“Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man.” So wrote current U.S. president Barack Obama about his youth.
In May 2009, Jabrai Jordan Copney, a black man, allegedly shot Justin Cosby, a black man, inside a Harvard University dormitory. Cosby fled, collapsed a block away, and later died. Harvard banned from campus student Chanequa Campbell, also black, who said she had nothing to do with the killing. She knew Copney only through Harvard student Brittany Smith, Copney’s “longtime girlfriend,” who, America being America, is probably also black. Police claimed $1,000 in cash and a pound of marijuana (both green) were near the scene of the shooting.
We still do not know what happened – all four people may be innocent – but there has been too much glamorization of “thug life” in black America. I need a soldier, sings the never-poor Beyoncé Knowles, as an orangutan ambles up behind her: Gotta know to get dough / And he betta be street. This glamorization has led to disingenuous double-dealing about drugs and criminality in the black community.
Imagine if a white man had shot Cosby, but Harvard had refused to act against students connected with the shooter. Preacher Al Sharpton would now be hosting press conferences in front of the Statue of Three Lies. Al Sharpton, who was caught on videotape discussing a major cocaine deal with a man he did not realize was an undercover cop; but he still enjoys enormous support amongst African-Americans.
NAACP president Benjamin Jealous has brought up the double-standard in sentencing for those convicted of possessing powder cocaine, who are typically white, and those convicted of possessing crack cocaine, who are typically black. Entertainment mogul Bill Cosby asks, Why are these blacks dealing drugs in the first place? America’s prison moloch is indeed bloated with a million black bodies, but, says Cosby, “These are not political criminals”; and I say, we do have political prisoners – such as H. Rap Brown – but the black community is silent about their plight. The majority of middle-class African-Americans have no problem defending common criminals, but are deathly afraid of being associated with law-abiding former Black Panthers.
At a meeting organized by Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree about reducing the number of young black men in prison, the 1,000-person, mostly black audience convulsed with laughter when black Harvard professor Roland Fryer joked about his drug-dealing past – his family sold crack, and he personally stole money and sold marijuana – saying he once thought of going into the pharmaceutical industry, street-side. Everyone errs, but Fryer is unrepentant: “I don’t know if I need to be forgiven for anything,” he told McLean’s. Certainly not for poisoning black children.
Black America’s double-dealing on drugs and criminality must end. The descendants of slaves and sharecroppers, who fought terrorists in South Carolina and South Boston, who scrimped and saved so that today’s black youth could become astrophysicists, did not bleed and sweat so that, instead, those youth could “get rich or die tryin’” selling drugs.
Let us articulate a new model for black America, taking the best and rejecting the worst of Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, and, yes, The Cosby Show: Black Americans must develop skills the world needs, create a political phalanx, renew our race pride and links with the Continent, understand that, if God has eyes, they are not blue, realize that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, and campaign to get Keshia Knight Pulliam her own TV show.
Or else leave black America to die, bleeding, in the street.
Jonathan David Farley
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