Kenyan Young Men in America: Lost in a Cultural ‘Black Hole’?
He did not want to talk about the issue. It wasn’t something he is proud of. He reflects upon it with regret but his response exposes a cultural ‘black hole’, “Sir, I don’t know. It is tough for a black man in America. You know what am saying… racial profiling! We don’t have to talk about this man.” We had to talk about it. His girlfriend had just bailed him out from county jail. His father refused to bail him out. “I want him to stay in jail for a week man! I am sick and tired of his stupidity.” The Kenyan father expressed his frustration. I just listened.
Sometimes the only thing one can do is listen. The young man is already a felon. One time while hanging out with his homies, the police stopped the car. He says it was racial profiling. Four black young men in a black tinted car playing loud music arouse attention. Not just from the police but from folks like me who believe in noise control. I grew up in Kijabe forest and while driving, the only sound I like to hear, other than smooth Jazz in my car, is my own heart beating, or birds praising God for a beautiful morning. The idea of people forcing me to listen to their ‘music’ in the car next to me on a highway is insulting. Who told these characters I want to hear the bass and curse language sprouting from their vibrating cars?
Sorry I diverted there for a minute . . . this stuff gets me wondering! The police smelled ganja and decided to investigate more. They found some white powder and before you know it, the Kenyan young man was in custody. He got 2 years. “The stuff was not mine man . . . I did not know it was there.” I told him I believe him but that was beside the point. All his homies claimed innocence! But the white powder had to belong to someone. This stuff doesn’t walk into cars, homes, and purses or under wares. His father paid the legal bill. Knowing that, here he was again in custody after driving a car without a driver license! “I had to go to work man. I could not walk 5 miles.” Apparently his driver license got suspended for stuff! Racial profiling?
His father is trying to train him now, but he was busy working and making money when the young man was young. That is according to his mother. “He never took the boys to any of their games, or went out to bond. Bills had to be paid.” The mother says philosophically.
It is not easy to raise children in the United States. In this modern day of IPhones, Facebook, and endless characters out there on YouTube showing children the ‘right way”, it is not easy. I know a man who decided to destroy these theories in his home. He decided that the children would not have computers in their rooms. That the children will only have cell phones if they are out of state going to college. The children could not wait to go to college . . . They did! I know buddies of mine who are doing a fantastic job with their boys, and single mothers sacrificing to shape their sons!
I also know a man who came home to notice a sign on his son’s door. It was a NO ENTRY sign. The father said his son had bought it in some store therefore, “I knew something was wrong. I knocked at his door and he opened. I requested that he gives me a few minutes of his precious time in the living room: I got him a drink . . . milk in a glass. Then I enquired why he had a sign on the door.” The son vented. “Sir, mum keeps going through my stuff man! Am a man, she cannot just go through my things.” His father had taught him not to be pushed around by women. He forgot to put a disclaimer-exempting mum from the ‘women’.
After the son was done, the father got his chance, “Son, your mother cannot go through you things, not when am around, am sorry. I have also decided to respect your manhood. Tell you what, I will find you an apartment next week. I will pay the first month; pay all the bills for the first month. I will also give you one of my cars! After the first month you will pay your bills. That is what a man does!” The son was confused, “Sir, I do not have a job . . . am twelve!” The son noted. The father responded, “Well, then as long us this is my home, there will be no signs on the door. Your mother and I can enter anywhere any time. But as courtesy, I will request your mother to defer the search in your room to me . . . man to man. By the way, have you ever heard of Walla Walla?” The son did not know what to say. “We are driving to Walla Walla this summer . . . while driving, you will tell your mother what you and I decided today.”
Walla Walla? Have you been to Walla Walla? It is in the middle of nowhere! We drove there one time. Florida to Walla Walla then down through Oklahoma, Texas, ‘Lousy ana’(I hate driving through Louisiana), Mississippi, Alabama then back to Florida! We saw a Moose crossing the road in Colorado. I bought a jacket at Whitman College. My young man and I visited the college library there . . . male bonding!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist