Stand as a man, but walk with humility
BY JOHN W. FOUNTAIN firstname.lastname@example.org May 1, 2013 6:16PM
Updated: June 3, 2013 3:19PM
I stand as a man, no greater and no less than any man.
And yet, as a black man I stand having to walk that fine line between tiptoeing and buck dancing, always being careful not to offend.
I stand having learned that to walk like my grandfather — a good man who retired as a letter carrier — with shoulders square and head up is enough to make some label me a braggart. I stand wondering why the same attributes in men of other races make them “confident” but make me “cocky,” “conceited,” “pompous” to some.
That to dream the American dream for myself and for my children, to exist beyond the ghetto where I was raised, and to stand beyond the stereotype as prisoner wearing an orange jumpsuit or as societal menace is to face someone always pulling or putting me down. Other brothers know this struggle.
That some folks perceive certain of us to be riding in on our high horse. And that to mention our education or professional accomplishments empirically, simply as a matter of record, is to potentially face the backlash of those who see us as being filled with “insecurities” and therefore needing to boast in order to boost our egos.
But I stand as a man, no greater, no less than any man made by the creator.
I stand fully aware that when it comes time to meet our maker, we will all surely know then that all men are created equal as we stand naked of the titles, pedigree, accolades and riches that so many men crave in this world.
I stand long aware that whatever I might acquire in my time here, “stuff” will never equal substance; aware that humility is among a man’s greatest treasures. I can still hear my grandfather, reciting the Scriptures:
“The Bible says, let no man ‘think of himself more highly than he ought to think . . .’”
“The Bible says, ‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God . . .”
And yet, I have learned in 52 years that I could never walk humbly enough for some. That not even lying prostrate in a pool of poverty and pity would soothe them.
“You’re always trying to put people down with your intellectual prowess.”
“You think you’re better than everybody else.”
“Here comes that braggin’ ass John.”
All of these I have heard — from black folks. But whether from blacks or whites, the effect is the same.
So I have learned to dumb myself down. To try to shine less. To button my lip in situations so as not to appear as a know-it-all. To tuck away my trophies, awards and degrees. To be careful of sharing my hopes, accomplishments and dreams, knowing that the naysayers, dream slayers and haters are ever-present.
I was reminded of this after last week’s column when I shared my dreams for my children and mentioned a little about my journey from the ’hood.
“I know you think your child is not normal, but when you lose your pompous view, and you will, you will realize that no one is perfect,” a reader scolded.
“You write to me about being ‘pompous.’ Really?” I responded. “And how pompous are you to presume to tell me how to feel about and raise my own children? Pompous?”
What father shouldn’t see in his children their full potential? That’s not a black thing or a white thing, or even a pompous thing. It’s the right thing.
And saying how far I’ve come ain’t bragging. It just is.
I, too, stand as a man.