It just irks me and rattles me to my bones to watch Black people major in the minors and minor in the majors. We have enough negative stereotypes as it is. But this “attitude” thing just kills me. On social media, in person, or wherever I see it.

Some days, it seems like people are ready for a fight everywhere I go. What’s worse is that the offenders are punching down rather than up. We beat up on underpaid store clerks and wait staff. Too many of us aim straight to fisticuffs without ever considering one another’s feelings or position.

You never know when you are looking square in the eyes of someone who just lost a job, a loved one, or their righteous mind. My “Papa” also had some advice that bears repeating and retelling.

My paternal grandfather, Ed Hall, did not play. No one would ever have to tell you to quit playin’ because it never got started with him. But, as he has passed on so many adages to me, let me share one with you for the sake of those raising children.

Papa would often say, “It’s nice to be nice, but when you can’t, kick ‘em in the ass.”

With no change in either his resonate tenor or in his expression, Papa would make his usual recital, and I was always left wondering what the hell he meant. It took me several years and lots of social and business interactions, but I finally got it. So, quit playin’ and listen!

The concept of “attitude” did not commence with the entrance of any one race of people. I would be personally pleased to remand it to the court of its original ethnicity. Watching TikTok and other social media outlets, has bought my hypothesis to the conclusion that even white folk who want to be like us quickly adopt what they believe to be our main ingredient: an attitude!

When Papa said it’s nice to be nice, he meant that one should carry and respond with a pleasant and courteous demeanor, first and for as long as possible.

However, if your original offer of respect and civility is met with resistance and callousness, then the time has come to fight. Unfortunately, many of our children have an attitude without a cause.

All of this “mean-mugging” and looking tough, as well as the plain disrespect that is obvious in our children, is not in our heritage and new to our culture. My grandmother told me to raise children well enough that someone besides me would like them!

We are a people who have been genetically blessed with the ability for humor and goodwill. Your children should know that a winsome personality makes them fully ready for success, after good health and a trained mind.

The very first words to teach your child are to say “thank you,” each and every time that it is appropriate.

My mama says, if you say thank you well enough, people want to do something else so they can hear you repeat it. Everyone loves an appreciative child, and everyone wants to know that they are appreciated.

Likewise, teach your children when and how to fight. Not just the usual advice that we have always given kids, “If somebody mess with you, pick up whatever you can get your hands on and try to kill ‘em.”

Respect is found on two-way thoroughfares and never on one-way boulevards!

Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.

Vincent L. Hall
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