Young Black Boy thinks Blackness = Ghetto

Junior is 12 years old. I've been cutting his hair for as long as he can remember.  Lately he's been getting into trouble at school, being "disobedient and rebellious" his mother says.  She decided it was time for him to be around positive male influences to help him have a clearer view of what it means to be a man, hardworking, and successful.  So a decision was made to have Jr. come to the barbershop, tidy things up a bit, and learn some lessons about life from the barbers and the patrons of the barbershop.

This week has been trying for me, I have to find things that Jr. and I have in common and relate to him, motivate him and persuade him through that avenue.  The human mind is a computer, it soaks up information from the hardrives of it's 5 senses and then bases it's reality off of what it has been exposed to.  It is my job to figure out what Jr. had been exposed to that is causing him to be a rebel without a cause, a revolutionary with no system or dictator to overthrow.

12 years old for a black male is a dangerous age and let me tell you why.  It is the age where you can go from the cute black kid, to "the suspect looks suspicious because he's wearing a hoodie".  You're right at the age where your so insecure about life that your ego inflates itself and you walk around like a know-it-all.  Around this time, whoever you look up to and want to be like has a lasting effect for at least 10 years.  So before the clay of Jr.'s mind dries on the spindall I have to help mold his mind so that he can find out who he is and what he wants to do before society dictates it for him.

Me: Do you have any black teachers?

Jr: No, I wish.

Me:  Have you ever had a black teacher in your life?

Jr: No, I havent. But, I have a Hawaiian teacher who acts BLACK

Me: What do you mean acts Black? what does that mean to you?

Jr: Well, you know ghetto

Me: So in your mind acting black = acting "ghetto" and If I'm not ghetto then I'm not black?

Jr: Exactly.

So now he have gotten to the core of it all. Jr. our beloved shop boy has been programmed. Programmed by television, music, magazines, and the people he looks up to. Programmed to believe that blackness = "ghettoness" and that if he believes that he is black, then he must act in this manner.

This is the situation that society, the media, and stereotypes create.  With shows on t.v. like Empire, the Game, Love & Hip Hop, what do you expect?

This is a tough one for me.  How do I tell him of all the great things that black people have contributed to society. How do I make it cool?  How can I speak to him about the great black civilizations of the world.  How Africa is the greatest ghost writer of science, mathematics, astronomy, agriculture and the arts?  I can tell him of all these things, but they can go in one ear and out the other.

So I'm asking your help.  Help me to help him.  When your in the shop show him what it means to be black.  And if your not black still help him to realize that skin color shouldn't influence your behavior. Help him to see that your morals, values, and principals that you live by should dictate your behavior. Help him, for in helping him we are helping ourselves. It takes a village.

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