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WHAT’S IN A NAME ?

December 11, 2018

It has been a while since my last blog, so here goes another……

I just returned from a short trip to Cincinnati, Ohio where I grew up and witnessed something that made me reflect some thoughts. While waiting in line for my airplane to board, I saw about 20 young men, all dressed uniformly in white shirts, black slacks, shoes and black sport coats with yarmulkes and the traditional black hats worn by orthodox Jewish men. Many carried their Torahs with them. These were not older men; most were older teens. They seemed to socialize in a cohesive unit of brotherhood. Even their cell phones were of uniform style.

So what is my point here? In the Christian tradition (as I suppose in all religions) the central theme is to love fellow man and women with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. My personal goal is to simply achieve that theme. Now it does not say to love just certain people; I am of the understanding that it includes ALL of God’s people. To be honest, I felt a stranger to these young men; I was an outsider. I was even reluctant to strike a conversation as to the purpose of their trip.

I knew not all was in line with my goal. How could I love them if they seemed so strange and of very different genres than mind?

Now let me flip the script. Of all human beings, the sector that I feel most saddened about is the black male in America. I can’t say that so much about black females since, in many ways, they are thriving. My maternal grandmother said to my parents that when you have a family (there were 5 of us) you focus on the ones that are in need the most. Black males are in need the most. Yes, many of us are unemployed and just hang out on corners and strip malls. Yes many of us “bum” for money. Yes many young black males skip school just to hang out in similar places with not much to do except pace the side walk like a lion in its cage or talking on a cell phone. To show your underwear covered buttocks on a cold Winter day seems to imply that this mode of display is critical toward your acceptance. Yes, “nigga” and a variety of other foul words are expressed in every sentence. Yes, their coats and hoods are black to match their black skin and hair placing them on “the dark side” as Star Wars implies to be really deplorable.

Just as I felt a stranger to the Jewish fella’s, I can just imagine the alienation non-black people feel about the black American male. Most social groups of people have strong historical backgrounds that supports their esteem. Jewish people have a strong commitment to each other and many have their Hebrew language to cement their socialness. Many Hispanics have their own language, yet speak the King’s English as well. The Irish have their traditions, parades, Pubs and colors. Whites, who have not gotten over the fact that Robert E. Lee conceded losing to Mr. Grant in our civil war over slavery, have their own confederate flags, stock piles of guns, symbols and secret meetings.

American blacks have much of nothing historically to support esteem. With the consistent killing of young black males, society is telling all of us that this sector must be erased. So American black males are at the lowest rank on the pole. Social depression is like personal depression; it is a disease that is chronic and often difficult to improve. Unlike personal depression however, there is no pill available for social depression.

Being a pediatrician, I am trained toward preventive care. So what can be done to straighten up and uplift the American black male? This is not a simple answer but here is a suggestion that can begin to heal. When I see African patients who were born in the USA, parents usually give them a typical American name. They also have an African name that has meaning. The name ties them to a tribe that had historical unity and great esteem. When black American parents have their children and give them names, they are often based on family or biblical names or fine materialism or smooth sounds (Crystal, Porche, Little B, Snoop, Big Daddy to name a few). These names are like Jazz music. The quality of the sound being heard has to please the mind. Now, all of this is fine; it is a part of black culture in the USA. However, with the advent of DNA analysis, we can trace our ancestry back to African countries we know very little about. It would support upcoming children if they knew they had an American name yes, but also an African name derived from their ancestrial country. For example, much of my DNA comes from Mali West Africa. My name is Michael but I could also have a name like Amadou or Mamadou. I may never use it in the USA but just to know my parents gave me another name tying to my roots serves only to boost my self-esteem. I can then go back and learn about the proud people of my heritage before colonization and to connect with a history not just based on slavery. If slavery is the only background of my history then I am bound to be depressed with low self-esteem.

Get well black males !!   We are ALL supposed to love you too.

….will get back at yah in Spring…

Michael Darden M.D.

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