The UnGracious Guests; Black Leaders Need To Take A Stand.

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( When one considers the degradation that black men and women endured during their interactions with white society, it was crucial for them to have a good name that translated into respect and admiration among their community. A vital element in earning such respect was one’s ability to serve as a hospitable host to guests and visitors. This tradition of hospitality was in many ways a cultural adaptation that served as a response to the pernicious impact that Jim Crow had throughout the nation. Every segment of Black America realized that the safety of black travelers hinged on their understanding of de jure laws and unwritten de’facto segregation.

When it came to traveling for blacks, Malcolm X’s admonishment that we stop distinguishing the North and the South. In his usual risque style, Malcolm told blacks to

Quit talking about the South. As long as you are south of the Canadian border, you are South.

Black travelers knew that Jim Crow’s inability to slumber meant that his evil grip ruled both the day and night for black travelers who soon realized that there were few dining options and even fewer housing options available to them. It took me years to realize that it was this history of “traveling while black” that explained both my grandparents and parents insistence that the frying of copious amounts of fried chicken was essential to our summertime jaunts to Memphis, Tennessee, like gasoline.

I now understand that there was an additional essential ingredient that we carried with us as we exited our hometown of Mansfield, Ohio. The adults demanded that we gracious guests to those family members who were once again opening their homes to us. It did not matter that the alluded to family members were close relatives who hosted us several times a year; being a gracious guest was neither curtailed by familiarity with the host nor to be compromised for any reason.

Just in case you are wondering, a “gracious guest” is someone who learned and honored the rules of the home that they were visiting. Trust me when I say that no two houses had the same rules.

  • My Uncle Charles allowed us to have free range of the house, eat whatever we liked and be as rambunctious as we desired.
  • My Aunt Debra (my mother’s sister) had different rules that were often hard to determine. However, you were quickly made aware if you broke one of them. Notification of your transgression arrived when my aunt grabbed what appeared to be 2’ long wooden spoons and forks that moments before were decorative. However, if you broke one of her rules, she would rush to grab one of them off of the wall to threaten you with it. I now realize that she never hit any of us with the objects and most likely got a great laugh out of how much she frightened us.
  • My Mother’s aunt, Eddie Mae, had few rules except when “big-time wrasslin” came on; at that moment she would order us to a back bedroom to ensure that we did not interrupt her one guilty pleasure. When pro wrestling came on, my dear ancestor went crazy; in time, I learned that she was convinced that it was a real sport, not staged as the rest of us knew. I am confident that you can understand how hilarious it was when we heard a huge crash and my favorite cousin, Charles Edgar, her grandchild, yelled for me to hurry from the bedroom. When I entered the living room, I was shocked to learn that this seventy-something-year-old woman had gotten so wrapped up in the action that she managed to turn over the entire couch that was now pinning her to the floor. As a gracious guest, I did my best to suppress my laughter and helped lift the couch up; as the couch was raised, she scurried from beneath it and jumped in a recliner to resume watching “big time wrasslin.”

It is this understanding of what is and therefore what is not a “gracious guest” that informs my belief that both host and guest have a role in ensuring an enjoyable time for all.

So, I am confident that you understand how disturbing recent footage of a white missionary working in Uganda was to me. It is no stretch to say that this man of “Christ” behaved in a heathen manner toward hotel staff. I was not surprised by this man’s erratic behavior that included him punching a staff member before attempting to kiss him on the mouth and lecturing the wait staff on the virtues of “white Jesus” with a profanity-laced profession of his love for Christ and the need for Ugandans to bow before his God. This individual most certainly knows nothing about being a gracious guest. More disturbing than this white “missionaries” deplorable behavior is the inaction of the Ugandan wait staff.

Although I would love to say that I have never seen such behavior before, such a statement would be a lie. During previous travels throughout the continent of Africa, I have seen whites disrespect Africans in inexcusable ways. Truthfully, I do not have to travel to see such behavior directed at blacks; it occurs on a daily basis in this nation. Most disconcerting to me is the realization that neither Africans nor blacks would allow someone who looks like them to enter their home, disrespect their history, institutions, and family without issuing a vociferous resistance.

Trust me when I say that I have hundreds of stories that detail blacks are allowing unconscionable disrespect by non-blacks within both their neighborhoods and institutions. Now I do not want you to get the impression that the cowardly blacks who receive such treatment are unaware of the alluded to disrespect, such a conclusion is betrayed by closed doors complaining about whites’ disrespectful behavior. Unfortunately for Black America, few of them express their consternation in a face-to-face battle with ungracious guests who have taken blacks lack of resistance to their boorish behavior to be a sign that this is as much their house as it is ours. At crucial moments when blacks need to stand firm and hold the line, they cower in front of those whose words and actions display their lack of consideration for black liberation.

A recent discussion with colleagues employed at an H.B.C.U. in the mid-Atlantic region is particularly revealing. My former classmate who heads a program focused on African-American Studies shared with me that he has a white colleague who assailed the program by advising him that it was time that the program shifted its focus from African-American History and turned their focus toward either European or Asian history. Partially amused at the assertion that Black America would be better served if its children studied anything other than the traditions and history of their people, I followed with the following question, “What was your response?” I was not surprised when my former classmate shared that he offered no criticism for the young white professor’s desires; however, he had no plans to implement them.

It is the silence of black professionals that leads me to conclude that far too many of them behave as idolaters who believe that ungracious, rude, and condescending white guests should not be reprimanded regarding their rude behavior and condescending attitudes. It is saddening and disappointing to see African nations and black institutions being stormed by ungracious guests possessing their personal ideas and plans regarding what the objectives should be for those that their ancestors exploited and oppressed at every turn. All the while, so-called black leaders sit on the sideline afraid to say a mumbling word against such actions. Such people are far from leaders and should be considered traitors as they offer no resistance to what amounts to a hostile takeover of African nations and black institutions.

It is time for those who have been trusted with the future of Africa and Black America to in the words of Malcolm X, “Wake up, clean up, and stand up!!!!

WUCUSU my people. WUCUSU!!!!!

Staff Writer; Dr. James Thomas Jones III

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One may also connect with this brother via TwitterDrJamestJones.