What Are We Thinking?

I have always been a people watcher. Over the years, I have noticed a disturbing element in the black community. I call it the Crab Mentality.

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If you have ever seen crabs in a bucket, they are all trying to do one thing – Get Out. Crabs try to do this by climbing on the backs of other crabs, dragging some crabs down, and stepping on the backs or heads of other crabs. Hmmm! Do you see where I’m going?

I grew up in the projects and saw this all the time. I worked in education for over 30 years. I saw this attitude among us, people of color. Our black communities are often divided. We tear down each other with our lack of support, with our attempts to destroy what someone is trying to build, and our greed and selfishness. This isn’t all communities of color, but this has been my experience.

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Here’s what I mean:

I get a raise and decide to buy a new car. I tell a close neighbor that I am car shopping. They start to tell me all the reasons why I don’t need a new car; I can buy Uncle Charlie’s old car, etc. Now I am being “boogie”, I am “getting too big for my britches”, I am trying to “keep up with the Joneses”.

You are able to open a small business, serving the community. Within 6 months, your business has been broken into, you have caught shoplifters, and customers are being harassed trying to come into your business.

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Growing up, I often heard adults talk about how the “MAN” won’t let us get ahead”. I never understood this. I never saw the MAN. What I did see was backbiting and scheming and “trying to get over”. What I saw was, an attitude of “me, my four and no more.”

I was a teenage single mother. I was told by my friends, neighbors, and family members that my fate was sealed. I was told, “I would never graduate high school.”

I graduated early.

I was told that I would “be a welfare mom with a house full of children”.

I was married to the father of my second child.

I have worked, only needing the system as a stepping stone, not a career. Growing up with someone else defining the outcome of my life made me more determined to change my destiny.

We tend to climb over each other, pull each other down, and step all over each other to get to the TOP. Our journey is made harder by all the other “crabs” clawing their way to the TOP on our backs. And the one or two that ‘make it’ through education, or a successful career, hardly reach back and help the other crabs. Why? Because that’s not how crabs think and it’s not the way most of the black community thinks.

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It is sad that for all the advances people of color have made in every area, we still keep fighting among ourselves. We still tell our children what they Can Not do, because of their background, their mistakes, their economy, and their family. We still label ourselves as low-income, uneducated, and poor. We don’t support new businesses within our neighborhoods. We vandalize and tear down what we so desperately need to thrive as a community. We still support businesses outside our community, making those communities wealthy. Then we complain when resources are removed from our communities.

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How does this Crab Mentality begin to change? I think it starts with us individually and collectively. We have to change the way we talk about ourselves and our community. We have to encourage our children to invest their time, energy, and ideas into where they live.

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We have to be supportive of political candidates and businesses that want to improve our communities. Most of all, we have to STOP with the stinking thinking that the color of our skin determines our success.

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We have to rewrite the old script and begin to believe that we are just as skilled and just as intelligent and just as creative and dammit just as good as anyone else on this planet. I am encouraging and challenging all my sisters to adopt a new attitude and a new language for our success story. Let’s begin to change our stinking thinking so it doesn’t keep infecting our children.

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Let’s tell our children, grandchildren, and neighbor kids, how smart they are, how needed their ideas are, and how their contributions matter. Let’s start the change in our neighborhoods, our churches, our schools. Let’s make our neighborhoods the place where all people can succeed, not just a few who move away and take their talents with them.

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