Annette John-Hall, Philly, August 9, 2011
Once again, Michael Nutter is not messin’ around.
You know he’s not playing when he pulls out the black vernacular.
And there was a whole lot of it during his 30-minute rant–I mean, sermon–from behind the pulpit to a packed congregation Sunday at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia.
Disgusted by the mobs of African American youths who have been terrorizing folks in City Center lately, he gave the black community a good old-fashioned whipping.
He chastised black fathers for being nothing more than “sperm donors.” He called out “doggone” hoodie-wearing teens who’d never get jobs with their underwear or the “crack of your butt” showing. And he came down on neglectful parents who “need to get a hold of your kids before we have to.”
We can deal with the public tongue-lashing, even if his intended targets were nowhere to be found among the law-abiding churchgoers in their Sunday best. But what really bothered me was when Nutter fired the age-old salvo that has historically evoked head-hanging shame among black folks:
“You’ve damaged yourself,” the mayor accused. “You’ve damaged your peers, and, quite honestly, you’ve damaged your own race.”
There, he said it.
In a way that his white constituents would hear him loud and clear. At that point, he wasn’t talking to black people anymore.
Nutter expressed in no uncertain terms the sentiment that so often shackles black people–that the unlawful actions of a few smear everyone else. Something whites never have to fear.
Just as they never have to live up to the expectation of being a credit to their race. Whatever that means.
Don’t get me wrong. Nutter deserves credit for taking a strong stand against a troubling brand of violence that first erupted last summer, when groups of black youths randomly attacked and robbed pedestrians downtown.
On Monday, Nutter announced a holistic approach to mob violence–increasing police presence, implementing earlier curfews in Center City and University City, expanding weekend hours at rec centers, and being tough on perpetrators who District Attorney Seth Williams said would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Nutter got the message out via urban radio.
I’m guessing that might be more effective than admonishing a bunch of thugs for damaging their race. As if they care.