"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, August 12, 2011

Mayor Nutter Puts You Some F***in' Knowledge

Philadelphia has had incidents of young black men "wilding" similar to what we saw in Milwaukee at State Fair Park last week.   But while Milwaukee's mayor, Tom Barrett (who is white), has been fairly muted in his reaction, Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia (who is black) gave a speech this week to a Philadelphia inner-city church congregation that is extraordinary for its tone and its brutal honesty.   Here are some excerpts, but the whole thing deserves to be read:
Now, I’m gonna say some things this morning that I know, from time to time, many of you think but may not say. It will not be PC, but I told Reverend Campbell that I will recognize that I’m in church and I’m in his pulpit, so I will certainly be respectful. On the other hand there are some words that we know that are also found in the Bible, and I may use a few of those. Pastor mentioned that we’ve had some incidents in Philadelphia, the most recent of which was the Friday before last, 20, 30 kids running around Center City...

The first is, this nonsense must stop. It must stop. If you want to act like a butthead, your butt is going to get locked up. And if you want to act like an idiot, move, move out of this city. We don’t want you here anymore.... Parents, get your act together. Get it together. Get it together right now. You need to get hold of your kids before we have to. Parents who neglect their children, who don’t know where they are, who don’t know what they’re doing, who don’t know who they’re hanging out with, you’re gonna find yourselves spending some quality time with your kids, in jail, together.

Fathers, fathers. Fathers have a particularly important role to play. Not more important than mothers, but just as important. You know you’re not a father just because you have a kid, or two, or three. That doesn’t make you a father. A father is a person who’s around, participating in a child’s life. He’s a teacher who helps to guide and shape and mold that young person, someone for that young person to talk to, to share with, their ups and their downs, their fears and their concerns. A father has to provide a structure to a young boy, on how to become a good man. A good man. A father also has to be a good role model, and help a young girl be a strong woman.

Now let me just say this, if you’re not doing those things, if you’re just hanging out out there, maybe you’re sending a check or bringing some cash by, that’s not being a father. You’re just a human ATM. You’re just an ATM. And if you’re not providing the guidance, and you’re not sending any money, you’re just a sperm donor. You’re just a sperm donor. You’re what the girls call out in the street: “That’s my baby-daddy. That’s my baby-daddy.” That’s not good enough. Don’t be that. Don’t be that. You can do better than that.

And you know something, that’s part of the problem in our community. Let me speak plain. That’s part of the problem in the black community. And many other communities. But a particular problem in the black communities, we have too many men making too many babies that they don’t want to take care of and then we end up dealing with your children....

Tell your children: Get a book. Read a book. Learn something. Schools open September 6, on Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. Spend the next month reading. I’d like to try that for a change....

Now, some of you know, I grew up nine blocks from here, 5519 Larchwood Avenue. I’m gonna be West Philly, no matter where I live, no matter what I do, for the rest of my life. But before I ever heard of the Philadelphia Code or the Pennsylvania Code or any other code, I was very familiar with the Basil and Catalina Code. That was the code of my parents. Now, I have to tell you. When I heard this particular report, and we’ve had other instances, but it is inconceivable to me, inconceivable to me, that in my teenage years, that I would be out somewhere, let alone downtown, at nine o’clock at night. Impossible for me to fathom. Because my mother said: “Boy, I know you have a watch. But if the watch stops working, if you forget to wind it, if the battery breaks, there’s only one thing you need to do. Look up. When that light goes on, have your butt on the steps...."

I know a lot has happened in the 40 years since I was an early teen. I know that some things have changed. But now there are a few things that don’t — or shouldn’t — change. Respect other people. Keep your hands to yourself. Don’t touch what doesn’t belong to you, or what you didn’t earn. Keep your butt in the house, or on the steps, until you’re told otherwise. And mind your manners. Now, my parents made it very clear that these were their rules, and that as long as I lived in their house, that was it. 

And lastly, to our teenagers, you know, young people always talk about “Well, I gotta get respect.” You get respect when you give respect.... So, to our young people. If you want black folks, if you want white folks, Latinos, Asians, or anybody else to respect you, and not be afraid when they see you walking down the street, then leave the innocent people who are walking down the street, minding their own damn business, leave them alone. Stop it. Cut it out. We’ve had enough of this nonsense going on. We’ve had enough. Some of them should be ashamed of their behavior. And some of them have made shame on our race. I’m speaking plainly. I’m telling you what’s on my heart. It’s a disgrace, what’s going on. Not one of these victims, not one, did anything to any one of those young people. They weren’t bothering them, they didn’t say anything to them, they were minding their business, some were out enjoying themselves, some were just coming from work, they didn’t do one thing. And then all of the sudden, for the cowards that some of them are, in the crowd, thought they were anonymous, jumped up and started beating on people, assaulting them, in the streets of this city....

If you want all of us — black, white, or any other color — if you want us to respect you, if you want us to look at you in a different way, if you want us not to be afraid to walk down the same side of the street with you, if you want folks not to jump out of the elevator when you get on, if you want folks to stop following you around in stores when you’re out shopping, if you want somebody to offer you a job or an internship somewhere, if you don’t want folks to be looking in or trying to go in a different direction when they see two or twenty of you coming down the street, then stop acting like idiots and fools, out in the streets of the city of Philadelphia. Just cut it out.

And another thing. Take those doggone hoodies down, especially in the summer. Pull your pants up and buy a belt, because no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt. Nobody. Buy a belt. Buy a belt. Nobody wants to see your underwear. Comb your hair. And get some grooming skills. Comb your hair. Running round here with your hair all over the place. Learn some manners. Keep your butt in school, graduate from high school, go on to college so you can go and make something of yourself and be a good citizen, here in this city. And why don’t you work on extending your English vocabulary. Extend your English vocabulary beyond the few curse words that you know, some other grunts and grumbles and other things that none of us can understand what you’re saying. And if you go to look for a job, don’t go blame it on the white folks, or anybody else. If you walk in somebody’s office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back and your shoes untied and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arm, on your face, on your neck, and you wonder why somebody won’t hire you. They don’t hire you because you look like you’re crazy. That’s why they’re not hiring you.

So, you do those things, and act like you got some sense, and you’d be surprised what opportunities will open up to you. That’s what was on my mind. That’s all I’ve got to say.
Wow.   Just.... wow.  

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