• "You have damaged your own race."

    The above comes courtesy of Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter, who recently enacted a new curfew law in response to the rise in "flash mobs." No, not the spontaneous and unexpected gatherings of people who proceed to do some crazy and off-the-wall street performance just for an audience reaction. Instead, we have packs of street toughs and miscellaneous thugs walking around, looking for someone to mob on. Unfortunately, these packs just happen to consist of young black men.

    That above quote bothered me for a number of reasons. First, because you don't see other ethnic groups grappling with the problem of a select few "damaging their race." Whites couldn't give a fuck about what their redneck cousins do, because the actions of those rednecks don't "damage" the entire white community. You see several Hispanic groups stereotyped, but there's no major outcry about how the antics of a small, criminally minded group of people are somehow damaging the image of Hispanics nationwide. But blacks are somehow stuck with being a monolithic group that collectively lives and dies by the actions of a select few within their ranks.

    Second, because I feel this all plays into the desire of whites nationwide to see blacks chastised for this behavior by one of their own. There's something about black leaders castigating their own ranks that give whites the warm and fuzzies, along with a sense of justification about the way they feel about blacks overall. They really want to see the whole "cleaning up one's own filth before talking about the filth of others" thing, possibly because they're sick of blacks constantly pointing out the dirt and debris piled up underneath white America's pristine rugs.

    Third, because I can't help but think why any single black person should be held to being an "ambassador" for their own people on a constant basis. To this end, blacks are encouraged to be on their best behavior at all times, because one slip-up can set back all of the "good work" they've done towards building up their image in the eyes of a predominately white America. It causes more successful blacks to actively bemoan their downmarket brethren, causing them to ask, in a sense, "why you niggas gotta make us look bad?"

    Playing "ambassador" every time blacks interact with whites becomes tiring and frustrating. Having to navigate past the preconceived notions held by whites and their expectation of blacks to somehow disprove those notions during every interaction with whites provokes anger and frustration. I understand why there are scores of black men and women of the older generations who are perfectly content with not interacting with a single white soul -- it's just one more aggravation that they could do without in their old age.

    Yes, the "flash mobs" in their current incarnation are a bad thing, and I'm glad the mayor's taking steps to put an end to the violence behind it and keep scores of troublemakers off the streets. But I can't help but be a bit disturbed by the above phrase. Mind you, this wasn't the only thing that was said at Mount Carmel Baptist Church that past Sunday:

    The line that jumped out for me was more sweeping. He told young people, and I'm paraphrasing here: don't blame white people if you can't find a job, if you show up with tattoos all up and down your arms, your pants hanging down, your hair uncombed and your shoes untied. Don't blame anybody else, Nutter said, because you look crazy!!

    And finally, he slammed criminal offenders in the community, young and old, when he said, "you have damaged your own race."

    Practically everything else I agree with. The gangster/thug ensemble with tattoos layered over tattoos and pants that are only held up with one hand and a prayer isn't a good look for anyone, let alone young black males that are already considered "threatening," even when they dress up in suits and ties. The whole context behind the above is for young black men to start cleaning up their own image before others do it for them. I just haven't seen other ethnic groups ask the same of their young men in a manner that carries a load of racial baggage and underlying messages.