Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Acting White: The Baby and The Bath Water

A football player is dead, another in jail. Imus is back. Tasers are the new choke-hold. Young girls go missing. Prisons populations grow. War rages, towed by greed. Borders contain nothing. Jobs export, disparity imports. Blacks are becoming more and more dissatisfied, volatile and angry with each other, and others. The Urban Killing Fields cry for a fix.

But before we start fixing all the problems we must fix one problem. A kid can learn in school only if he wants to be there. And before Blacks can start to make America the place of their dreams, they have to want to be here. This is not easy, and not to be confused with not wanting to be somewhere else.

Being happy to be in America does not, in my opinion, make you a sell-out. Sure this country mistreats its citizens for various reasons, including race. But just go to Kingston, or Lagos or Rio and see how folks are doing. For my ancestors who died in Africa as competing tribalists, or as slaves in America, I am grateful, and I try to show it by treating my existence as something precious, a gift.

Does this mean supporting my country right or wrong? No. But does it mean acting like this country, with all of its warts, is the best place on the planet to get an education, get a job and have a family? – damn right. Where is this place where people will judge me only by the content of my character? I think it is called heaven and to get there I must be dead. No thank you. I don’t want to die yet, and I can’t wait. I’m too impatient.

If I honestly thought Africa, or any other place, was a better place for me, I would pack my bags and go there. But it is not. Circumstances, good and bad, brought me here to America. I start each day thinking that I want to be here because those before me sacrificed and the place has potential, including my contribution. But I must strive to contribute, not complain or tear it down on general principle. Grumbling in moderation is good. Voting, even protesting, against things that should stop, even better. Wanting to be here, priceless.

Sure, throw out the bath water when it’s spent, but keep that baby who just might grow up to do great things that make you proud. This is fix #1.

James C. Collier


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Unknown said...

Amen. Can't wait for fix #2.

Anonymous said...


I think black conservatives overplay the "acting white" issue. Kids may have said that back in the 80s, but not now.

I've been all over Africa, Europe and America and I can say without a doubt that each place has its benefits and its detriments. In Africa, the people may have less material "things," but the closeness of their families and the depth of their spirituality is unparalleled. In Europe, the easy, cosmopolitan lifestyle is precious, but religion has been taken away from the people and racism against blacks and Arabs is on the rise. Here in America, we have more money and "things" than a human could ever desire, but we are so over-sexualized and war-like that we have lost our connection to faith.

To each his own. I live in America (Los Angeles) now, but I would love to spend several years in Africa, God Willing.

Constructive Feedback said...

Bro. Collier:

Over the years I have come up with the following statement that puts the onus on the "Blame America First" crowd:

"Stop being a co-conspirator in support of a system that you hate."

This simple message negates all of the following claims:

1) The White man stole the Native American's land .....excuse me what about that deed that YOU have registered in the county courthouse laying YOUR claim to the "stolen land" that you live on?

2) (continuation from #1) and he brought me over here against my own will.....Brother take your shirt off. I don't see any whip marks on YOUR back indicating that YOU were ever a slave. I do notice, however, that you were on that "Tom Joyner Morning Show Cruise" that went out of the country and YOU CAME BACK in. You used your American credentials for safe passage through Customs, rights that about 6.0 billion other human beings living on the planet don't have.

3) A White bum can get a hair cut and a bath and then become CEO of a company where as that same RACIST company won't hire me because I am this day in time in which YOU are conscious of your own value then you will realize that it is THEIR LOSS of your talent. You will then incorporate with similarly aggrieved Blacks and start your own company in which you can set the dress code (what ever hair style of what ever color you want; what ever baggy pants, etc). If your customers are fine with it then you will have no problems.

The bottom line of it all absent putting the ball in their court - the "Pity Party" will continue.

Again this is not "America love it or leave it". It is America - stop being a "Consumer Capitalist Co-Conspirator" if you hate capitalism. There are many other places around the world that can use their "brilliance". Why stay hear and be depressed? Worse yet they judge other Black people based on our willingness to join in on their depression

Unknown said...

The State of...
I am so, so sorry to have to inform you that you are wrong. I wishe you were. I was in school in the early 90's and I got it then, my nephew gets it now. I get it now from ADULTS.
I am glad you have been able to travel so extensively and experience other cultures (as have I - it is a blessing) but I do hope that you take a look around this one and help us make some positive changes.

Anonymous said...

What wng said. I thought I'd escaped the "white" comments in high school only to be told by a supervisor at one job that I'm "white" like his Caucasian supervisor.

Anonymous said...

james. with this one post, you have a new fan. i got here by way of field, and i love your blog. gracias, and i hope i can comment regularly on here.

James C. Collier said...

Baatin: thanks, and I look forward to your comments. /JCC

Anonymous said...

i left the US 8 years ago for africa, and i have never looked back!

Mammy said...

As always, your post is thought provoking. I hope to see more comments - it's great when a post stirs up discussion.

al fin said...

You aptly describe most of the world, where life is nasty, brutish, and short. It has always been that way.

Anybody can check the emigration/immigration statistics to see what direction most people will go, if given the chance. PS, anon: it is away from Africa.

The grass will always be greener somewhere out there(at least in their dreams).

Ehav Ever said...

I agree with you that if a person wants to fix a situation they have to be happy in that place that want to fix. There has to be at least a value of where they are in order to value what it is they want to improve about it. Without that they won't even value change when it takes place.

Miriam said...

Hi. I am so happy to find this blog. And already i'm planning on returning to see the next fixes.


Anonymous said...

We do have many advantages here in America. I also agree that there are many of us that don't capitalize on the those advantages to the full extent that we could. However, I think that it is important to keep in mind that those advantages were paid for with the sweat, blood, and tears of people who, in their time, may have also been considered "complainers" who did not appreciate just how good they had it. Like others who've responded, I have also traveled extensively and one thing I've noticed is how much other cultures admire and try to emulate the spirit and efforts of our civil rights movement. So while I don't think it is healthy to live your life in this country with a "victim" mentality, I'm not so quick to be critical of those that speak out about the injustices that still exist here today. Speaking out (coupled with action) is part of what's helped us attain these advantages in the first place.

Anonymous said...

@ al fin,
those people who leave africa, do so because of economic hardship. Most of them who end up living in the western countries would give anything to go back to Africa. Most cannot because they do not have anything to go back to.

It is the short sighted, and those who lack courage and a pioneering spirit that would never venture into Africa, the continent from whence they came! Perhaps you are one of them.

James C. Collier said...

Anon1:37: Sorry to disappoint, but my company is developing a 400MW utility in Ghana to address, in part, the power emergency in W.Africa.

James C. Collier said...

CES: The utility we are building will belong to W.Africans, powered by their own resources. It is not free, nor should it be. We are there at the request of those governments and the world bank. Thanks for your support.

Unknown said...

Your blog is wonderful Mr. Collier! It's very thought provoking and insightful too. I've stumbled upon it today for the first time. I'll be stopping by from now on for updates. Good luck with your project in Ghana!

Gunfighter said...

The "Acting White" label is alive and well.

Talk a certain way?: "you are acting white"

Dress a certain way?: "you are acting white"

Live in a certain place?: "you are acting white"

Listen to the "wrong music": "you are acting white"

Socialize with the wrong people?: "you are acting white"

Support certain politicians or political parties?: "you are acting white"