Black generational disconnect

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Differences in ideals and philosophies are a given among varying age groups, but can an impasse exist that makes mutual productive progress impossible? Most people refer to the differences of values/attitudes between the older  and younger generations as the ‘generation gap.’ It can be expected that the varying experiences of these different age groups will bring about a noticeable difference in how the two generations see things and relate. Hopefully, it would be great to believe that a middle ground or mutual understanding is possible that will not drastically impede the two generations coming together in unity when needed. This generation gap is nothing new and has probably existed since the beginning of time.

Older generations should not be surprised or be too judgmental when the younger generation manifests oppositional values (different ways of doing things, especially trends, contrary to the views of the older generation), remembering the older generation did the same thing in ‘their day.’ These differences are reflected in dance, music, clothes, trends, philosophies, and priorities. So it is not surprising to see essential differences, especially generational differences, in the Black community. Often these differences in dance and music are raising eyes.

We must be mindful that generational changes are going to happen, but it is the extent and severity of those changes that brings about condemnation and indignation by the older generation of African Americans. Many would argue that older Blacks are more religious and spiritual than other ethnicities or races.

Older Black generations can be tolerating to a certain extent, but there are things that a growing number of the younger generation are embracing and encouraging that are undeniably unacceptable and ‘cross the line.’ We are talking about crossing a line devoid of self-respect, respect for others, morality, indecency, and deference. We, as African Americans, have not come this far to be smeared and furthered dehumanized by our own actions. Realistically, how can we as African Americans blame others for stereotyping, sexual exploiting, or categorizing Blacks in general when so many of our youth buy into or accept actions and rhetoric that are indefensibly immoral, self-exploitative, and disrespectful?

The mere fact that some young Black people try to rationalize or defend reprehensible sexual exploits in song and dance (literally being flung in our faces) is unacceptable and troubling. The harm being displayed and accepted by a younger generation is doing irreparable harm to younger impressionable children to come. It has gotten to the point that the older generation is forced out of mounting desperation to speak out and address this run away display of unabated sexual exploitation and buffoonery.

But we must be cognizant that many older Blacks adults are afraid to offer guidance and counsel to many young people out of fear of being verbally or physically assaulted. Therefore, wayward youths are allowed to run amuck out of pure ignorance. If the older generation remains quiet or acquiesces no doubt this practice will continue and become worse. Entertain this sordid behavior in strip clubs or exclusive adult only venues if you must, but inundating it into main stream family orientated audiences is immoral and unacceptable. This growing exhibition of debauchery is apt to bring dire societal consequences in the future.

Change is inevitable, but all changes are not good. Expressing artistic creativity is important, but there must be respected boundaries if we are to maintain a civil society. In all honesty, we as an older generation of parents and grandparents, must accept our share of the blame for falling short of instilling values, morals, and self-respect in so many of our children. In the pursuit of making money and becoming famous, many young people are bastardizing and exploiting African Americans in song and dance. They use degrading rhetoric, oblivious to the damage their antics are doing to their race as a whole. Simply because they ‘don’t care’ doesn’t negate them from their complicity in presenting negative and degrading images on how Blacks are portrayed.

African Americans are a strong and proud people. Our forefathers toiled, sweated and died for us so we could one day be appreciated and respected. Therefore, you can conclude that they are not too happy with the direction of some of our youth in contributing to our own exploitation. I suggest as a litmus test that our young people ask the question, “Would my actions or rhetoric be acceptable in the eyes of my ancestors?” We must remember we are the dreams and the hope of the slaves. We must honor them through our actions.

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