I was in Tucson, my hometown, not too long ago to celebrate scoring a whole lot of points (46) in a basketball game 50 years ago.
And what you might need to know is that after putting on such a show I didn’t celebrate with my teammates later at a popular eatery because old Jim Crow couldn’t care less about the athletic exploits of a half-naked tall skinny Negro.
But such days are long gone back in the Old Pueblo. While in town I was shown around by a dear friend and former student of mine, Debbie Sisco Rich, the CEO of the girl scouts there. What she exposed me to warmed my heart. She took me out to Sabino Canyon, my favorite plot of land out there in the burning sand of the Sonoran Desert (I am a Sonoran to the bone), and introduced me to some of the brightest and cutest children imaginable who, paired with Peace Corps volunteers, had come to understand the lives and living conditions of people in countries around the world, Nicaragua, Senegal, China and the Honduras to name a few. They were celebrating “World Thinking Day.” What a wonderful thing to do.
These girls have been on my mind lately as I reflect on UCSD’s “Compton Cookout,” the off-campus party which ridiculed Black History Month in a “World Non-Thinking Day” kind of way, I’d have to say.
On the one hand, you’ve got young children discussing issues that affect struggling people throughout the planet, learning about their economies and their constant struggles to survive, learning how to use their voices to make themselves heard on issues that are important to humankind so they can better achieve their potential as global citizens and become loving and caring leaders.
And then, on the other hand, you’ve got a handful of the “brightest of the brightest” students in California abusing their responsibilities and privileges, making up asinine schemes to get their peers to act like “ghetto chicks” and wear gold chains and gold teeth and trousers below the behind, proving that a mind truly is a “terrible thing to waste.”
What it all confirms for me is if there is any hope of a better world it lies with our children. But here’s the rub: children are the masters of mimicry and eventually they’ll most likely duplicate what they see and segue into grownups like the confused young adults at UCSD and abandon good thinking for the mindless variety.
It’s the climate that has to change. Even in the racist environment that was prevalent in my old stomping grounds 50 years ago there was very little chance that somebody would have left a noose dangling in the library or draped a KKK like pillowcase over a statue. Other than Amos and Andy and a couple of black actors in movies going “Who dat say who dat when I say who dat?” or “Feets don”t fail me now” there wasn’t a climate of racial buffoonery like there is today. The “N” word and “bitches” and “ho’s” weren’t staples in our songs and weren’t terms up for just anybody to grab. Baby mamas and baby daddies weren’t glamorized. It was too freaking hot to wear 50 pounds of bling around one’s neck.
Today, in this Hip-Hop world, all of the above is legitimized. World wide. If that doesn’t change, today’s children, even with all the hope they represent, can’t help but continue the pattern – and believe me they are watching because I’ve rapped with a number of them about what has happened in their town.
I would suggest to UCSD students and staff and whoever else is concerned that they not only work towards increasing the campus’s diversity but also strive to alter the images that the Hip-Hop world creates practically unchecked. Watch what you buy. Watch what you wear and how you wear it. Watch how you express yourself, how you roll.
They would not only being doing a great service to themselves and to their school but they just might help pave a way to the making of a better world by showing children how problems are solved in communities when creative thinking is at the core of their efforts.
Well, anyway, that’s how one sees things when one has been among children on “World Thinking Day.”