Remember the movie “The Wiz” the African-American version of “The Wizard of Oz” starring Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russell, Richard Pryor, and Lena Horn?” Remember some of those wonderful songs—Believe in Yourself, If You Believe, Ease on Down the Road—and especially , “Don’t Nobody Bring me No Bad News.”
If we’re going to be buddies
Better bone up on the rules
Cause nobody brings me no bad news.
When you’re talking to me
Don’t be crying the blues
Cause don’t nobody bring me no bad news
If you’re going to bring me something
Bring me something I can use
Just don’t bring me no bad news
As much as black folks cheered the black casting of “The Wizard of Oz” we still seem to be a group of folks that expects and finds some type of comfort in “bad news.” I know some folks who will go a family funeral but find an excuse not to attend a family graduation. I know some folks who will sit all day long and talk about who in the family is “doing bad” or has some type of financial or personal problem, but won’t praise or commend those who are doing well. I know black folks especially who seem to have a perennial case of “crying the blues” but can’t find one good thing worthwhile to talk about—and if you are around them and have some good news you had better keep it to yourself, because black folks don’t want to hear any good news. I know one church going woman who when she was told that a certain family person had been saved, said “Oh No!!!”
When I was a senior in high school I was on a panel discussion where we were given a quote to try to explain. My question was this: Explain the expression, “If you expect nothing you will never be disappointed.” I stumbled through the question but over the years the question continued to plague me about its true meaning. I have come to learn in my lifetime that the expression is more than a mere truism—it’s a mindset for too many black folks, and I was victimized by the same negative attitude. I have been in “girl talk” discussions where participation required offering up “bad, woe is me, he done me wrong, news.” I have been in beauty shops where I had been forced to listen to every type of negative “ain’t no good,” type conversation about everybody. Negative gossip. As a group black folks seem to have a built in “nogoodnewsmeter” meaning that we have seen the glass half empty so long that we cannot see that same glass as half full. And, the mindset and set of positive expectations that go along with seeing a glass either half empty or half full, makes all the difference in how a person responds to a set of circumstances—one can expect defeat or expect to overcome.
To see a glass as half full means that one has to focus on “the rest of the way” or half way to the top rather than, “the rest of the way” or half-way to the bottom. I personally know black folks who have said of other successful black folks, “no matter how high you rise, I’ll see you on your way back down.” There is a built in expectation that successful black people must eventually fall. As a gospel singing bunch of folks, we sing, “We Fall Down, We Get Up,” but the internal mindset seems to have eliminated the “we get up.” Black folks, partly due to “the black experience” in America, partly for cultural, group survival reasons, have adopted a “negative survival mentality.” We survived “in spite of” rather than “because of.” There is a big difference between the two mindsets. As a group, black folks cannot point to one fact of the black experience, which through repetition,” has led to a positive “because of” successful group life experience in America. This explains why, for too many black folks, getting an education or voting, was not a proven formula for success. I know people right now for whom not one person in their generational line since slavery has even finished college. But in these same families scores of the young men have some type of experience being locked up—in jail or prison. Yet, black folks are the first and loudest to sing, “We Shall Overcome.”
I know families who have gathered for family reunions where the general talk around all the tables full of food is not about personal achievement but about death, disease, and “the Lord will make a way,” getting by somehow. Young black children especially who hear this sort of “no good news” talk, over and over, eventually succumb to a culture of defeat. And it not only what they hear, too many of these children are living in communities where general economic challenges greet them at every corner as they navigate their daily lives. Right now all across America the statistics are grim about the socio-economic status of black America. What it says is that economically and financially African Americans are no better off now than they were 60 years ago. As a group we are at the bottom economically. And, increasingly African Americans are becoming less and less valued by the American or global economic system. In a flat world, in which diversity is seen through a much wider lens, meaning foreign born, outsourced, women, gay and lesbian or multi-lingual, being black no longer qualifies as a valued component of diversity.
The election of Barack Obama as “the first black” president also is no longer seen by the average black American as positive. Shortly after his election, black kids across American were saying, “Hey man, I can become president too.” Not any more. President Obama has been treated worse than any president in history. He and the First Lady have been vilified and called names that I cannot repeat here. What black person would ever want to occupy the White House and endure what the Obamas have endured? So is there any wonder that black folks continue to find it hard to find any “good news?” What exactly would be characterized as “good news” for the average black American anyway? That is a “whole nother” column.
Copyright 2014 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.