The “Roots” of the problem

Cable TV has updated the classic 1970s Roots mini-series. I vividly remember watching the original. I was glued to the TV for several nights as I tried to comprehend the story of a family struggling to maintain their dignity and humanity in the depths of slavery. So is this just another Hollywood “what’s-old-is-new” for a new generation? Maybe. But I am struggling to find a reason to watch.

Flashback to the 1970s. Life in this society for the black community was definitely improving. There’s no question that educational success equated to economic success. For the first time ever, blacks were going to college in numbers never seen before. Thanks to the successes of the Civil Rights movement, the barriers to education were largely eliminated and black students were enrolling in colleges and universities previously closed to earlier generations.

So not only did the black community experience tremendous strides in educational attainment in the 1970s, but the resultant economic gains led to increased homeownership. But this new homeownership did not occur in the inner cities. Nope. It occurred in the new suburbs previously closed to earlier generations. See a pattern?

Here’s the Roots of the problem: The original mini-series happened at a time when the black community was still fighting for social inclusion. Those watching intimately felt, and too often experienced the injustices of racism. And not just the housing and educational segregation, but the violence as well. I vividly remember watching John Amos’s anguish at having half his foot chopped off to keep his character from attempting to run away from slavery. His character may have lost part of his foot, but he never lost an ounce of his dignity. That is when I remember my father literally blowing his proverbial stack. His word to me was to never allow anyone to take my dignity. His anger was real.

But I was young and remember thinking, “Dang Dad. It’s just a TV show.” Well, for someone who grew up in a racist society it was more than just a show. It was literally his life’s experiences. I understand that now. The impact of Roots was a reaffirmation that you can achieve no matter what obstacles exist. They can take your toes, but they can’t take your soul.

Well, here we are in the 21st century and Alex Haley’s story is back on TV. But this time many in the black community live in a society with little to no educational or economic barriers. The only limits are often self-inflicted. Ok, maybe that’s an oversimplification, but the opportunities are definitely real for those willing to work for them. So what impact will the new version of Roots have today? I’m not sure.

I know today’s Thundercats understand the social injustices surrounding the police. But I wonder if they’d understand the value of family and establishing a legacy for your children. Roots was never a story about one person, but about a family legacy where the body may have been enslaved, but the soul was forever free.

So, I may watch the new Roots, for old times’ sake. But it won’t be the same. For me, that’s the Roots of the problem.

Next Time.

Democracy and Demagogues

I absolutely love the Founding Fathers. With a little help from Enlightenment and Masonic philosophies, they crafted a new government based on democratic principles. The foundation of those principles involve citizens participating in their own governance. However, the Founding Fathers were a bit concerned that their new government could be “high jacked” by a demagogue whose charisma could belie the good judgment of the citizenry and challenge the principles of democracy. Enter the Electoral College as a “safeguard” of sorts, protecting the government from those it was designed to protect.

So this brings me to today’s observation. A few days ago the Republican Party of Texas held their convention to reaffirm their ideologies ahead of this summer’s national get-together. Now remember, the Founding Fathers never wanted political divisions. In fact, on his way out of office, George Washington warned the country that political parties would be detrimental to the principles they outlined years earlier in Philadelphia. I guess the country did not heed his warning.

Back to Texas’ Republicans. By all reports, the meeting was a success and everyone walked away renewed and ready for battle(?) in the fall. Even U.S. Senator Ted Cruz made an appearance in what could be considered a hero’s reception. After months on the campaign trail, I’m sure a friendly crowd was refreshing. Now I don’t have a problem with folks having principles and supporting policies that protect them. What I do have a problem with are those folks who would rather support their party at the expense of their principles.

So herein lies my quandary #1 for today: how can Texas Republicans support The Donald after months of his haranguing Ted Cruz? Even more so, how can Ted Cruz ever support The Donald? I think too many disparaging words have been said for the two of them to simply “kiss and make up.”

OK, here’s quandary #2: can Trump qualify as a demagogue? Throughout history people have followed charismatic individuals. Some of them, the followers of Jesus for example, changed the world for the better. Others, the followers of Jim Jones, were led to their own deaths. So let’s assume we’re that gullible today and that Trump will not encourage his supporters to consume tainted Kool Aid. Does that then assume that his supporters will change the world?

Before you accuse me of blasphemy, hear me out. There’s no doubt that a paradigm shift of sorts is occurring right before our collective eyes. This shift didn’t begin last year when Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency. No the paradigm began after WWII when this country finally recognized it could not advance democracy throughout the world when some of its own citizens did not enjoy the benefits of American democracy.

Yes, slavery was over, but by the 1960s blacks understood the disparities that existed in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.” But Congress did pass legislation designed to rectify past inequities. Naturally, that made some folks nervous. They just weren’t ready for the new realties. So here we are, 50 years later and folks are nervous again. Only this time it’s not blacks that are making folks nervous (I’ll let you answer that one on your own).

Yes, there are those in our society that prefer things the way they were, in the “good ole’ days.” To them Trump has seemingly provided them a voice and articulated their frustrations. Does that make him a demagogue that might eventually threaten our democracy?

I’m not sure. But I do believe his supporters want to change the world. As of today, they seem to be on their way to doing that. I don’t consider myself gullible, but if someone hands me a glass of refreshing Kool Aid…I’ll pass.

Next time.

Youthful Indiscretions

One probably couldn’t tell by looking at me now, but I was once a young Thunder Cat terrorizing San Antonio’s east side. Ok, I was never a guest of the county or state, nor was I ever a patron of the pharmaceutical sales reps that posted up near my high school every afternoon. No, I was too busy working so I could buy a car, thus making many of my girlfriends’ fathers very nervous.

I’m sure my behavior was similar to that of the young Thunder Cats of today. But there’s a difference. I never posted my experiences on any type of social media. I know what you’re thinking: “There was no social media way back then.” Yep, it was the stone ages. HBO was new and MTV only showed music videos.

Still, I knew enough not to broadcast my activities anywhere that may haunt me in the future. I understood that our society may excuse “youthful indiscretion” as long as they don’t know the details. Nobody wants to know the details.

So, society may still excuse youthful indiscretions, but the difference today is that those indiscretions are often played out on social media for the world to see. For example, a few weeks ago a Los Angeles Lakers’ player recorded another Laker’s boasts of youthful indiscretions. Usually the code in the locker room involves an expectation of nondisclosure. But that appears to be old school.

Today’s Millennials are all too willing to share their thoughts via some medium like Skype, blogs, or snap chats. I’m willing to bet that a majority of middle schoolers in this state have a Facebook account where they post pictures, bully classmates, and discuss all sorts of tawdry tidbits teenagers talk about. Now here’s the sad part: things posted on the internet don’t go away.

I’ve talked with a few human resources professionals and they all state that in the hiring process they will access a candidate’s Facebook page to get a better understanding of the one they eventually hire. Is this a standard practice among all HR folks? Maybe not. But why take that chance.

So back to my example of the Laker. I don’t know that any of us should be surprised that a Laker, or any professional athlete for that matter, had indiscretions that eventually came to light. Of course, not all athletes have problems with commitments to spouses or girlfriends. But it seems commonplace for a professional athlete, especially black professional athletes, to succumb to the temptations of money and fame.

Like I said, I was a once a Thunder Cat so I’m in no position to judge. Still, I worry that tomorrow’s culture will not be as forgiving to those youthful indiscretions that are played out on Facebook. I believe the study of history is a search for the truth. When I examine events from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries oftentimes those truths are not as forthcoming. So I’m left to basically “guess” about motives and missing facts.

However, I believe that those who study history in another generation will not have to guess at all about life in the first decades of this century. Many youthful indiscretions will be available on HD and surround sound for the world to see. I just hope that society will still be forgiving. I guess we’ll find out when today’s twentysomethings get their first AARP card.

Next Time

Return of the Silent Majority

In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon focused his political rhetoric towards a particular demographic to secure enough support to win the presidency. Historians lauded his “southern strategy” in appealing to this demographic of middle-class, southern whites. Nixon claimed this silent majority was the key to his victory as these were the keepers of real American values. Keep in mind, the 1960s were perhaps the most tumultuous decade in American history with political assassinations, an unpopular and unwinnable war, urban chaos, and a violent shift in social paradigms. Our country changed right before our eyes and the silent majority were arguably unable, or unwilling, to embrace the new definition of what it meant to be American. Instead, they held fast to a WWII paradigm where white male supremacy was accepted without question, minimized the contributions of women, and embraced Jim Crow policies that ostracized minorities.

So how did this turn out? Nixon won the presidency in 1968 and was re-elected four years later. However, the wheels fell off and he eventually resigned because of his actual (or at least perceived) involvement in the Watergate scandal. Still, academics and social commentators argue that the neoconservative political movement may have had its roots in his appealing to certain demographics that considered themselves real Americans but whose opinions and voice were believed to be overshadowed by social and political agitators of the day.

So here we are. Nearly fifty years later and The Donald has resurrected the silent majority. He has established himself as the new “voice for the voiceless” and asserts that he has the plan to return America to its former greatness. This implies the America is no longer “great.” I’m not sure how The Donald defines greatness, and surely there are numerous problems in this democratic society.

BUT, life is not all gloom and doom in main street America. Yes, the numbers of those living at or below poverty levels are shamefully high, but there are still numerous educational, economic and social opportunities in this society. If it were not so, why would so many from foreign countries risk their lives in migrating here? Even those who hesitate, or never fully assimilate into American culture nonetheless recognize the innate freedoms associated with our democratic processes. Such freedoms are rarely seen in other societies throughout the world.

In fact, for those disenfranchised groups that initiated the 1960s paradigm shift, life in this country has never been better. Yes, women are still not financially compensated like their male counterparts in the workplace, but they are nonetheless a real presence in the workplace, on the front lines and the boardrooms. In fact, perhaps the front-runner in the upcoming presidential election is a woman whose political resume would be coveted by most men.

Yes, black males are still incarcerated at disproportionate rates, but more black males are succeeding in business and education. And let’s not forget the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania in the Nation’s capital. We have no way to currently measure what his ascension to the White House will mean for future generations of boys who can now dream of being more that athletes and entertainers.

So, I’m not real sure how or when America ceased being great or how The Donald plans to return the country to what he believes to be its former greatness. Of late those endorsing his campaign, the new silent majority, seem to embrace the ideas of political isolationism and social persecution of those of foreign heritage, particularly those from the Middle East. What is particularly troubling for me is the apparent endorsement from David Duke who has encouraged his followers to support the Trump campaign. Even if The Donald doesn’t recognize Duke’s association with perhaps the most violent terrorist group on the planet, the rest of us do.

I’m not sure if the new silent majority are all white supremacists or not. But this country changed in the 1960s, and as far as I’m concerned, that was a paradigm shift made this country greater than what it was before.

Next Time

It’s a black thing (?)

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I’m a fan of those TV networks that produce historical documentaries and reenactments. With that being said, I really had no interest in watching the current miniseries focusing on the O.J. Simpson double-murder trial. Why? I’m not sure. Just didn’t seem to be my cup of tea.

Well, I was spending some time with my son discussing life, college, and general stuff that fathers and sons talk about. Then he shared with me that the miniseries was up to episode five and all of them were airing that evening. He asked if I would sit with him as he binge-watched all five episodes. My initial thought was to retreat to my own room and find a marathon of Ancient Aliens. Then I thought to myself if he wanted to spend time with me I’d better capitulate now; before long he’ll be married with his own children and time for me will be scarce.

So I sat down to watch. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this so-called “Trial of the Century” shook this country to its racial core some 20 years ago. Before I go any further, I have to say that what was lost in all of the theatrics of the trial was the reality that two individuals lost their lives. I wasn’t there when the gruesome act occurred so my opinion about Simpson’s guilt or innocence is of no real consequence.

With that said, after watching the first five episodes I did come away with some opinions. First of all, it’s amazing how the racial climate in this country was still contentious in the last decade of the twentieth century. More than 130 years after the end of the Civil War blacks were still subjected to public beatings and humiliations.

Secondly, as I recall those events, I was troubled by the observation that many non-blacks were oblivious to the racial hostilities that the black community routinely faced. There’s no doubt conditions were improving for the black community by the 1990s. Successes were being realized in nearly all facets of American society, not just sports and entertainment. But some things had not changed. For example, I remember another historically based movie where Jeffery Wright played Martin Luther King Jr. Boycott (2001) chronicled the events of the Montgomery boycott. In one scene Wright, as King, was accosted by a white police officer as he drove boycotters to their destination. The focus of the scene was that he had violated no laws and was simply being harassed by law enforcement. This depiction was meant to be indicative of 1955 America. Fast forward to Courtney B. Vance portraying Johnnie Cochran as he litigates the Simpson trial. In a similar scene Vance (Cochran) is accosted by a white police officer as he drove his daughters to dinner. Again, the focus of the scene is that he had violated no laws and was simply being harassed by law enforcement. This depiction was meant to be indicative of 1995 America.

I know it’s merely Hollywood being Hollywood where sensationalism wins out over historical accuracy. But for many in the black community the harassment by law enforcement is a historical fact. So it’s amazing to me that non-blacks seem oblivious to the seething rage that boils just beneath the surface when the issue of race is discussed. I guess it’s just a black thing.

Nonetheless, I’ve only seen the first five episodes. Now I wonder how the story will end. After all, it is Hollywood and can you imagine the spike in ratings if the jury finds O.J. guilty. Forget historical accuracy, it’s about the ratings in the end.

Next Time.


Like many folks across this great state I spend an inordinate amount of time behind the wheel of my car sitting in traffic. On one of my sojourns home I found myself scrolling the various channels on my radio and came across an old familiar song from my childhood. The song was “Freebird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The song was also the entrance theme for my favorite professional wrestlers, the Freebirds (Michael “PS” Hayes and Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy). The following are the lyrics:

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.

But if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change, oh, oh, oh, oh.
And this bird you can not change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows I can’t change.

Bye, bye, baby, it’s been a sweet love, yeah,
Though this feeling I can’t change.
But please don’t take it so badly,
‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame.

But if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you’ll never change, oh, oh, oh, oh.
And this bird you cannot change.
And this bird you cannot change.
Lord knows I can’t change

Anyway, as the music played it seemed as if the traffic started to flow a bit easier. Then it happened. A voice began a nauseating monologue about how only real Americans could appreciate Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” I soon realized I found one of the many conservative leaning radio programs on my radio’s AM dial. That unto itself is not a problem for me. Everyone has a right to their opinion. I only have a problem when folks believe their opinion is the only one that matters.

That was my problem with this particular radio host this day. The statement that only “real Americans” could appreciate “Freebird” sent my mind racing. I have a problem with folks telling others how to think or behave. Can you imagine the mood at the barber shop if I were to announce that anyone who doesn’t like R Kelly’s “12 Play” is not a real black man?! Better yet, what would Cowboy Fan say if I declared passionately that Tony Romo is a bum and has never been a top tier NFL quarterback? Yet too many folks readily accept others’ opinions as more informed than their own.

This brought me to the current political primary season that has taken over TV, radio, and the web. It seems the political outsiders are making a lot of noise these days. No one believed the Sanders and Trump campaigns would have lasted this long, let alone doing as well as they are. Analysts have stated that both candidates have been successful with younger voters who have claimed weariness with what they consider “professional” politicians.

There’s no doubt that much of our society is exhausted with the constant back and forth between the Republican-led Congress and the President. After two terms of this why are we surprised that new voters are tired of “politicians”? But it’s not just the politicians that are causing the weariness. The ugly elephant in the room that no one is acknowledging is why the relationship between Congress and the President has been so contentious in the first place. Republican leaders emphatically stated the desire to not support anything #44 sought to do when he was first elected. Was it simply because he’s a Democrat? Come on, be honest. Even a former President (#39) found the courage to state the obvious in 2009 that the Republican consternation was because of racism.

That be as it may, I’m still a good American because I like Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” In fact, I think it should be #44’s theme song as he leaves the White House.

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
‘Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.

What would they say after hearing this? I’ll surely remember him and will tell my grandchildren (whenever that happens!) what it was like live in the Age of Obama.

Next Time.

Perception is reality, really?

I’ve tried not to comment on items typically prolific in the social media blogosphere. But this time I just can’t help myself. A few weeks ago a popularly elected governor implied that black men were drug dealers and rapists and a threat to the white females in his state. Okay, I just can’t hold my mule anymore. You know who I blame for this outburst? I blame The Donald for this.

Our society is experiencing a paradigm shift of sorts. Once upon a time we were at least cordial towards one another. Even with all the labels we assigned to each other, we at least respected each other in public. In private, that was a different story, as its always been. As my father would say, “I know you don’t respect me, but at least to my face make me think you do.”

But with The Donald polling big numbers, its seems to be ok to say whatever is on one’s mind without fear of reprisal. I’m not sure I like this new paradigm, but I think I’d better get used to it.

Maybe what bothers me the most is that this governor’s statement harkens back to what some GOPers might call the good ole’ days: when people of color were second class citizens; women were restricted to only being secretaries, not managers, and nurses, not doctors. Yep, those were the good ole’ days (sarcasm). I really despise (hate is such a strong word) the fact that this society has seen a black male serve as Secretary of State, diplomats, university presidents and professors and yes even live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, there are still some “Good Ole’ Boys” who see every black male as a potential drug dealer and rapist. As the father of two black males I resent that.
Ok, I’m back. I kind of lost myself for a minute.

I know you may be thinking that a public figure is not responsible for the actions of another. After all, a conservative radio host was absolved from any responsibility for the actions of a listener who thought he was heeding the call to action by that host. Yep, there is a fine line between what might be considered free speech and incendiary words. But who am I to say which is which.

Anyway, what I am comfortable commenting on is the incessant perception of black males as drug dealers, pimps, and criminals. I know rap videos tend to play up these unfortunate stereotypes, so I guess in the end these negative perceptions are self-inflicted. Still, I’d be willing to bet that a majority of today’s adult black males are gainfully employed. In fact, the figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for December 15, 2015 indicate that just over 91 percent of black males over the age of 20 were employed. Yes, that is less than the nearly 96 percent of the white males age 20 and over who have jobs, but it just goes to show that the perception of pimps and criminals just isn’t true for a majority of black males, regardless of the prevailing perception.

So, here we are. In the midst of the political primary season that will present the public with two individuals vying to be Number 45. And yet the black community is still relegated to the images most comfortable in an era where separate waiting areas were commonplace. At least that’s what I perceive this particular governor believes.


Pressing Forward

I absolutely love the beginning of the new year. It’s as if my slate has been wiped clean and whatever I didn’t accomplish last year is forgotten as I have a fresh 12 months to get it right this time. So I’ve decided to press forward, forgetting those things in the past.

Okay, with that said, I was at the mall with one of my sons spending his tuition money when we encountered one of our church members. We exchanged pleasantries and she shared with us her son’s progress in college. To my delight he was doing well. I always celebrate the educational success of young black males. Then she looked at my son and attempted to encourage him to graduate as well. That didn’t bother me at all, but then she stated that graduation was all that mattered, the grade point average is of no consequence.

My son already knows how I feel on the subject of GPAs. I’ve had too many conversations with human resources professionals who all concur that one’s GPA most certainly matters. I chose not to correct my church member because I know she meant well. It just reminded me that a few generations ago those in the black community rarely had the opportunity to go to college and a college degree was a big deal. I mean a BIG deal. Please don’t misunderstand, graduating from college is still a big deal. Especially for black males who too often seem to want a state education from those institutions with the orange jumpsuits. But I digress.

There are two things that come to mind as a thought about my church member’s conversation. The first is that once upon a time a college education was considered a “cure-all” by the black community. That it (a college degree) would right all the wrongs from the Jim Crow era of social and political exclusion. Well, for many in the community it has done just that. However, and second, it’s time to change the paradigm. In this new year a college degree without a satisfactory GPA is like fool’s gold: looks valuable, but in actuality it’s worthless.

In this new paradigm the Community must begin to insist on successfully completing college with a satisfactory GPA. I know the many scars of Jim Crow may never heal. But there are new opportunities out there that those born in the post-Civil Rights era may never realize if the Community holds on to outdated paradigms. By no means am I suggesting we forget the past. Far from it. But I don’t want to be confined by imaginary restrictions either.

This year, I’m concentrating on pressing forward.

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3: 13-14 (KJV)

Still dealing with issues of race

I’ve never considered myself the sharpest knife in the drawer. I’m not the most intellectual, smartest, or most dignified. I’m just a child of a military family that believes in the omnipotence of God and the belief that with prayer and hard work anything is possible. With that said, I find myself dismayed by the recent comments of a Supreme Court Justice questioning the sanity of continued affirmative action programs in this state’s higher education institutions.

The debates surrounding affirmative action are well known and I have no desire to elaborate on them in this format. However, I find it amusing that affirmative action comes up when discussing blacks in the classroom but never on the athletic fields. No one questions the God-given abilities of those athletes of color whose skills bring millions of dollars into the coffers of tier-one institutions. In fact, I dare say that entire sub-industries exist to find those athletes and seduce them with dreams of being the next Rickey Williams, Vince Young or Earl Campbell. Speaking of seductions, I’ve even heard tales of inner-city athletes promised “dates” (wink-wink) by young ladies who more closely resemble Jennifer Lawrence than Zoe Saldana. At least that’s what I’ve heard.

So, back to my rant, err point. There’s no question that the tier-one institutions are quality schools and have the resources and the faculty to produce individuals with the talent to change the world. Tier-two schools may not have the deep-pockets of the tier-ones, but they still have the commitment to education that produces individuals who make positive contributions to society. What about the HBCUs? Even less resources than the tier-ones and tier-twos. But for those students of color that are willing, these institutions provide a sense of pride to accompany the three “Rs.” So, if members of the Supreme Court are convinced that some black students should go to a “slower-track school” I’m okay with that. Just make sure the black athletes also come back home.

So, here we are, approaching the end of 2015 with 2016 just on the horizon. And our society is still dealing with issues of race. I’d love to move onto to other issues challenging our society. I’d like to discuss the rampant unemployment of poorer communities and communities of color. I’d like to discuss why poorer communities and communities of color are still having problems with the police. Lastly, I’d like to discuss why poorer communities and communities of color are so underrepresented in classrooms of tier-one institutions.

Oops. Did I just come full circle? Is the reason for affirmative action to provide opportunities for individuals in poorer communities and communities of color to achieve the kinds of educational opportunities denied their fore-parents because of income or race? Words cannot articulate the emotions of seeing Vince Young holding the Rose Bowl trophy high above his head in Pasadena, California. The same inability to articulate emotions are present when that young child from poorer communities and communities of color holds a college diploma high above his/her head.

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I know a paper cut when I see one.
Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Psalm 31: 1-2.


Art imitating life(?)

As a young Thundercat I enjoyed the midnight movies at the Galaxy Theater in San Antonio. The tickets were $1 and someone in the group I ran with would smuggle in assorted snacks, goodies and beverages. Those were the days. I understand movie tickets are in the neighborhood of $10 these days. Needless to say, I don’t go to the movies very much.

Well, I recently saw the previews for the upcoming chapter of the Hunger Games. I have to admit that I was intrigued. I’ve not seen any of the previous three Hunger Games movies, just didn’t seem to be my cup of tea. Still, the previews raised my curiosity. So I checked my cable listing. I thought with all these channels and considering how much I’m paying every month maybe I could find the original movie. Sure enough, I found it.

So I settled into my chair with an open mind and a Big Gulp. There’s no since in providing a summary of the movie, I think I’m probably the only person in the free world that hasn’t seen it. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help notice the societal parallels between the post-apocalyptic world of the 74th Hunger Games and the real world I live in. It seems as if art was actually imitating life. In the art world, the poor and ostracized competed in a game of life and death as form of entertainment. In fact, those in the various Districts sent their young as “tribute” for a previous failed uprising. Those in the Districts were poor, hungry and destitute, while those in the city enjoy the life of plenty. The social parallel was disturbing.

In the real world, the poor also provide entertainment for the aristocracy. In fact, if you were to talk to those former football players dealing with debilitating head injuries, one might argue that such entertainment also has a life or death component (I know the argument that football players know the consequences of years of banging heads, so that’s a discussion for another day). Also, like the post-apocalyptic world of the Hunger Games, the poor in the real world are hungry and live life ever wondering when it will be their turn to serve as tribute for the ever increasing prison-industrial-complex. You didn’t really think the state is continually increasing its prison capacity merely as an exercise to employ construction workers. I think the state’s motto should be: “you build it (prisons), we’ll fill them.” Anyway, I digress.

The point is this: in this world the poor provide entertainment for this society’s aristocracy. While it’s true that many of the “entertainers” are well paid, I’m pretty sure their take-home pay pales in comparison to those who own the teams, movie studios, record companies, et al. The black community, in particular, often finds itself using some form of entertainment as a way out of their dire circumstances. While many have certainly succeeded, countless others have unfortunately fallen short. It’s truly a numbers game. What most folks in the Community know and understand is that education is the best way out of dire circumstances. It’s not the sexy choice and one may not ever be on the cover of magazines, but in most instances one will find themselves with medical insurance, a retirement plan and regular vacation days. In fact, I have a friend in San Francisco who is a dentist and lives down the street from one of the coaches of the Lakers. Did I already mention he’s a dentist? A dentist! As a Community we have so many more talents than running, jumping, and cutting jigs. Maybe, as Booker T. Washington said over a century ago, we need to start glorifying the common occupations of life.

Maybe next Saturday I’ll see if my cable provider has the Harry Potter movies. I’m not really big on witchcraft/vampire/sorcery movies, but if art is really imitating life that might explain why Donald Trump is doing so well politically these days.