Chester activist Rev. William “Rocky” Brown, III has self-published a book he calls, “800 Sayings By Old Folks Who Raised Us.”

He dedicated the tome to his mother and grandmother and essentially recounted the many things they said and in the dialect with which they said it.

The 82-page quick read seeks to appeal to people who remember the expressions from their youth and want to lovingly reminisce, or for people who simply are curious about how past generations used language to express themselves.

Some of the passages transcend race or the dialect of the south.

For example, number 196 (remember there are 800 sayings) is, “Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.” That little ditty has found its way into the national lexicon and everybody uses it. Same can be said for number 210, “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” Or number 329, “Go off half-cocked.” That phrase was actually born out of the Revolutionary War as early rifles would often fire prematurely, thus “going off half-cocked.”

Then there’s the “re-gifted” phrase. Number 711 is “A penny saved is a penny earned.” That actually, pardon the pun, was “coined” by Benjamin Franklin.

And how many times have you heard men and women, Black or white, profess about their mates, they “can’t live with them and can’t live without them?” That’s number 730 in the book.

But there are some phrases that are disturbingly African-American and speak to the pathology that, sadly, continues to exist right to the present day.

One such phrase is number 193, “They think Mr. Charlie’s ice is colder.” “Mr. Charlie” is code for “the white man.” Others have been more blunt: “The white man’s ice is colder.”

Many African-Americans, particularly through the days of Jim Crow and through the period of progressive social integration, believed all things made, used, sold or desired by white people were inherently better than the same stuff in their community, thus “the white man’s ice is colder (than ours)”

This warped thinking crippled a lot of progress that was once made, or could still be made, in Black communities in general. Quality African-American-owned businesses flourished in many places when Blacks were restricted but as Black money turned out to be lush green in other cash registers, the “Black ice” melted.

We feel it today.

Many African-American-owned businesses live today in a perpetual state of anemia as Black consumers spend money as they please with whomever they please, irrespective of the political or social implications. Many of the businesses African-American consumers support – especially in Delaware County — don’t even hire Blacks and their communities derive little to no economic benefit from those businesses. But Black people continue stuffing the bank accounts of those entities because “their ice is colder.”

Now, it’s true that the majority of Delaware County’s population is still white and the majority of its 5,000 or so small businesses are white-owned. It may also be true that there are no Black-owned pizza parlors.  But the support level for quality Black-owned businesses known to exist in the county could be much better.

While integration, as a concept, was, and is, a good thing, it should only prosper if it worked both ways. It largely does not. African-Americans will go into other communities to buy things and provide economic support, but non-African Americans shopping in Black communities en masse? Not so much.

A recent Harvard study found that bias in America is as natural as the air we breathe.

Some 7 in 10 people seeing a picture of a young Black man with a phone or a soda can, believed he was carrying a weapon and reacted noticeably. The reactions were not the same when the subject was white.

And you’re, no doubt, familiar with the study done with little kids that showed people with a range of complexions and the kids were asked to pick out “the good people” and “the bad people.” The darker-complexioned subjects were all identified as “the bad people.”

The burden of “Black Lives Matter” or “All Lives Matter” should be shouldered by all of us equitably. To go beyond the periodic, yet recurring, “dialogue on race,” requires a constantly conscious effort to look beyond the surface and that requires effort and hard work.

Nobody’s really advocating spending that kind of energy these days. We shout at each other in times of high stress and when TV cameras are on; call each other names or threaten to label people “racists” or “animals” when it suits the agenda; craft catch-phrase slogans and otherwise hide behind keyboards and Twitter feeds in the name of “free expression.”

The lack of real leadership in society today can really make one “fit to be tied” (number 770 in Rocky’s book).

 

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