April 25, 2006

Message to the People: And the fools still worry about cruising

Derby is upon us again, and I have thoughts.

In April, with impressive coordination, hundreds of thousands of people across the country took to the streets and demanded U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants, which some estimates number around 11 million. The protestors seemed to be everywhere: New York, San Diego, Atlanta, D.C., Dallas, New Jersey, Lexington — even Garden City, Kan.

Anti-immigrationists are epitomized by CNN’s Lou Dobbs and the Minutemen (a volunteer U.S. border patrol group) who say illegal immigrants are just that — illegal. They are a scourge that displaces U.S. citizens by taking jobs and usurping resources not intended for them. Immigrants and their sympathizers argue that these people are simply seeking a better way of life. They work, pay taxes and want education. They are chasing the American dream of freedom, democracy and an opportunity to reach their fullest human potential.

My objective here is not to give quality to either side of the immigration debate, though I must admit I am sympathetic to the immigrants. No matter which side one chooses, however, I believe the April rallies held by our Latin brothers and sisters and their allies are instructive. Whether they win or lose, they have proactively positioned themselves on the front end of legislation, which will impact their individual and collective life-worlds.

This is action addressing an issue of great importance. I applaud them.

Meanwhile, many in Louisville’s black community have not learned. A few weeks before the historic marches of our brown kindred, I returned to Louisville from a speaking engagement. On my first morning back, I went through my usual routine of catching up on national and local news. On the national scene, President “W” was holding another carefully orchestrated press conference.

Subject today? Surprise — Iraq. He was going through the usual rabid song and dance justifying the necessity of Americans (disproportionately poor and colored) continuing to leave their families to die in Iraq. I wondered (as I have for years) how long Bush’s duplicity could last without serious check.

Americans seem willing to ignore almost any and every thing.

When I turned to Louisville’s local news, some local black folks were holding a press conference, too. The subject was a little different. They weren’t addressing poverty, attacks on affirmative action, waning black political power and influence, voter suppression, disproportionate incarceration, education reform, Bush, or the so-called War on Terror. They were actually holding a press conference to announce a series of concerts as alternatives to Derby cruising.

Let me be clear. I am not of the mind that there were not enough conversations between public officials and cruising advocates before the decision to eradicate it. I think the issue was given too much attention. I just don’t care about whether people are allowed to ride up and down a street for two days and breed debauchery, injury and death. I will never rally around such madness. I’ll leave that to the anti-intellectual hip-hoppers and their friends. If we are to fight — let us fight for something substantive, something real, something noble, just and true. Cruising is none of these.

As our world falls apart, we are worried about cruising and concerts?! CRUISING AND CONCERTS!!!! Defend it — I dare you!

This is yet another display of black people submerging deeper and deeper into a sinkhole where strategy-poor activists and hustlers are viewed as leaders, rappers with little to no political acumen as politicos, and myopic athletes and profiteers as heroic visionaries. Our community is now an addict and popular culture, and entertainment is the drug. Our willingness to not only accept but celebrate the mediocre lowers us. Our enthusiasm in uncritically defending the worst of our culture wounds us. Our propensity to envy and disconnect ourselves from the talented and elevate the gutter and “street” condemns us. Our refusal to wake up will kill us!

During an interview on cruising’s eradication, one fellow exclaimed, “I’m gon’ cruise till I die!” Hmm. The brother lives physically, but he’s certainly already dead mentally — he just doesn’t know it yet. Some folks were upset last year when I wrote “… And the Fools Worry about Cruising.” I said then that those preoccupied with Derby entertainment and cruising were fools. I’ll take no back-steps here! They were fools then and fools they remain!

Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools.

Dr. Ricky L. Jones is associate professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at U of L. His LEO column appears in the last issue of each month. Contact him at blackvanguard@hotmail.com

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By rock7777

So you want us to stop worrying about cruising by writing another article about cruising? hmmm interesting.

Maybe because you live way out in the suburbs Dr Jones you may be a little cloudy as to what actually went on this past weekend in the west end. Imagine waking up in the morning and a police officer is knocking at your door. No, he's not there to arrest you, but instead he hands you a little red piece of paper and tells you "you can't drive anywhere on broadway without this" and if you do, you will be arrested or ticketed. Thats exactly what happend to many if not all west end residents this past weekend. And while yes, "cruising" may be minuscule compared to other problems facing the black community. But if defending the right to keep broadway open during derby weekend will make it easier for my family and I to get out of the house during this so called "celebration" I will do it. Many people confuse the fight for the right to "cruise" with the fight for the right to keep broadway open during derby weekend. I think they are two totally different issues. I'm very suprised at the mentality a lot of black "activist" including yourself, have toward this whole issue. I think its because many of you are outsiders looking in. Do you live in the West End Dr. Jones? I think its good that you make a trips down here every once and a while, but how much can you really care about the west end when you live in the burbs? I don't really care if you like "cruising" or not. But if you're willing to say ok since these young black kids are "cruisers" they deserve whatever they get, I think you are letting a lot of people down. Unfortunatly, a lot of these kids will never have the chance to sit in one of your classes Dr. jones, so a lot of what you say will fall on deaf ears. But i think these kids who "cruise" could use a lot of encouragement from people like yourself, not ridicule. Not necessarily encouragement to cruise, but encouragement to do something else with their time. Coming from you, a pretty young black professor yourself, would have a much deeper impact than if it were coming from an old crusty Louis Coleman (no offense)

And with all do respect, I don't think sitting behind a computer calling people "fools" will help anything.