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 [email protected]