For a week now, I’ve been trying to write a post about the decline, nay, decay of my hometown Jacksonville in general, and of the black community that I grew up in, in particular. It’s been hard; I still haven’t figured it out. After this last trip home, I agree even more with my parents’ assertion that integration wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. My mom was, after all, fully 30 years old when the school system in my hometown finally desegregated, and both my parents remember well the benefit of having successful, accessible community leaders in the community. I remember it, too. It almost feels like I’m from the last generation to actually have that benefit, since nowadays, the only community leaders seem to be drug dealers and thugs. Despite everyone else in our family staying on the straight-and-narrow, we’ve got one little knucklehead who just refuses to do right. I say it’s all that hip-hoppin’, gang-bangin’ garbage they’re listening to these days (or is that just me getting old?), since he certainly wasn’t brought up that way. Then, I question my own role as a “community leader” who, while not necessarily all that financially successful, can certainly stand as an example of how staying out of trouble can lead to an extraordinary life. But then, I left the community, too. The reasons are various and justifiable, but the fact remains that I went back to my hometown, observed the sorry state of affairs amongst what should be a proud people, reasserted my conviction to never move back there unless absolutely necessary, and flew back off to my own life. So the quandary, then, is how to have my own life and still serve a community that I do care about and am still a part of. Or is there no longer a place for community-mindedness in “post-racial” America? And who, exactly, is my community?
The answer will come.
For a little background, see Missing Middle Florida.