Philly’s Mayor’s Message to the Youth? Yeah, Right.

Philly’s Mayor’s Message to the Youth Is Going to Be About As Effective As Rev. Jackson Telling Me to Do Something

Before we get ahead of ourselves in championing the Mayor of Philadelphia Michael Nutter for saying “what needed to be said,” let’s take a real good look at his alleged target audience. I say this because after listening to his comments to the “youth” of his city involved in the roving “flash mobs,” I truly believe his comments are going to be about as effective as if Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. were to tell me to do something.

So this all went down last Sunday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Philadelphia. The Mayor delivered a stirring speech to the congregation there in response to the “havoc” being created by the “young people” in Philadelphia. A speech which took particular aim at a certain group of young Black men and their parents—but yet didn’t include any of those same people in the audience it was delivered to.

It was another case of yet another Black leader passionately voicing the frustration of his generation with younger generations of Blacks by preaching to the choir.

Chances are most of the young men involved in the “flash mobs” don’t vote—let alone even know who the mayor is. And even if they know who Mayor Nutter is, if they don’t have enough respect for themselves to not “act like “sperm donors” and “human ATMs” what real credence do you think they’re going to give to the mayor’s plea anyway?

And on the issue of the parents—didn’t we go down this road with President Obama and absent fathers? If the ever so popular President couldn’t make absent fathers magically re-appear what makes the mayor of Philadelphia think that Black parents who aren’t checking for their own children’s whereabouts are somehow checking for them now that they’ve heard what he had to say?

And on the parents, you and I both know the parents or parent in question.

The “not my baby” mommas who don’t read the newspaper and aren’t card-carrying members of the NAACP. They don’t watch the evening news, and they typically don’t vote. They’re not the ones online engaged in any sort of meaningful conversation about the plight of Black folks. Many of them just do the bare minimum to keep their kids out of the foster care system — and sometimes they can’t even manage to do that.

It is what it is. And no—this isn’t a criticism of all Black parents—not even the ones in question. The breakdown of the Black family structure started when the first ship landed and we stepped off in chains and shackles and were only given a helping hand with the introduction of heroin and crack cocaine. I’m just trying to paint a real picture for you of who the mayor is trying to reach with his speech.

As Black people, we all know the people I am talking about. The parents who probably shouldn’t have had kids to begin with, let alone planned to, and are now just glad that their kid is old enough to take the bus to school on their own and worry when the same kid ages out of the “system” and they can no longer collect money for them. All I’m saying is let’s not act like they don’t exist.

When it comes to the mothers the reality is that with most, the only way to reach them is to interrupt their favorite television reality series with a public service announcement, or send them a text message.

As for the absent fathers, if President Obama couldn’t get them to return home and play daddy…that’s all I’m saying.

Speaking about young Black men, the mayor said, “if you walk into somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, and your shoes untied and your pants half-down, tattoos up and down your arms and on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you—they don’t hire you ’cause you look like you’re crazy. You have damaged your own race.”

Whether or not you agree with his comments is on you. All I’m saying is that if you stop Amening for a moment and really think about it, his comments are just another example of something that sounds good but makes no sense and shows that the mayor and his cohorts obviously don’t have much interaction with the young men in question.

The young men the mayor is targeting aren’t walking into offices looking for jobs. If they haven’t graduated or dropped out, they’re barely going to school. Most don’t even have resumes let alone the desire to pound the pavement and look for a job. They hang out. They wake up, get dressed, and take the title of parking lot king for day.

The bottom line is that like with other Black politicians, religious leaders, and aging irrelevant civil rights leaders, Mayor Nutter’s speech told me all I need to know about him.

One, he doesn’t have much interaction with the young men and their parents he feels so passionately about. And two, as serious as he tries to come off, he obviously didn’t put as much thought into the messenger as he did the message.

jasmyne cannickBecause if he had he might have found a sports athlete, R&B singer, rapper, or actor to do the talking instead of delivering a speech disguised as a sermon to a room full of high propensity voters at Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

But like I said…it sounded good, really good.

Jasmyne Cannick

A former press secretary in California State Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives, Jasmyne A. Cannick writes about the intersection race, sex, politics, and pop culture from an unapologetically Black point of view. Online at www.jasmynecannick.com. Follow her on Twitter @jasmyne.
Published by the LA Progressive on August 23, 2011
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About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning journalist who previously worked in the U.S. House of Representatives as a press secretary, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “News and Notes.” She is currently working as a political consultant in California on local and state campaigns.