There is an incident that stands out in my mind. For some reason I thought about it today. I suppose due to the nature of this incident it will stay with me for the rest of my life.
When I was a sophomore at Spelman College I enrolled in an African American history class that was taught by a man named Jelani Cobb. Some of you might be familiar with him. Periodically, he can be seen on television giving his opinion on various social and political issues concerning African Americans. Some people might call him smart, intelligent and well-spoken. Some people might see him as another Henry Louis Gates with the physique of a linebacker. Every time I see him or hear his commentary I think ASSHOLE.
In my late teens/early twenties I was dead set on becoming a writer. I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but I was going to make it happen by any means necessary. My roommate was an English major. She encouraged me to seek out a mentor.
After giving it some thought, I decided I would seek out Dr. Jelani Cobb. After all, I enjoyed his commentary on African American history and he was a published author himself. In fact, I seem to remember him telling us about a book that was recently published. So, I decided to make my way to his office during office hours and ask him to be my mentor.
When I showed up Dr. Cobb was not in his office. When I turned to leave I saw him turn the corner. I smiled at him and said, “Hi Dr. Cobb.” He hit me with one of the coldest stares I’ve ever received in my life and said, “What do you want?”
You read that right.
This motherfucker said WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Not “Hello, how are you?”
Not “Hi, nice of you to stop by….come into my office.”
No….this man said, “WHAT DO YOU WANT?”
Taken aback I heard myself say, “Wow.” I was literally too stunned to say much else.
I guess he must have felt bad because he immediately said, “I’m sorry…what can I do for you?”
I looked at him and said, “Nevermind…forget it.” and walked away.
To say I was hurt by this interaction would be an understatement. I already had a growing unfavorable opinion of black men. You can read this blog and see it has only worsened over time. This guy was one of the few “positive” examples of a black man I was able to see and he completely destroyed me in this 30 second interaction.
I don’t know if he was having a bad day or what….but that interaction will live with me forever. Not just because it was cruel, but because of my reason for seeking out this man.
After this I never again tried to find another mentor. Something in me said fuck it. If I was going to make it I figured I would have to make it on my own.
When I look back on situations like this one I can honestly say very few older blacks have reached out their hand to me. Very few have volunteered any type of mentorship. In fact, it seems to me that when these folks found success they either avoided reaching back and helping others or they did things consciously or subconsciously to make sure other black people didn’t join them or make it on their level. I have seen this at various points in my life and I see it all the time in corporate America.
We really shouldn’t sit and wonder why so many black kids and young adults are misguided as hell. The older generation left us out to dry. They literally haven’t done jack shit to improve the lives of young black adults. Folks can say, “Well, they were just trying to make it themselves,” but what the hell does that have to do with simply mentoring and nurturing the youth…especially those who are TRYING to better themselves???
Just sit back and think about the shitty way older blacks treat the youth. Generation X is a shit stain. This is the worthless generation who cracked out the black community. The Boomer generation should have been aborted. They single-handily drove the economy to hell and killed off decent paying jobs. It really is no wonder why millennials are so damn misguided. Look who raised us.
I have made a solid vow to myself.
If a young black person comes to me and ask for help I’m going to do what I can to help. If it’s within my power I’m going to give him or her what they need. I don’t care if it’s money, food, clothes, etc. Because honestly, I wish someone would have done it for me.