Overcoming a life of despair

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

by Clyde Johnson

It saddens me to think about the fate of young black males in this country. Needless to say, the deck is stacked against them. Let’s make it clear that the well-motivated and well-inspired black male will adjust regardless to how the cards are dealt. He has internalized a mentality that pushes him to succeed against all odds. Some others find it more difficult to find their way in society. Although their civil rights have long been declared, it is hard for them to get a handle on their potential and use it to their advantage as they strive to become productive individuals. Even though the deck may be stacked against them, they cannot use this as a cop out.

It is fair to say that the black male is born with an “invisible backpack” that places an extra burden on him. This makes it more difficult for him to succeed. We have no control over the ills of society; however, we do have control over what we do with our lives and our God-given talent.

To understand this “invisible backpack,” we need only to look at law enforcement. The killing of Michael Brown has been in the headlines for sometime now. Personally, I think that it did not have to happen. This is a horrific situation that could have been, and should have been, avoided. I don’t think there is any justification for shooting down an unarmed teenager as if he is a rabid animal as this situation presented itself. Is better training the answer for such a horrendous act? Or is there some other motive that precipitates such acts.

As parents we must start instilling core values in our sons at an early age (from the cradle). These values should be consistent with what they will need in order to cope with the cruel world that ultimately awaits them. The importance of getting good grades and not settling for just passing must be impressed upon them. They must strive to be the best they can be in everything they do if they are to be competitive in the world they will inherit.

Many of our black males go through school without a clue to what awaits them when they graduate. They are less motivated because they have not comprehended what the world will require of them if they are to be successful. They tend to do enough in school just to pass and graduate with a transcript that qualifies them for nothing. As a result they drift into a world of despair.

What happens to the unskilled black man in a cruel world that requires skills he has not developed? He is viewed as being shiftless, lazy, good for nothing, etcetera. He is first to be suspected of doing wrong, as this “invisible backpack” weighs him down. He has to find a way to live, but he has no marketable skills.

Trapped in a world without hope, he has two alternatives, either find a way to make himself marketable or turn to a life of crime. At this stage in his life making himself marketable is more difficult than it would have been had he developed his potentials earlier. It takes the self discipline that he has yet to develop.

Our black males need to understand that God expects us to take the abilities he has given us and develop them to the fullest extent. If they don’t do this they are doing themselves and God a disservice. Parents should teach them to keep God first and foremost in their lives.

Life for the young black man is like walking on logs across a river full of alligators ready to devour him the minute he falls off the log. He must understand that black males have little room in their lives for mistakes, lest they be devoured by societal alligators.

As stakeholders we must be more involved in the education of our children. We must be ready and willing to lend our experiences, expertise and support in any way possible to enhance their welfare. This means working with the Franklin City Public School System to build a partnership designed to facilitate the education of our children, be it reading, tutoring or what have you.

Parents should set good examples for their children. Have them understand early in life the importance of self discipline and a good education whether it be academic, technical or vocational. Teach them not to put themselves in positions that allow law enforcement officers to take action against them for the slightest offense regardless to how marginal it may be. Your sons need to know that they are under a microscope because they have this “invisible backpack” that stems from the ills of society. You may call this “invisible backpack” anything you want, but it is there and it is for real.

Clyde Johnson is a Franklin resident and retired health physicist of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. He can be reached at 562-4402.