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Trying to sound right, not white

fresh nation3My Saturday mornings are spent at the old Tiger Stadium site where the Detroit Police Athletic League holds shop.

PAL hosts baseball, soccer and football games which provides entertainment outside the windows during our morning sessions. I am not there for the games. Rather I help out with PAL’s Fresh Nation project designed to expose  middle school and high school kids to broadcasting and journalism.

I am a mentor along with Stephanie Davis of WWJ 950 AM. The two hours there are easily the highlight of my week. Some of the students are so good that we nicknamed them “The Dream Team” and I am hoping some of them break into the mass media in Detroit or nationwide.

One boy said he has switched his career goals from being a scientist to a sports journalist.

I have a disturbing story however. We asked students to record a news cast and all went well until we got to one of the eighth graders. She covered her ears when we played her tape back.

I was taken back because I thought her opening was pretty solid. I asked why she didn’t want to hear the recording.

“Kids make fun of me because they say I talk proper,” she said. “They say that I am trying to sound white.”

I identified with the girl. It was the same crap I heard as a child growing up on Detroit’s west side. Has nothing changed in the last 50 years?

This girl was not trying to sound white. She wanted to sound right. She has potential and she is not going to get a broadcast job splitting her verbs or trying to be street.

As Don King would say. Only in America.

Black kids. We must do better. Those who try to better themselves are not trying to be white. They are trying to make it in the world and you do a disservice by making fun of them and trying to discourage them from greatness.

I used to catch all kinds of crap for reading books on the front porch in the summer. Books were my escape from my neighborhood and the noise that filled it. I read because I wanted to know what was outside my tiny world on Vancouver street.

Even some adults teased me and accused me of wanting to be a white boy.

So are you telling me that being black in the hood means being stupid and less than? I don’t buy that.

When I was a kid I did not want a job. I wanted a career. That is what I fought for in the class room and by reading books. I talked the way I did because the old women that raised me demanded that I not butcher the English language.

They made demands of me and I tried to meet them. There are so many ridiculous demands that some black people put on blacks who are trying to escape poverty and the hood.

A few years ago I wrote a story on black boys that loved to play baseball on Detroit’s east ide. But they kept their passion on the down low from friends, who made fun of them for liking baseball.

And do you know what they were accused of? You guessed it.

Trying to be white.

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