males in the U.S. simultaneously had an epiphany? What if they all suddenly begin to operate on the same frequency and realized the power and influence that they have on people in our society? What would happen if every young, cool, iced-out Black male would suddenly wake up and smell the coffee? Let me explain the point I’m trying to convey.

Ever since the Reconstruction era in this country, the African male has been the most emulated figure on the planet. In certain parts of the south the Black male was/is openly hated, yet admired at the same time. How can such a love-hate relationship exist in our society?

The Black male seems to have a monopoly on style, fashion, swag and charisma. All nationalities find a way to keep up with what young Blacks deem to be “hot” or on point. My question is how can a people who are discarded by Republicans and the like have such an impact on mainstream society? And what would the rest of society do if brothers decided to turn in their swag and charisma for something that’s considered less appealing?

Can you imagine a world in which young Blacks wore pants that actually fit? Would brothers of other races suddenly find themselves confused by this odd behavior? How would our native, White, Mexican, Asian, and Somali brothers react to young Blacks suddenly becoming socially aware, respectful, and focused?

Black youth have the power to change the world as we know it via their behavior and their attitudes. Our society needs a transformation and, there is no better candidate to lead this change than the young Black male.

Now, close your eyes and imagine brothers turning in their gang colors (cloth, doo rags, etc.) for three-piece suits and their Air Jordans for Stacy Adams. Hold on because this makeover is just beginning. Now, young men of all races are putting down their guns and picking up books — yes, I said books.

The clubs and street corners are out, and the local library is the hot spot for young men and women of all races to hang out at. Remember the adage that says “if you build it they will come?” Well the same principle applies here in this case. If young Black people indulge in a particular behavior, then young natives, Whites, Asians and Mexicans will soon adopt that behavior and carry it back into their homes and communities.

No longer will young people have to “dumb it down” in classrooms because their peers will applaud them for having the cranial capacity to compete in the education process. Yes, the new swag consists of having self-respect, pride, and dignity. This new concept of swag will surely cross over because the young Black male has adopted it.

So we all know what that means. Let me step out on a limb here. Here goes. What if young Blacks stopped watching 106 & Park and instead, dedicated that time to watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN?

Oh snap — can this be true? Wolf Blitzer is the new source of information for the brothers in the hood. That can only mean that brothers of all races would be well informed on social issues because CNN and Wolf Blitzer must be cool if young Blacks are tuning in at three o‘clock everyday.

What if we hadn’t landed on t he southeast shores of this unknown, undeveloped country in the summer months of the 1600”s? What if we hadn’t contributed our blood, sweat and even our lives to the development of this great country? Would it still be viewed as great on the world stage if it wasn’t for the endurance and perseverance of the most discarded man in the land?

Since the mid 1600’s we have contributed more than all of the races combines, yet our contributions are not recognized by America’s history books. What do they think would happen to the mindset of American’s who aren’t Black if they gave us the accolades we deserve for the contributions we have made? Better yet, what if we opened our eyes and realized that we have the potential to influence the world in ways that could enhance the quality of life of anyone we came into contact with.

It’s been said that “the greatest form of flattery is imitation.” If that’s true, then the young Black male should be the most loved creature on the planet. What if people admitted to us that they are fascinated by our talents and creativity? Would that inspire our youth to do better?

In 1964, young Cassius Clay (A.K.A. Ali) shocked the world by defeating Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title of the world and becoming the youngest man to ever hold such a title. I challenge my young brothers of all races and ethnic backgrounds to shock the world again by pulling up your “sagging” pants and start being the men that your creator intended you to be.

In closing, I would like to call upon one of my favorite authors Ralph Ellison who said it best when he said “let’s stop being coconspirators in our own demise.” What if?


Leonard Ray Daniels Jr. is an inmate at Lino Lakes prisons.