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Alvin Poussaint, M.D. and celebrity Bill Cosby, Ed.D. recently penned a book entitled Come On People. Finally, two pillars of the black community have come up with a radical take on what's wrong with the youth of America. Not just black youth; they also address the fact that white youth have embraced the concept of "gangsta rap," they use the term "nigger" (more specifically, in Dr. Poussaint's case "wigger" as loosely as, sadly, their black brethren. Dr. Pouissant and Dr. Cosby have both crafted a compelling solution for the problem of the high-school dropout rate among black male students (50%) and the 60% rate of incarceration of those high-school and college age black males who have dropped out of high school or college.

Laura S. Washington, in the website www.thesetimes.com argues that although their initial theory was unpopular, Cosby and Poussaint make a very good case for black Americans to get off of the "victim of oppression" bandwagon and get themselves intelligenced on how to conduct themselves, but more importantly, how to raise their children. This excerpt from Ms. Washington says it all, with quotes from Dr. Cosby:

“I can’t even talk the way these people talk. ‘Why you ain’t?’ ‘Where you is?’ … Everybody knows it’s important to speak English except these knuckleheads. You can’t be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.”

Back then, Cosby didn’t get a lot of “Amen, brothers!” from that crowd, nor from many others back in the ‘hood. At least, not out in the open.

Cosby’s critics excoriated him for delivering his rant from an elitist ivory tower without offering solutions. They argue that the black poor are the helpless victims of white supremacy and institutional racism. In other words, it’s not their fault—the deck is stacked just too high.

But he was right then. And he is right now.

Come on People has replaced Cosby’s vitriolic speechifying with firm but loving essays that urge blacks to eschew their pathological embrace of victimization, violence and despair.

The authors respond to their detractors. “Certain people tell us that we are picking on the poor. Many of those who accuse us are scholars and intellectuals, upset that we are not blaming everything on white people as they do. Well, blaming only the system keeps certain black people in the limelight, but it also keeps the black poor wallowing in victimhood.”

Want more? Read the book and then come back to this piece. Or, heck, trust me and continue.

Senator Barack Obama wrote a book as well, telling an extremely candid story of his emergence from the world of the drugs, crime and other social ills of the ghetto, and his subsequent commitment to public service.

Read the book and then come back to this piece. Or, again, trust me and continue.

Senator Obama admits freely that he indeed "inhaled." So did, I think, a majority of my peers and a majority of young people of subsequent generations. Heck, I think that President Bill Clinton was a "'fraidy-cat" and a "wet blanket" if he indeed decided to cast a pall upon the party he attended where marijuana was partaken of. I can tell you from personal experience that if I attend a party where marijuana's being passed around and there's a sole individual who tells me "none for me, thanks," I wonder what the hell he or she is doing there in the first place and am possessed with a modicum of concern that perhaps the abstainer will later use his or her witness of my drug use as a way to criticize my values, my character, and certainly (and understandably) my respect for the laws of my State and my Country. That's called "paranoia," and is, for some, a by-product of the use of marijuana for many individuals, especially those who only occasionally partake of the drug.

I've taken a lot of heat recently about my writings on this website which criticize Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for the Presidency. So I will not mention Senator Clinton again in this piece. It has finally occurred to me (duh!) that if I continue to criticize Senator Clinton I am resorting to the same policy of negativity and acrimony that I accuse the Senator and her aides of perpetrating.

So let's talk positive.

Barack Obama intends to bring to this country social, economic and political change the likes of which we perhaps have never seen since the days of our Nation's great Civil War. Senator Obama asserts that there indeed will be a price for this change. The price will not be measured in dollars; the price will be measured in the amount of effort put forth by the people of this country to help one another. To volunteer one's time and, if possible effort. A person's time could, perhaps, be measured in the amount of money he or she earns per hour. But the giving of time and effort is a gift far more precious than anything money can buy.

In this country, it has been demonstrated that those with the drive and the perseverance can indeed enjoy as much spiritual, intellectual, and financial success as they care to. Time, however, is a finite commodity that only God (or the higher power of your belief) controls. And when it's up, it's up. So, according to Senator Obama's plan for America, those who are able will be called upon to commit time, skill, knowledge and other intangible assets in order to make the United States a better place to live. This surely, at least in my book, is a fine alternative to the good old American habit of throwing money at our problems in hopes they'll go away.

We've thrown money at the crisis of the homeless, and what has it achieved but the building of myriad but filthy housing projects that are havens for crime and certainly no place to call "home." We've thrown money at single mothers who become addicted to drugs and continue having babies because each child they have garners them another $100 or so a month in welfare income. We've thrown money at the problem of crime in this country and have done nothing to rehabilitate criminals; the money's gone to incarcerate criminals; many of whom will return to the streets only to resort to crime again after they discover that, in the short run, it's easier to rob homes, steal cars and mug (and most times injure) our fellow citizens than it is to take advantage of the few programs existent which provide basic education and skills to ex-convicts.

To those of you who'd invoke the familiar old lament that it's hard, yea, nearly impossible to free one's self from the "shackles of the white oppressor," I say bullshit. You heard me; bullshit.

In every state of this nation there's a government office dedicated to the advancement and assistance of minority and women-owned businesses. In academia, quotas still exist, offering the B+ student who's black or Latino or Asian a chance at acceptance into a college that a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant with straight A grades will be passed over. In government hiring, the minority applicant for police officer comes under far less scrutiny than their white counterparts. Yet this is not enough.

Let me add that the children of the successful upper-middle class households in white America have embraced the very culture of ebonics, hip-hop clothes and "gangsta" music that Cosby and Poussaint lament. A recent job applicant at my restaurant had completed his education at a top-notch high school, and lived in a $3 million home with his brother and sisters.

When he came for his interview, he did not possess a pen with which to write out his job application (a small grievance on my part, but I recall having two pens in my pocket when going on job interviews, should one give out. This young man's jeans were literally four sizes too large and were cinched up by a belt with a buckle that displayed a finger pointing toward the zipper of his trousers, emblazoned with the phrase "it's here, bitch." His shirt, however, I would've wanted to buy. It said "FCUK." I appreciated the brilliance of that single mix-up of letters to attract attention to the wearer without being overtly offensive.

This candidate for a job, despite his appearance, was judged on the merits of his (poorly completed) job application. When it was explained to him that he'd earn $10.60 per hour to wash dishes, clean the floor and also perform small cleaning tasks as assigned by his manager, he blurted out that he was "no Puerto Rican" and he wanted to be a waiter, and would certainly not perform mopping nor dishwashing chores. This young man also made it a point to say that he'd never in his life cleaned a toilet and refused to consider "cleaning other people's shit" no matter what the level of compensation.

Had he experience? No. Did he fulfill the waitstaff's requirement of employment to speak and at least read a moderate amount of Mandarin Chinese? Not at all. Well then all I had for him was the clean-up work that he'd already insisted he'd not perform in return for the rate of pay being offered, much less a thousand gold coins a day and a dozen fan-waving, towel-bearing young nymphs to wipe the sweat off of his tired brow.

When he left the front door of the restaurant, he shouted more obscenities within earshot of myself and the few customers who were there, and then departed in a car blasting rap music so loudly we could understand the words inside. (The song playing was a brilliant creation by rapper 50-cent, whom I appreciate to a degree; I'll say that much for the taste of the driver of the car.)

Now, I realize we're in no Depression right now. However, when my Grandfather was raising his family of wife, two daughters and a son during that time, he'd been laid off as a Building Engineer for a very large skyscraper and had to take what he could get; $20 a month and living space for his family (as caretakers) in a town-house in a luxury area of New York City. The town house belonged to a wealthy family who wanted it kept safe from burglars and squatters in the depths of the nation's greatest fiscal crisis. "Pappy," as the whole family called him, had rifles and pistols all over the house, Heaven forbid a break-in be committed on his watch. The glory of the whole thing was that since the house was furnished but devoid of residents, my Grandmother could take in sewing, my Uncle could attend a community college, and my mother and aunt found jobs doing menial work, fifty per cent of the wages therefor were due and owing to the household, for room and board.

My mother related to me a story whereby my Grandfather called the ice company (there were few homes with refrigeration at that time) and then carefully sat down to calculate how many turkeys he could cool sufficiently so that they'd be edible in the coming months. It turned out that two or three blocks did the trick, and my mother and aunt (dressed in proper rags) went from soup-kitchen to Salvation Army building gathering turkeys. The family go so sick of turkey after a while they decided that the following year, come hell or high water, they were going to punctuate their meals of macaroni and cheese and all kinds of turkey (typically in white gravy) with some sort of beef stew or beef roast. And that they did.

My thanks to you for dealing with these two tales, one of a modern job-seeker and the other of how we made do during the Nation's greatest fiscal crisis. The modern job-seeker is going to get a big surprise from Senator Obama, should he become President (and I support Senator Obama and all of his platform planks). My family, well, they were under President Roosevelt's care, for the most part. The stories they told about the enormous gap between the wealthy who'd survived the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the poor who either hadn't, or had been affected by it, were not all bad. They were stories of an intrepid American populace making good however they could.

When I grew up, the Depression Mentality had not left my mother. So therefore it was drummed into my head that we were "poor" and certainly "not as fortunate as our neighbors." My father, despite his best efforts, could not cure us of this problem. My mother was shameless; she's buy the ends of delicatessen meats long before the stores had figured out they could sell them for $2.59 a pound. My mother lied to the vegetable manager and told him that we had rabbits; and would be glad to take the trimmings of cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and lettuce off of his hands. I was ashamed then to go marketing with her; today I find it laughable and admire my mother's contribution to the lessening of wastefulness in a booming post-war economy.

I was a target of bullies in middle-school. I wore mis-matched clothes and hand-me-downs from my cousins (what could my aunts do, buy us new clothing? They couldn't afford it.) When we moved to Connecticut in the middle of my high school years, the "disco" clothes that I'd acquired from my cousin Glenn didn't go over well at all in the land of Levi Jeans, polo shirts and the like. However, after a year of taunting I managed to bring back enough drugs and trinkets from my weekly travels to New York City that I acquired a bunch of friends of the B-list kind.
 

The New Recession

Of course, the times I've talked of above were far more severe than the times this Nation is enduring now. However, we still have among us the poor who've been poor for years and can't seem to pull up their bootstraps and make a sufficient wage. I feel great despair for these people. I have met them, I have talked with them, I have given them charity. There are just some people who're going to take a whole lot of education in order to bring themselves and their families up to financial par.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these families was the family of a young man I met who hesitantly introduced me to them. They were the only white family in a housing-project of black and Latino families. What broke my heart was when the young man's sister peeled a potato, and said that they're "just like apples we get in school" no doubt Delicious Apples that'd been genetically engineered for goodness and astro-cooled with nitrogen since the past year's picking.

The family of my young friend had, each of them, a set of "Sunday best" clothes. I, at the young age of 26, gave them the choice of us all chipping in to make a Sunday meal (from which left-overs could be sent to work with Dad) or the choice of going to a restaurant for their favorite foods. The vote was always overwhelmingly in favor of "eating out." So once a week I'd load them into their car and mine (We tried fitting Dad, Mom and I in the front and the three kids in the back of the Cadillac but it didn't work; the children in the back would use the three electric cigarette lighters to injure one another to certain degrees; none serious. We'd then head for a seafood/steak house of note in Greenwich, Connecticut. Although I knew that the money could've been spent on far more nutritious fare for them all, all week long, it was the excitement of the moment; something I'd become quite familiar with, that gave them such a kick. They'd never gotten to set a white linen napkin on their laps. Well, the napkins weren't the most important. I had to teach the kids how to use oyster and clam forks, which spoon or fork to use, in fact, to eat which dish, and other little bits of etiquette including how to take rolls from the bread-basket and butter them appropriately.

Long after my friend left to pursue his fortune in a promised job in an industry he'd not describe to me (I think he'd found work in pornography in Arizona) I stayed in touch with this family. Dad prospered in his later years. I don't know if it was because he quit being such a son-of-a-bitch awful human being, or whether he enjoyed his new skills as an assembler in a factory which made computerized equipment. Mother started volunteering for the library, and when her situation, financially, was found out she was given a job at a social services agency in town. I haven't seen them in 30 years.
 

Now what is important about what I call the "new recession" is that there are families all over the country who've been taken out of their homes and are now living in hotel rooms, thanks to the system of public assistance in this country.

There are people who're too proud to go to mother and dad and say "hey, look, I ran up $75,000 in credit debt keeping up with the Joneses and I need your help." Then there are the people whose mother and father aren't doing as well financially, have waited their turn for a chance at a lovely apartment in their town's Senior Center, and cannot help their children.

I frankly don't know which is worse. The news seems to be relatively silent with regard to those who've incurred two or three year's worth of earnings in credit-card debt, and perhaps have also taken out a home equity line of credit. Why does this not appear on the news? Because the people who watch the news would identify too much with the situation of the "example families" on television and change the channel.
 

What to do?

The first thing I want to tell the reader who's stayed with me this long is that, although we don't have significant debts that are costing us astronomical interest rates, my wife and I are, indeed, indebted to our partners. Those people have already realized the entirety of their principal on their notes to us during the course of our latest venture; the rest is gravy; the rest is interest that they're acutely aware that we'll pay come rain or come shine. In fact, my spouse and I have forfeited pay checks in order to make those payments of late. Thank goodness I have consulting and entertainment industry producing sending a big fat check every once in a while, as well as the amusing checks for $2.59 on songs that I've copyrighted via ASCAP every month.

The American Culture of Consumerism - a.k.a. Materialism, are at fault for our current woes. I would just love to blame President Bush for this portion of our nation's economic woes, however, unlike President Reagan's naive unfettering of the nation's banking system, President Bush just allowed it to happen, ever so slowly. And he's not to blame. His financial advisors are.

Oh, how I long for the days of Alan Greenspan as chief of the Fed. But that aint' gonna happen.

Prices are going to rise, and credit will be very hard to come by in the near future. (In the interest of "noding for the ages, I hope that this writing sticks around similarly to the writings of 9/11 which are such a great part of E2.)

The good news is this: the nation's financial pendulum has swung in an erratic fashion ever since it was created. The thing we can count on is that if it swings too far to the right, it's gonna swing to the left after a year or so. So therefore we must put off our construction of new in-ground swimming pools, or simply curtail our frequency of dining out, and everything's going to be just fine.

How many times have we witnessed in the media a multi-million dollar divorce, with spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend complaining that the Court's judgement in their favor will "never allow me to live the life to which I've become accustomed."

Perhaps we should think about living a different life from that to which we've become accustomed.

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