Saturday, May 23, 2009

Come On, Just A Little Bit

Sometimes you can know somebody your whole life, and not really know them at all.

I recently had a conversation with a family member that blew my mind. See, all these years I've believed that when you get married, that's it, you're married forever. It doesn't matter how much your wife pisses you off, how much she grates your nerves, unless she steps out on you, you're stuck with her.

Not only was this based on my understanding of the Bible, but it was something that I felt had been drilled into me by my family, particularly one family member. Anyway, I was talking to this relative the other day, complaining about some problems, and he said something like "Well, maybe your wife needs to know you have other options."


After getting over my shock, I asked him exactly what these other options were. I wasn't getting a divorce, so what other options do I have besides loving my wife and praying hard to God? He said some nonsense about making my wife think I would be willing to leave her, even if I didn't plan on going. I told him that according to my internal man code, that was absolutely unacceptable, and we left it at that.

The thing is, it blew my mind to here this cat casually talking about divorce, like he hadn't preached the exact opposite for years. When I asked him about that he said something like "Well, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."

And that is the rub. When did it become ok to change your moral standards based on the situation you face?

We're still talking about the six corrupting agents in the church, black community and, I guess, the world. Today's topic is relativism.

You know I've rarely had a problem with relativism, or as I call it, the curse of rationalization. Most folks who know me would say I was a way too harsh, unforgiving and inflexible in my younger years. I've mellowed some with age, but that's more been a mellowing of how I talk to other people about their failures. Truthfully, I'm still pretty inflexible when it comes to the standards I set for personal behavior, I just don't expect other people to follow my standards anymore.

That doesn't mean I don't get frustrated with most people's ability to rationalize any action as long as it means they get their heart's desire. I get very upset. And to be clear, I support nuanced, thoughtful opinions, I just don't support people who don't have any bedrock principles that they stand on. My mom loved to use the cliche "If a man doesn't stand for something, he'll fall for anything."

Why do people have such a tough time drawing a line in the sand, and then holding themselves accountable. I don't mean a line where they decide how they are going to let other people behave, but a line that limits their own personal freedoms. Or a line that says "this just won't do."

I heard recently that the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP gave Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling a lifetime achievement award. The same Donald Sterling who has been sued by the federal government for racial discrimination in his apartment complexes because he didn't want black people living there. The same Donald Sterling who is accused of discrimination by his former employee Elgin Baylor. Yeah, that Donald Sterling.

Considering this guy's track record, how could the NAACP rationalize giving him any kind of award? I don't care if he's helped minority youth, the man has a track record that suggests that he doesn't care for black people. Yet, thanks to what I'm sure was a generous donation to the local chapter, Sterling owns an NAACP award.

Crap like that is what I'm talking about black people. We have to stop selling out to highest bidder, or refusing to admit the realities of life because that might give racists a leg up. Look, it's ok to admit black folks sell drugs at a higher rate than white folks. It's ok to admit we have more babies out of wedlock, and point out that's a problem. You can do that while also condemning the still rampant discrimination and racism that helps amplify these problems.

We can't be afraid to say that folks are moving beyond the limits of acceptable behavior because we're worried about the backlash from looks always looking to denigrate black folks. The truth is, no matter what we do, black folks will never be good enough for those folks to change their tune. So, trying to live up to some impossible standard is idiotic.

More importantly, we weaken our community when we establish a shifting system of morality that values color or allegiances more than objective truth. No longer can we afford to give folks a pass just because "white folks used to do it." No longer can we blindly support behavior that is clearly against our best interests because we don't want to be labeled "haters" or "Uncle Toms."

It's time for all of us to find some solid ground on which to make our stand, and then hold ourselves and everyone around us accountable. It's time for us to refuse to worry about what the "cool committee" thinks, and instead focus on what we know to be right. Anything else is asinine.

A little bit of bad can spoil the whole pie.



Mr. Noface said...

Wow, gonna go 'head and co-sign this entire post there Big Man. It's this situational ethics BS that's got the U.S. in the pickle that it's in right now!

Big Man said...

Thanks for the co-sign, man.

T.A.N. Man said...

That's a tricky one, because we're all guilty of relativism in some form or another. We accept common flaws in folks and reject foreign ones. We allowed immorality where it holds some nostalgic or "cultural" value, but reject it where we find it parasitic.

Everyone definitely needs to draw lines in the sand, but more important, in my opinion, is respecting those lines drawn by others. I think relativism is most potent when folks start issuing out judgment.

Raving Black Lunatic