Black Lies, White Lies: The Truth According to Tony Brownby Tony Brown
PBS television commentator and syndicated radio talk-show host Tony Brown has been called an "out-of-the-box thinker" and, less delicately, and "equal opportunity ass kicker." Those who attempt to pigeonhole him do so at their own peril. This journalist, media commentator, self-help advocate, entrepreneur, public speaker, film director, and author is a hard man to
PBS television commentator and syndicated radio talk-show host Tony Brown has been called an "out-of-the-box thinker" and, less delicately, and "equal opportunity ass kicker." Those who attempt to pigeonhole him do so at their own peril. This journalist, media commentator, self-help advocate, entrepreneur, public speaker, film director, and author is a hard man to pin a label on -- and an even more difficult man to fool.
In Black Lies, White Lies, Tony Brown does what few high-profile African Americans have done before: He dares to challenge the lies of both Black and White leaders, and he dares to tell the truth. He attacks White racism and Black self-victimization with equal vehemence. He condemns integration as a disastrous policy, not for just Blacks but for the entire country. And he confronts the Black Talented Tenth, White liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, demagogues, and racists on all sides for their self-serving lies, their failures, and their lack of vision.
But Tony Brown does not simply slash and burn. He also offers farsighted, workable solutions to America's problems. He provides a blueprint for American renewal bases on his belief that although we may not have come to this country on the same ship, we are all now in the same boat.
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Black Lies, White Lies
The Truth According to Tony Brown
Chapter OneDifferent Ship, Same Boat
We didn't all come over on the same ship, but we're all in the same boat.
Whitney M. Young
In the early 1950s, the townspeople of Charleston, West Virginia, practiced a rather benign form of segregation compared to many parts of the country. The White population in my hometown was not consciously intent on keeping Blacks out, but they did like to keep us at a fair distance.
My experiences as a child were therefore rather mixed when it came to racial matters. Before junior high school, my best friend was a White child, my neighbor, Corky. But when it came to the opposite sex, it seemed to me that the prettiest girls in the world were those from Washington Manor, the Black housing project. The great equalizer in my boyhood world was poverty. Nearly everyone I knew, White and Black, was poor, though Blacks were made poorer by the fact that welfare and public assistance were for Whites only in that time and place. The only "welfare" Blacks were allotted was a sack of potatoes, usually rotten, from a federal program now and then.
The lives of Blacks in Charleston were hardscrabble, but racism and poverty inspired resourcefulness. There was a sense that the world owed you nothing, and even if it did, it wasn't going to pay up soon. So you learned to take care of yourself and your own family, which was often no small task. Families were often extended to include cousins, second cousins, half brothers and sisters, and even people outside of your particular gene pool. Households too were often organizedalong untraditional and occasionally shifting lines.
My brother, two sisters, and I were raised separately, and for a time, none of us lived with either natural parent. In my younger days, I was reared by two women, Elizabeth "Mama" Sanford and her daughter, Mabel Holmes. From the age of two months, when I was delivered to these guardian angels, they called me "Sonny Boy" because they said I shone as brightly as the sun.
I lived with these surrogate mothers until they died within a year of each other just as I reached my teenage years. I was then returned to my birth mother, who by that time had also reclaimed my brother and my older sister. My siblings and I may not have been raised from birth by My natural mother, but we certainly had been stamped with her physical features, and we seemed to inherit also her quick mind and strong will. The key to my overachieving nature, I suspect, is the nurturing I received from my "mama," Elizabeth Sanford, my supportive schoolteachers, and an extended family that in many ways encompassed most of the Black community.
In Charleston, Blacks felt responsible for each other and for each other's children. Adult supervision was considered a community responsibility as well as a parental one. Black children who misbehaved on public transportation could expect to be set straight not just by their own guardians, but by any other Black adults who happened to be present. Our Black schoolteachers also imparted their intense interest in our proper development. In this communal setting, I learned that when you break the rules, you risk forfeiting your standing in the group. This was peer pressure in its most benevolent form, as a force for good. I was taught that in a world that set us apart because of the shade of our skin, we are all we've got, and if we don't stick together, we are doomed.
I grew up, then, instilled with the belief that I was under a moral obligation to my community and society in general. At an early age, I developed a finely tuned sense of moral outrage at injustice and dishonesty. The truth, I was taught, could not be denied. My general environment was fundamentalist and proud to the point of arrogance. If there were Whites who didn't want us around, we thought entirely too much of ourselves to be bothered about it. God would get them for what they did to us, I was taught. Still, when I was a young boy, there were periods when I couldn't wait for God to wade in. I came to see racism as immoral as well as illegal, especially in a nation that preached the Ten Commandments as a way of life and proclaimed that all men were created equal ...Black Lies, White Lies
The Truth According to Tony Brown. Copyright (c) by Tony Brown . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Tony Brown hosts Tony Brown's Journal, the longest-running series on PBS. He is also the host of the radio call-in show Tony Brown on WLS-ABC Chicago, and is the author of Black Lies, White Lies and Empower the People. A sought-after speaker, he lives in New York City.
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