Hello, it’s me again. Typically I am opposed to using technology to express my true feelings about a subject, but this is somehing that I really have to get off of my chest and plus it gives me the chance to get on my soapbox for a few sentences, or paragraphs. I also understand that the folks who will be reading this are not the people who need to be reading this. My hope is that you pass it on to someone who may be able to relate to what I am about to type. Here it goes.
As we were working on a client’s house today in Long Beach, the folks were nice enough to cook us some outstanding homemade gumbo… yummy. After we were done eating and chatting a bit, I gave the lady who cooked the food a hug. She held me close and told me that she was so happy to see “one of us” here helping. After we separated, she went on to tell me that she has seen hundreds of volunteers come and go, but has not seen many blacks with the groups, but that it feels really good when she does see a “familiar” face or too. I thought about it for a second and I am the only black man here out of 100 people. Yes, I am the Blair Underwood character on Sex in the City. This is something that really does not bother me because I am used to it, but it is put into perspective for me when it is pointed out sometimes. What happened next was that she asked me, with water in her eyes, “why don’t we help one another?” Hmmm, interesting question. I shared my thoughts with her, and I think I will now share those thougts with you.
Easy answer… we’re lazy! We just have better things to do than help build houses or clean up or just give anyone a hand in general. This is not the answer of course. People are lazy no matter what color they are, but I can see some people thinking this way.
Not so easy answer, we don’t know what’s still going on down here. It is not in our face anymore and therefore we neglect the issue. I am guilty of this myself. When I found out that this trip was going to Mississippi, I was like “are’t things like fixed by now?”. I quickly found out that it isn’t.
Difficult answer, we HATE each other. I know that this is a hard pill to swallow for some, but society brainwashes minorities to hate themselves. Just take a look at TV every once in a while. If there is a black guy on trial on Law in order… he’s guilty. If there is a drive by shooting in a movie, it’s in a minority neighborhood. The next time you are listening to rap music (Kevin W.), count how many times you hear a rapper talking about bustin’ a cap in an inside trader or a corrupt politician. The answer… 1-2 maybe. Ok, count how many times the rapper talks about bustin’ a cap in nother African American. This number will be seemingly infinate.
With so many degrading images and stereotypes that are, in some cases, perpetuated by us, why would anyone like us? Why would we like ourselves? Better yet, why would we help someone that we, consciously or subconsciously, hate?
Bottom line, I have said it before and I will say it again, these people still need help. It feels good to them that people care about them enough to travel to their homes to help them, but it would feel even better if their “brothers and sisters” are chipping in as well.


  1. sheltonr says:

    I think you have a point but as I stated earlier, I think there is more to it than that. Long Beach, MS is a predominantly white town. I would assume that blacks want to help out “one another” and it is my suggestion that they tend not to come to Long Beach for that very reason… they may prefer to help out those who look like them. Again, I think you had some legitimate points but I’m sure that Long Beach demographics have more to do with it than we’re giving credit to.

  2. Jason says:

    Hi Clarence,

    First, let me say you have moxy. More than I could likely muster in a public space like this, but I do have a question. Might economic advantage play a significant role in allowing those who are able to help with such a tremendous disaster such as this? Secondly, major kudos to you for making the effort to volunteer this week. I’ve only had gumbo once it New Orleans, but it wasn’t homemade. It was still tasty though.

    I remember when Hurricane Andrew hit the Florida coast in August 1992. I was a senior in high school and my friend went with his family on a trip to help some of the communities down there. His family, though not living on “easy street,” most likely maintained a higher income than my family—his father was a software engineer I believe—so it was likely easier for them to take a week or so off of work and to pay for the airfare to fly down there from Pennsylvania. It’s not that I wasn’t interested in helping, but rather I was simply unable to go; my family couldn’t afford it as easily.

    Please understand that I’m not saying all of those with means are the only ones able to help. I bet there are a number of those with means, for whatever reason, unwilling to assist (or are blind to what is needed) and a number of those with little means who want to help, but daily logistics simply make it too hard to make it a reasonable offering.

    I hope I can even weigh in on this conversation with any credibility as I’m sitting in my home and not serving on one of these trips. Regardless, I think we need to schedule that lunch we’ve been putting off. I’d like to hear more of your side on this issue.

  3. Amber says:

    Hi Clarence and Gulf Coast ASBers,

    I think this post is an excellent example of why we strive for cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity on our teams. We know that the more diverse the group, the more rich and thoughtful experiences become. ASB (and service in general) presents many layers of injustice amidst even more power structures. Why is it that CCC has predominantly white volunteers? Why is Long Beach in better shape than the 9th ward? Why is the French Quarter almost completely rebuilt? These are big questions with even bigger consequences.

    The experiences we share on ASB offer great potential to serve as a venue for these difficult conversations we often don’t have the courage (or time) to have. Concepts like white privilege, internalized racism, economic disparity and other inequalities often smack us right in the face on these trips. It’s important that we make it a priority to have this dialog…to have the courage to share our opinions and the respect to HEAR those of others.

    I thank you, Clarence, for having the courage to express your thoughts. What’s equally important as the dialog is figuring out what to do about it. How do we bring these deep questions back to our daily lives? Are there steps we can take to continue this work in a more meaningful way? What are we going to do with these experiences when we get back to College Hill?

    I hope you’ll consider sharing the topics of your post in one of your team reflections. Aristotle said, “It is easy to perform a good action, but not easy to acquire a settled habit of performing such actions.” How do we make this work a habit? How do we make these tough questions a habit? That’s what I hope we can gain from ASB…

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