Nearing the week anniversary of one of the wildest and greatest moments of college football, or really any sports events I've ever had the pleasure of watching, I find myself burdened with my usual quiet plight.
Another black boy's dream has come true.
And guess what that means? (insert sarcastic tone here) "Let's run and tell his story for all the other little black boys in the hood so that they will never give up on their dreams and maybe stop hustlin' and having illegitimate children!"
When Chris Davis Jr. for my Auburn Tigers broke down the sideline for this great moment, I scrambled around my living room in wondrous excitement, even did my own end zone dance, and smiled at the television screen as I fantasized about being on the Plains for that glorious moment. However, a few days later, with the buzz from the game still going strong well into the following week, I was reminded of something that has grieved me since high school. Little black boys are only valued for their athletic ability.
After experiencing a little (and I mean a little) success at being the starting running back for the Oxford High School Yellow Jackets in Northeast Alabama, I had a lot more people in my face than usual. After walking around for years desiring to be significant in somebody's eyes other than my loving mother, I had finally found it. I had random people coming up to me in the school halls, Wal-Mart, and the local mall, praising me for a great game and wishing me luck in the coming ones. I even had a few newspaper articles that tickled my ego every time they wrote about me, even if they misspelled my last name. But they eventually got it right, which really stroked my ego even more. But I was never flattered by it. Okay, maybe I was a little bit, because I'm sure due to a sovereign God, I was aware of the shift from zero to local hero.
During the three-a-days going into my senior year, I was expected to have a really good year. We had a new coach with incredible vision to put our football program on an elite status. But when I was left out of a "High School Football Spotlight" Sports section cover story in the local paper spotlighting the local stars, I was motivated to prove that newspaper wrong. But during the last practice of three-a-days, after embarrassing our defense the whole week, I was injured with a high ankle sprain. And I battled that stupid sprain the whole season. And guess what happened? The newspaper articles lessened. The praises went to someone else. And I was just another ol' washed up running back.
Now, this blog isn't being written by a bitter young black man, envious of the spotlight Chris Davis Jr. is getting. This blog is being written by a young black black man who has realized the continued self inflicted and endorsed oppression that my brothers continue to have to deal with. Because this is what I see. If you take away the moment, take away the Auburn gear, take away the glory, and just had a regular black boy, he'd be nothing to many of you. Let me take you into the eyes of these little black boys, if you're thinking I'm being too sensitive.
Many times, black men are immediately treated as dangerous or inferior creatures, unless, you're worth something in a sport. How should a young black boy feel if he's not interested in sports? Or when you are surrounded by a culture who would be enraged with you if you dated outside of your race, from black women (a whole different blog) and white daddies? Young white girls have to be fearful of being ostracized by their families if they dared brought home one of us, as if we are the reason for the decay of the nation, a corruptible thing that will defile the precious southern belle daddy's girls that he's worked so hard to protect from the dangers of the world. How should we feel when interracial dating is seen as disgusting?
Maybe there is some bitterness there, but I am so annoyed with this constant theme of the only time a young black man is praised and enamored is when he scores touchdowns for your favorite team. Here's why this breaks my heart.
Unfortunately, many of us are raised without fathers. And if we had fathers at home, many of those fathers were raised without fathers. So, embedded within many little black boys because of generations of broken homes, manhood has been learned from the scraps of our culture. See how that can get a little shaky? If the father didn't have a father to teach him true manhood, then he'll learn it from an unreliable and most likely detestable source. And he'll grow up and teach his son the only thing he knows, cultural manhood from that same source. Which means, without manhood being displayed in our homes by a loving father who is loving his wife and developing his sons, we adjust ourselves to what culture says. And guess what culture tells us great black men are? Football and basketball stars, and toss in rappers if you can write nursery rhymes. And guess what are the only stories being shipped back to urban communities? How these stars chased their dreams and made it out the hood.
Here's the funny thing, have you ever thought about what's the chances that every little black boy with a sports dream has of making it? Yes, there's the exception, but, don't we all feel like we'll be the exception? So, without throwing statistics at you, I'll just make it easy, just go back to any urban community and you'll find a bunch of men still talking about their high school football glory days. Wonder why they do that? It's called, dreams deferred.
Because in high school, they were somebody. In high school, they meant something to someone. In high school, they were valued. In high school, they mattered. In high school, people made big deals about a temporary hype and for that short lived moment, we were respected men. But when they walked across that stage with a high school diploma but an undeveloped mind because it was suggested to train their bodies harder, the reality of their talents being junior varsity due to the little to no recruitment letters from any colleges, there's nothing else to turn to. And if you're missing the connection between praise and manhood, here's what I'm saying. People, especially little boys, need verbal affirmation from our fathers. So with a huge void left by our daddies, we find it elsewhere. And guess who's doing all the affirming? Everybody who says you're awesome because you scored a touchdown with one second left to go on the clock. It's the same with women not being told they're beautiful by their fathers, so they find their identities in the men that tell them they're beautiful because of they have tight bodies. So boys, find their identities in this fleeting praise of man.
If you're still thinking I'm being too sensitive, then that's okay. It may be hard for many of you to understand the plight of little black boys, being none of you probably are. But if you're one of those thinking I'm being too deep, then don't you dare post another Facebook posts of how sick you are of the thugs or the gangs or the guys playing the horrid Knockout game. I'm trying to enlighten you on the root cause of it.
And, honestly, I really don't know what's really the blame. Maybe it's just the father's not raising their sons. Maybe it's just culture's idolatrous nature to worship man, creating a covetous desire from young boys to be what will get them the praise our evil hearts crave. Maybe it's just that cultural manhood's definition is a fleeting one. Maybe it's black culture for being so anti-intellect, where to be considered "one of us" you have to talk and act a certain way. Or maybe it's because we don't have real men in the black community because they are all victims of the same cycle that's crippling them. Old boys shouldn't have to raise young boys. So let's just say it's all of the above.
Can we tell young black boys that they can dream bigger? Yes, I'm saying that dreaming to be a football star isn't big enough. The fortunate football player life span is what? 33 years old? That's about 40 years left to do what?
We seem to think big sport contracts will fix the problem of the deteriorating black male. Let's get them out the hood financially, then they'll be better people. So, why do many of us get football scholarships and then blow it? Or how do we get thrust into colleges to bring the college more money off of our football skills and they still leave uneducated? EXTERNAL THINGS DOES NOT FIX INTERNAL ISSUES. That's why many of them are broke even after the millions. That's why I knew just having a black president wouldn't automatically spike an intellectual progressive movement within the urban community. That's how Michael Vick could lose all of his endorsements for dog fighting. Something is awfully wrong with what we're feeding these little black boys. Because if they can't rap or shoot a consistent three pointer, or run fast, they're in trouble, and probably destined for a mediocre life of boredom---and men are dangerous when they're idle and bored. There's too much divinely breathed passion lying within the hearts of men---men are dangerous when they're idle and bored.
So please hear me, I'm not asking you to stop praising your favorite sports stars. It's not your fault we have this brokenness. I'm just helping you understand why every time another post goes up about Christ Davis Jr, another piece of my heart will continue to break. And every time I'll pray, Lord, I hope he is not finding his full value in all this praise. He mattered before he scored that touchdown. He mattered before he put on the Auburn jersey. He mattered when he was in that inner city Birmingham neighborhood. I hope he doesn't find all his value in this praise. Because when that iconic moment gets shut in the record books and starts collecting dust, all he'll be left with is a "I used to be". When he looks in the mirror 5 years from now, 2 years from now, let's be honest, 3 months from now, he'll be left with just "I used to be".
I want the little black boys to dream dreams of things that continues to position us to progress, to develop, so that we can say, "I'm going to be", and it's an actual real and obtainable goal and not determined on scouting reports and draft picks.
Oh for the day that little black boys dream dreams bigger than how far our legs can take us. Oh for the day we can begin to restore the heartbeat of all of our issues, finding our value in being real men.