I vowed long ago to fight destructive stereotypes
The Kansas City Star
This community revels in uplifting stories of folks doing good deeds for others.
Unexpected acts of kindness generally prompt more people to embrace their neighbors and help meet community, family or individual needs. It’s heartening particularly in these toxic and distressing times of political rancor.
Compromise and understanding now are dirty words. Only us vs. them matters.
Flexibility is seen as a weakness, and considering fairness and the well-being of others has picked up socialist and un-American labels. The national media deliver a lot of the poison.
But the goodness in this community is still there. I picked that up in mostly positive feedback on my April 9 column, “Sweet tooth leads to a pay-it-forward encounter.”
I wrote about going out for a milk shake and ending up paying for a young family’s dinner. The young father’s nonverbal distress showed. It prompted me tell the young man to enjoy his children and family now.
The years blow by quickly. He must show his family love and respect at all times to ensure that their love and respect for him lasts forever.
One woman’s email said: “Bless you for what you did and for passing on that story. I hope it encourages others to follow in your footsteps and do something kind for someone. I certainly will.”
A man wrote: “The gesture you put forth to that young couple is how the world should treat one another…. Thanks for starting my day off right.”
Another man wrote: “I have been tempted to make similar efforts but for some reason backed off. After reading your article, I will take a more positive step in the future.”
A woman said: “You are right about how time seems to fly — not while you’re in the moment but long after those moments have passed. Now I have to fix my makeup after wiping away the tears. Thanks for the reminder to pay it forward.”
But as positive as those folks and others were, there also were responses that fit the barbarous national tone. In calls and emails, people insisted that the joyful moment was trashed for them because it involved African Americans.
I was flummoxed. But it wasn’t the first time.
A column I did on my then-80-year-old Dad’s Father’s Day drive to Kansas City in 1997 to enjoy our extended, black, traditional family caused one woman caller to ask: “Why did you have to ruin it by putting black people in it?”
These are the same people who scream the loudest about never seeing newspaper, television or Web published stories about black men caring about their children and being part of a traditional American family. They cry like conservative politicians that African Americans could lift themselves and their children out of poverty if black men would just stay in the home and get a job.
But when shown examples of black men loving and caring for their children, spouses and working to forge a future for them, these folks vehemently object, saying, “take color out of your column.”
My mother saw that coming in the 1980s.
She pleaded with me to write more about our wonderful black families and black men. Stereotypes constantly depict us as booty-chasing, criminal, poor-performing ne’er-do-wells.
That negative image feeds racial profiling and plays a part in shooting deaths of black males like Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida. That borne-from-slavery dehumanization helped fuel the fatal shootings of three African Americans in Tulsa, Okla., and the wounding of two others by two white men.
But hundreds of others here and nationwide are black-on-black crime victims because too many African Americans also accept the lie of blacks as suspect and not everyday Americans.
Mom was right. It has to end. But it will only end if positive stories of black people become part of the American narrative.
We are far from that day. But I’ll continue to do my part. It was a promise that I made to my mom more than 25 years ago — one I plan to keep.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, send email to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com or call 816-234-4723.