“We don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.”
- Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Co-host of the View on ABC mornings.
I could not disagree more with this statement. Back in 1987, Dr. Cosby admonished me that as I transition from being an adolescent to an adult that “[i]t's a different world [being an adult] from where you come from [being an adolescent].” But now as an adult, I am convinced that there are indeed two different adult worlds co-existing in this country the likes of which Jaleesa, Whitley, Dwayne, Ron, Freddie and Kim did not foreshadow. Am I alone in this conclusion that there are indeed two different worlds co-existing? I guess the best way to decide if there are indeed two different worlds is to examine both proposed worlds and then make a determination. With that in mind, please allow me to introduce you to my world.
In my world, a world where I have lived all my life, it never rains in Southern California. Cash rules everything around me and although I know the words to the “Star Spangled Banner,” I sing “We Shall Overcome” (only the first verse) but I prefer to hear “Raise the Flag.”
My life in this world is often times described as or compared to a hunt where I am the prey and my single expectation, therefore, is survival. Very quickly, I am taught that survival has nothing to do with who am I as a person, who I know, or who my parents may know. Instead, survival is only obtained through achievement be it a physical accomplishment – running, jumping, catching, throwing, hitting, dancing, singing or entertaining; or an intellectual accomplishment – education or hustling. The great poet Christopher Wallace described survival the best when he said “. . . the streets is a short stop. Either you're slingin crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot.”
In this world, the road for survival is treacherous and dangerous metaphorically described as having tacks, splinters in it as well as boards torn up, but yet I am commanded not to turn back on this road, not to sit down because survival in this life in this world ain’t no crystal stair for no one.
So I persist and progress through perspiration to survive all the while being profiled, prosecuted, probed and plotted against.
In this world only the strong survive and of those who survive we jump higher, run faster, throw farther, sell more records, perform before the largest crowds and/or have twice as many credentials than anyone else from the best Universities and institutions in this country having overcome improbable odds .
And as our reward for survival we are hated on by other survivors (for both surviving and for recognizing how one is “hated on”) and set aside by those who did not survive.
Having survived and now daring to thrive, I am still questioned and quizzed concerning my qualifications and I am still made to answer the same question on a daily basis: “What is the difference between a black man and a nigger?”
Well that’s my world in broad strokes with room for nuances around the edges. Now let me attempt to described this other world that I had a feeling existed my entire life and have been acquainted with since 1990, but was not formally introduced to it until August 29, 2008.
In this world one who is a 4-year member of a small city council, a 6-year major of small town and a 18-month governor of a state is sufficiently qualified to become Vice President of United States of America.
In this world, one can participate in a nationally televised debate concerning significant issues troubling our country today and yet never be called to defend ones qualifications having enrolled at Hawaii Pacific College but leave after the first semester. Transfer to North Idaho Community College for two semesters, then transfer to the University of Idaho for two more semesters only to then attend Matanuska-Susitna Community College. After one term at the second community college return to the University of Idaho and complete a Bachelor of Science degree in communications-journalism after only five years.
In this world, one can go from a loser of a reality television show to co-host of a nationally televised morning talk show and, as a result, given a platform and audience to share and be an advocate for even the most benighted of thoughts and ideals.
In this world, who you know in power and who in power knows you or your family means everything. It doesn’t matter where you went to college, how you did in college or what you’ve done since college. In this world, survival is assumed. Thriving is the measure of success.
This is a world where privilege presides over paper.
Entitlement trumps achievement.
Currency is defined by power and influence not dollars and cents.
I am convinced that these are two different worlds.
In my world, I am an aberration, a rare breed, an endangered species having survived. In the other world, I am an invisible man. In both worlds, I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. But in the other world outside of my own, I am invisible because people refuse to see me.
Do you agree that there are two worlds out there? Are there more worlds out there? Are these two worlds that I described indeed two separate worlds or simply extreme nuances of the same world?
For those who still can’t grasp the concept of this other world, I would refer you to an article written by Tom Wise for some additional easy-to-understand examples of it located at http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/contributors/1755.
One final note, the difference between a black man and a nigger is that only a nigger would attempt to answer the question, where only a black man could answer the question without using the word “nigger,” but I simply asked in response, why can’t I be both?