Conceptualizing Respect : A Call For Assistance

My Dear Readers,

      Wow! In last week’s “At The Crossroads” posting, I invited Mia Smith from RevolutionsDaughter.com to respond to my posting The New Basic Skills in America: The 3Rs: Rage, Ravage & Rioting in Ferguson,  and I was taken to the woodshed! That was quite a spanking!

     In her posting Ferguson and the REAL 3R’s: Racism, Reductionism and Revulsion, Mia Smith did a phenomenal job in expressing her viewpoints, garnering 586 views, the highest for a single entry in the history of this blog. 

     The readership and the writings reflect the caliber of responsiveness this blog is seeking to attain.  Although I may not agree with all of her points, Mia’s perspective represents a younger generation that is enthusiastic and willing to not only speak out on the critical issues affecting this nation, but able to accept the reins of leadership that will eventually be passed on by the generation that precedes hers. Please stay tuned.  You will most definitely hear more from Mia and other voices as guest bloggers for Loving Me More.

     In that spirit, I wanted to explore a recent tragedy that illuminates some of Mia’s points and touched me deeply.

     On August 21, 2014, a verbal dispute turned deadly when an individual opened fire with a pistol, killing two employees of a local gas station. It is alleged that the verbal dispute began over the haphazard manner in which the gunman had parked his car as he sought to get gas.  In doing so he had prevented other customers from being able to obtain gas as well.

     There are racial connotations associated with the shooting.  The shooter is black and alleges that he was called racial slurs.  He adds that the “fight” was one over “disrespect”.  Furthermore, the assailant alleges that he was protecting his friend and was forced to shoot the two men.  the Seattle Times:

“Russell, who identified his friend only as “Sac,” said that if he hadn’t shot the men, his friend’s family would have killed him for failing to stand up for him.’”

     It would too easy to dismiss this as “insane” that one individual could be so callous and place such little value on human life. This is more than “just another shooting”. 

     With this in mind, I have invited Mr. Dre Franklin, a community activist and organizer, to help me explore the concept of respect.

My Dear Readers, a note:

     Please keep in mind that the questions and responses shared here are not intended to justify the actions of one individual who took the lives of two innocent others.  It is the intent of this writing to enhance our understanding about respect and disrespect may be conceptualized or perceived by others.

      Dre Franklin was born and raised in Seattle and has been a community/organizer for 10 years. He is the founder and current member of the executive leadership team for Brothers United in Leadership Development (B.U.I.L.D.), a community based grassroots organization focused on the empowerment of young African-American males.

     The mission statement of the organization is “Brothers united in leadership development affecting real change in our community.”  Its vision is “Black men will be self empowered to be leaders and mentors in their community and effect positive change by instituting pride, hope, and perseverance in black men.

KANE: What is your perception of the individual accused of this crime?

FRANKLIN: First of all, I want to be clear that that I am not speaking for any group, community or anyone else.  I am here today expressing my opinion.  With that understanding I perceived that the individual who chose the tragic actions taken might be a person who views himself as being disenfranchised.

When you are dealing with people who are disenfranchised, they want to be seen.  They are overwhelmed by systems and institutions.  Everybody wants to be seen and the only way to get seem sometimes is from negative behavior.

For some this is not negative behavior because this is the way they have been socialized.  So as it is socialization it becomes normalized or specifically, this is the way they view and live their lives.  Let’s talk about being socialized; in being socialized, one is being impacted through the media, institutions, peers, family and one’s social and physical environments.   When all of these various entities impact some individuals, telling them how to act, the occurring behaviors become normalized.

KANE: Where does the concept of disrespect/respect come from?  It can’t just come from the parents, so it seems that it comes from the peers in the street- but then where do they get it?

FRANKLIN: The concept of being disrespected can be viewed in anything in human interaction and behavior.  For example a person can “look” at a person wrong or say the wrong thing.   When a person does not have anything to lose or doesn’t care about himself he is not going to care about anybody else.

It is not only about what disrespect is, it is also the outcome of disrespect.  Basically, what may seem trivial to most maybe a situation of life or death for others.

Some issues of respect may have to more to do with how one is socialized; one is being impacted through the media, institutions, peers, family and one’s social and physical environments and all of these can be passed down intergenerational.

Think to yourself for a few seconds. What does the United States of America do if someone disrespects them (i.e. someone attacks them or a perceived attack)?  They attack back with no remorse. This is one example of how socialization works. People see this and learn that’s how you deal with your problems.

KANE: Why is violence in “the street life” more respected or revered than other qualities of a person such as intelligence and perseverance?

FRANKLIN: I don’t necessary believe that as being true.  A lot of times, the most successful people in the street life are very intelligent and they get respect without having to use violence.   Now there is a difference between respect and fear and sometimes when in the streets, those two concepts i.e. fear and respect can get confused whereas the question becomes one of “do I fear you or do I respect you?”

This is also a learned behavior (police, department of corrections, public schools etc all use fear under the vial of respect). In fact as a black man I always know that I can lose my life from violence if I’m perceived to be disrespectful to any of the above. Losing one’s life does not always mean death.  Losing one’s life can also mean ending up in prison, being mis-educated or existing in life that is addicted to either drugs and/or alcohol. 

 

KANE:  Let us assume that at the root of self-validation is the ability to trust oneself, and to trust the opinions you hold for your life are right for you.  At what point do these young men trade their own opinion for those of gangs and the streets?  Specifically how can this be applied in the recent shooting of the two unarmed men at the gas station?

FRANKLIN: The real answer comes from how one feels about him versus the normalization of caring what others think about us.  In the gas station shooting it may have been he felt he had been disrespected and he was fearful that if he allowed himself to be disrespected, his peers would harm him in some way. Although, there is no clear statement or indication of this is true, as it is his perception, it also becomes his reality. When you’re told that black men react a certain way over and over and over again along with you responding the way you have been trained to do then you have been effectively socialized. 

KANE: What can the older generation of black people (men and women) do to increase the ability of young people to trust themselves over the opinions of the crowds they run with?

FRANKLIN: A lot of the behaviors being enacted is “learned behavior,” the older generation has not done well in working together as in “community.”  Furthermore they must stop being fearful of the younger generation who are in reality, their children, grandchildren or the young adolescent next door. 

As one observes the infrastructure of most black communities, we are a community of consumers, having minimal ownership or economic power.  The older generation has to do better in expanding economic development as well as opportunities for its young people.

Regarding political, economic or family leadership, the older generation has failed in “succession planning” or preparing to pass the mandate of leadership to the younger generation.

The older generation must want to readdress their priorities such as the current focus on materialism and replanting their focus on the investing in their young’s persons’ lives i.e. time, education, parenting and financial.

Finally, the older generation must want to take ownership of their failures, instead of blaming such failures on their young people.  For example, 70% of African-American households do not have an adult male figure involved.  This statistic although having overwhelming implications for young people, simply cannot put forth to rest on the shoulders of the younger generation.  The older generation must want to accept ownership and in doing so work towards change.

Understanding we all have been socialized to not work together and to point the finger at each other instead of uplifting one another (this holds true for every generation).

KANE: How can the community increase the sense of security for these young men?  How can these young men work to where they do not resort to violence against each other?

FRANKLIN: If the older generation within the African-American community is willing to do begin the process of what I suggested in my previous response, they would be able to assist these young men from initially self destructive behavior which includes violence, mis-education, incarceration, destructive interpersonal and martial relationships as well as self abuse i.e. self medicating via drugs and alcohol. We have to come together as a community not as a program or a workshop!

KANE:  What can the older generation do to assist the younger generation in building self-esteem, ownership, and a sense of pride and accountability?

FRANKLIN: I would return to my earlier response that being the older generation must want to stop being fearful of the younger generation.  This would mean developing dialogue and interactions in those such as “youth on the streets” who they perceived as not being safe. Have real life and manfully relationships with our youth don’t just do it when you’re being paid as part of your job or at a once a year event. The youth know when it is real and when it’s not!

It takes all of us to see and make the change we want.  It is not a “we versus them”.  If any part of our community is failing then we are all failing.

 

Concluding Words

     The words of Mr. Franklin have given me a lot to process.   As I reflect on this tragedy, I am aware of the impact it has had on a range of people throughout the immediate area and around the nation.  Many of us are left with many questions.

     Although the dialogue with Mr. Franklin can provide the readers and myself a glimpse into the concepts of respect, disrespect and its impact on those who may perceived themselves as being disenfranchised, there can be no justification for the actions taken. 

     Respect?  Disrespect?  There are allegations that racial slurs were thrown at the shooter.  If true, then such behaviors are inexcusable for which a proper remedy can be sought.   If we are to pride ourselves as a moral and just society with high spiritual values then we must want to honor one of God’s most sacred commandants; “Thou shall not kill.”

      The shooter stood “at the crossroads,” and chose a path that will forever impact not only his life and the lives of others.   It is truly unfortunate that he chose death over life.  He could have walked away.  He could have let it go.  However, he would say he could not do so and therefore as a society and community we all mourn the losses.

In reviewing the Ten Flashes of Light for the Journey of Life, there is the following: 

“A wise person learns from his/her mistakes, makes corrections and finds the right path; the foolish one will continue with direction, never finding the road even when it is in front of his/her face.”

    A huge gulf still exists between the older and younger generation within the African-American community. It is clearly evident that there is work within our community to do, assuming we want this to change.

      In closure, Mr. Franklin leaves the following words that deserve the workings of the Five R’s of Relief (respite, reaction, reflection, response and reevaluation):

“If the young generation can’t see tomorrow, they won’t much care about what happens today.”      

Until the next crossroads… The journey continues.

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