Racial Sensitivity 101


Recently I was in the

press box at the Statehouse with my esteemed editor from NUVO, Rebecca

Townsend, and while we were waiting for lawmakers to take up their next bill,

she asked me an interesting question: How did I develop my political attitude?

I thought I'd share my answer with you here. Let's be honest, it's not

every day you come across a guy named Abdul-Hakim Shabazz

with a conservative-libertarian political bent.

In fact, in my

younger days you would have probably mistaken me for Bobby Seale or Adam Clayton

Powell, Jr. provided they had a jheri curl and wore a

Members Only jacket. I freely admit I was a lot more liberal in my teenager

years. I wasn't quite ready to lead the Black Liberation Army, but we

were moving up the ranks rather quickly.

So what happened?

In the late 1980s, my

Dad's government obligations had us relocate to Europe. We lived in West

Germany and I attended college in Munich. While there, I did a lot of

traveling, particularly behind the old Iron Curtain. Most revealing for

me was a trip to Prague in what used to be Czechoslovakia. We were taking

a tour of the city when I saw hundreds of people in a line outside of store. I

asked the tour guide what they were in line for? I thought they were there for

concert tickets, but it wasn't, it was shoes. He told me people stand in line

for hours for shoes and are lucky to find two the same size. To add insult to

injury, this was during the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Revolution so there

were giant banners of Lenin all over the place.

That image was fresh

in my mind when I came back to the United States to finish my education. I was

attending Northern Illinois University, in DeKalb, Ill., right outside Chicago. I

had discovered talk radio and was listening to WVON-AM, the urban talk station

out of the city on which I heard a steady stream of people complaining about

how miserable their lives were and how white folks wouldn't give them anything.

After seeing real poverty abroad, I couldn't believe how people here whined

that they weren't getting enough food stamps and government assistance. I

found it annoying but that's not what pushed me over the edge.

What sealed the deal

for me was my attempt to join a "black" campus organization. My

Dad had encouraged me to join one of those groups, so I decided to follow his

advice and re-establish my "roots." The first meeting was like

something out a bad John Singleton film. Here I am in a room full of

young students, who for most were the first generation of their family to go to

college, so they are under tremendous pressure. And the fact they are

city/urban kids going to school in predominantly rural environment didn't help.

So what message do they get from the cast extras from a "Different World"

who were running the meeting? Instead of one of encouragement and support they

get the "You know these white people don't want you here. They just want

your money and then they will kick you out. The only people that really care

about you are us. Any questions?"

That is when I

politely stood up and said, "You Negroes cannot be serious!" And

left. I could not believe the idiocy I was hearing. Instead of

encouragement and support, these guys were perpetuating the victim mentality. These

kids needed hope and reassurance, not fear mongering.

I switched my major

from engineering and computer science to broadcasting, excited that way I could

bring a different message of self-empowerment and assurance to folks who truly

needed it. There was no need to wait on anyone to do something for you when you

are perfectly capable of doing it yourself. And to top it off, there was

nothing more fun than writing a television commentary or newspaper column to

tell the poverty pimps and enablers that they were full of you know what.

The same thing was

true for graduate school, law school and most of my professional commentator

life. I have been preaching the message of self-reliance, individual

liberty and personal responsibility. And embedded in that is an empathy

for individuals who are truly in need that we as a society should do all we can

to help lift them up so they can stand on their own two feet.

Yes, I get a lot of

grief for having my opinions, but I came by them honestly and I don't apologize

for them. I truly believe the best political philosophy is one that believes

the answers to society's problems lie in the individual who doesn't sit around

waiting for others or the government to do something for them and then

complaining when it doesn't happen.

I've thought this way

for 20 years and I honestly think if more people did, this world would be much

better off, or at least mine would.


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