By Nathan McCall, The New York Times, November 23, 2020
Decades ago, when I was a teenager growing up in Portsmouth, Va., my buddies and I constantly railed against the evils of “the system.” We viewed the system as a vast, amorphous establishment that worked to preserve White privilege and control Black folks’ lives.
It was the 1970s, and as proof that our hatred of the White mainstream was justified, we had to look no further than our homes. We saw that our parents were beaten down, especially on their jobs. They were constantly demeaned by White bosses, denied pay equal to their White counterparts and routinely passed over for promotions. Our parents were so mentally battered that, almost without exception, they drank heavily to cope with the unrelenting racism directed their way.
My crew members and I concluded that our parents’ chief mistake was that they tried to play by the White man’s rules. We wanted no part of that. We assumed the gritty streets were a better gamble than playing it straight in a rigged system.