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Higher Hopes for Youth Than Hip Hop
Directing Our Young to a Culture of Conscience
Via True North Not Old South,
Via Education's Hopefulness Expectations,
Not Ignorance's Helplessness and Lack of Expectations

Honor asks: what will my peers think of me?
Conscience asks: what will God (The Golden Rule) think of me?

Posted November 10, 2003, in response to requests for more information after Blog #139
Based on The Minneaspolis Story, Through My Eyes, by Ron Edwards as told to Peter Jessen

Part I. Introduction

Part II: "An Honor Culture vs. a Conscience Culture," by Geitner Simmons, August 7, 2003, of Web Log "Regions of Mind," in article on his blog article on his blog "Regions of Mind."

Part III: A continuation of Part II, on September 23, 2003, "The 'Culture of Honor' Comes to the Plains."

Part IV: Quotes of Conscience: Winston Churchill, Martin Luther

Part V: Minneapolis Story Blog #139

Part VI: The emergency of young inner city African-American men reflects, although they are not aware of it, Old South White Men as they pursue the White slave day code of False Honor That is Trumping Today's Black Conscience.

Part VII: Learning how to become men. New books by Joe Ehrmann and David Pence.

Part I. Introduction

African American Men and Hip Hop Culture Reflect/Act Out NOT Old African Ways but rather Old South White Men Ways, as "Brotherhood" is stomped because of this "acting White:" This False Honor Trumping Valid Conscience makes it a key problem in the Inner City and is one of the reasons for the" status regarding young African American Men in the Inner City "compact zones." Needed: a revisiting of what it means to be a man. The down side of inner city plantation life is the imitation by young African American men of the old White "honor" culture of the duelers of the Old South, creating a modern inner city culture of fear that tears down the culture of community. Adults have to instill and teach a sense of "true North" in terms of conscience and behavior in order to turn out men dedicated to fulfilling their responsibilities to family, community, and country.

Part II: "An Honor Culture vs. a Conscience Culture," by Geitner Simmons

August 7, 2003, of Web Log "Regions of Mind: History, U.S. regionalism, foreign policy, politics, life in his blog article at

Christian evangelicals are so routinely smirked at and belittled these days that it will probably come as surprise to many that evangelicalism was the main force that ended dueling and other attendant violent indulgences of the 19th century South “honor culture.” It’s a fascinating topic involving the gradual replacement of one powerful set of values (fixation on reputation, an easy resort to extralegal violence to safeguard one’s “honor’) with another, equally influential group of values (piety, sobriety, emotional restraint).

The topic came up this week on the H-South listserv. One contributor wrote: Ted Ownby’s ”Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865-1920,” (UNC Press, 1990) offers yet another perspective from which to explore the relationship between religion and violence in the time period you’ve identified. Ownby argues that the woman-centered evangelical culture of the rural South self-consciouly positioned itself in opposition to the violence of male culture, especially on the frontier. So, on one level at least, religion is presented as an escape from violence. To be sure, the focus would have been on saving these men from themselves by turning them away from self-destructive behaviors, but mayhem against others, including mob violence, would have been included in women’s attempts to domesticate their husbands, sons, and brothers (fathers, too?) through religion.

To which Clayton E. Cramer (whose blog is here) added these cogent points as part of the listserv thread: No question about it: evangelical Christianity promoted a culture based on conscience (what will God think of my actions?) as opposed to an honor culture (what will my peers think of me?) and the net effect was to reduce honor culture violence, from which both dueling, and less formal methods of dealing with insult sprung.

[David T.] Courtwright’s ”Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City” makes the argument that cultures dominated by single men are excessively violent, throughout American history, and doesn’t seem to see the influence of evangelical Christianity in dealing with the honor violence problem. I think Courtwright is correct that all other things being equal, single men dominated cultures tend to be more violent—but I think the honor vs. conscience culture is the bigger issue. Evangelicalism, it’s true, did not prevent the ferocious eruption of lynching in the 1890s, but it did contribute to the erosion of a hair-trigger resort to violence to which many white Southerners had been accustomed in white-on-white relations.

By the way: The Booklist review of “Violent Land” includes these comments:

Whether in the cowboy bunkhouse of the last century or the gang crack-house of this one, young men have often wielded guns and knives to deadly effect. Documenting this male violence requires scholarship; explaining it requires cultural insight. Courtwright combines both in a work of compelling timeliness, showing that the same kind of male aggressiveness that once flared into brawls in Dodge City and Abilene is now erupting in the form of drive-by shooting in our inner cities…No one who cares about America’s future can ignore Courtwright’s disturbing thesis.”

I wrote at length on the similarities in violent behavior linking antebellum Southern aristocrats and present-day inner-city hustlers in a post last year at the BlogSpot version of this site:

In fact, the resemblance between the rap culture's emphasis on hyper-sensitivity to imagined slights, and the hair-trigger resort to violence in the face of "disrespect," bears an uncanny resemblance to the values system of the antebellum Southern aristocracy, with its support of dueling and fixation on defending one's "honor." The hubris and violent excess displayed in the brawls of today's rappers are quite similar in spirit to that shown by South Carolinian Preston Brooks in 1856 when he used a cane to bludgeon abolitionist Sen. Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate chamber.

Glenn Reynolds linked to that post, and I got a ton of responses, many of which I quoted in updates at the post.

Part III: The ‘culture of honor’ comes to the Plains (continues from Part II) by Geitner Simmons, Web Log "Regions of Mind"

Tuesday, 23 September 2003

I’ve written before about how the “culture of honor” that held such sway in the antebellum South sparked many incidents of personal violence and even today reveals itself in violent inner-city subcultures. A new article in the journal Great Plains Quarterly examines how that trigger-happy value system sparked mayhem in some cities in the Plains region a century ago. The article, by Clare V. McKanna Jr., is titled “Black Enclaves of Violence: Race and Homicide in Great Plains Cities, 1890-1920.”

(Great Plains Quarterly is produced by one of my favorite institutions, the Center for Great Plains Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.)

The article looks at crime statistics in Omaha and two Kansas communities (Topeka and Coffeyville), focusing on violence in roughneck bar-and-brothel districts. (Topeka’s “enclave of violence” was known as Smoky Row. Omaha’s old-time red-light district, as defined in the article, includes the part of downtown near what now includes the World-Herald building and is adjacent to the new convention center/arena.) Many black migrants who frequented such districts brought with them a set of violent habits that had its roots in the South’s culture of honor, the article argues.

After describing two inter-racial killings from 1905 in Omaha, the author concludes:

These two cases diplay aspects of southern culture such as a heightened degree of personal honor. A careless comment, an unintended jostle on the street, or a gesture could bring a quick and deadly response from blacks conditioned by living in the South. Many black southerners had a strong sense of honor that dared not be sullied.

By the way: Mike Silverman has a related post at Red Letter Day. He praises a book he’s read about the history of dueling. The book is “Gentlemen’s Blood : A Thousand Years of Sword and Pistol” by Barbara Holland. From an interesting blurb about the book:

Besides accounts of such famed duel winners as Jim Bowie—or losers, like Alexander Hamilton—she describes astronomer Tycho Brahe getting his nose sliced off, artist Caravaggio slaying a victorious tennis opponent and writer Alexander Pushkin canceling a gunfight in progress because of a snowstorm…

The medieval justice of trial by combat evolved into the private duel by sword and pistol, with thousands of honorable men—and not-so-honorable women—giving lives and limbs to wipe out an insult or prove a point. Here are their stories, from Dumas’s Three Musketeers to America’s founding fathers, including the New Orleans doctors who settled their medical disagreements under The Oaks, the short-lived newspaper editors of America’s South and West, and certain 21st-century Parisian politicians.

Part IV: Quotes of Conscience:

“The only guide to a man is his conscience ; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions. It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honor.”—Sir Winston S. Churchill

“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for the have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right not safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.” —Martin Luther, April 18, 1521

"Here you are 40 years later in South Carolina. Nobody’s bombing your churches, no dogs (are) biting you, nobody’s shooting you in the driveway. (You’re) just too lazy and ungrateful to use something that folks died to give you the right to. Folks got to beg you to vote when others died to give you the right to vote…When I think of how our grandparents suffered and died to give us rights [conscience]…the hope they had was ‘If we pay the price, our children can then use the door that’s open to finish the journey’’ "Too many of us are sort of cracking the door’ and slipping through alone rather than continuing the journey for everybody."—Al Sharpton, 2003 [Admonishing Blacks not to take past civil rights gains for granted and play a more active role in current politics, and in doing so, to look to young people to help lead the way in the political process

“Judge for yourselves [ conscience ] whether we ought to obey God or men." —St. Peter's famous defiance of the Sanhedrin, the religious rulers of his day.

Part V: Minneapolis Story Blog #139, Sept. 17, 2003

#139. The anti-gun toting DFL and the gun toting inner city Black youth, are a lot a like: they both rely on guns (the DFL relies on the police to carry theirs for them). Both prefer the old south's "culture of false honor" over the "enlightenment's culture of conscience."

The DFL is opposed to carry and conceal. Certainly rural Minnesota is not about to give up its guns. But the DFL believes in carry openly, one step removed: they pay the local and state police to carry their guns for them. The inner city Black youth carry their guns openly and concealed. Both believe in guns. Neither is resolving the problem. Both feel they are not being respected. Both openly duel with each other, resulting in the occasional death, although usually Black rather than White death. Both need to grow up. "Conscience" tells us the difference between right and wrong and we act on that if our intent is to do good. "False Honor" is a twisted concept of saving face by fighting whoever one perceives to have slighted him. "Dissing" or disrespect is considered reason enough to fight or kill the other. This was the code of the pre-Civil War South among single White males: White on White violence. Now inner city Blacks have stepped backwards, not forwards, and adopted the same. And what does the local NAACP say? We are like that and that it will take generations to fix. I reject that. Whites would reject that and not let it happen to their young. But our cowed Black leadership refuses to call out the city, on conscience, refuses to call out the DFL, on conscience, and instead plots and schemes against the Blacks, the Greens, and the Reds (those parts of the political map labeled Republican). Its time we as a community of Blacks called on our heritage of family and conscience to beat off the culture of guns and false honor confrontations. How to begin is outlined in Chapter 17 of my book.

But Blacks are cautious regarding gun control. We were not allowed any during slave days. We were kept helpless. Guns on the street are different from guns in the home. When I remember The 1921 Tulsa Race Riots against Blacks, and how armed Blacks gathered across the South to come to the rescue, I take pause before blanketly saying: no guns (see Interlude 13 of my book, "The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes"). The same is true when I think of Rosewood, Florida (Interlude 13). Indeed, there are those who say Blacks would have been even worse treated if it wasn't for the fear of Whites that they would get shot by Blacks in self defense. That still leaves us with the problem of "Impacted Neighborhoods" with high numbers of people of color and high crime rates which suggests that they do not receive "equal protection under the law" as the more affluent mainly white communities do, and thus are less eager to not be allowed fire arms, especially when the young following the old White South's "false honor" are left on the street with their guns.

Part VI: The problem with young inner city African-American men who are in "emergency" status as they reflect Old South White Men: False Honor Trumping African Conscience.

People have asked for more detail about Blog entry #139. The anti-gun toting DFL and the gun toting inner city Black youth, are a lot a like: they both rely on guns (the DFL relies on the police to carry theirs for them). Both prefer the old south's "culture of false honor" over the "enlightenment's culture of conscience."

The NAACP (local and national) provides "good" examples [see numerous Blog entries on both] of serving individual honor for its executives rather than from a sense of community conscience for its members.

As seen above from the Blogging of Omaha Blogger, Geitner Simmons, and his web log "Regions Of Mind," he writes on history learned from the H-South list serv and it comments on two books. The title of the first book, “Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder from the Frontier to the Inner City” by David David T. Courtwright, 1990, says a lot about the problem. The second book, ”Subduing Satan: Religion, Recreation, and Manhood in the Rural South, 1865-1920” , by Ted Ownby

Five things are clear: (1) inner city violence didn't start with Black youth. As Courtwright points out in his book, "violent and disorderly behavior" has long been the situation where young, single men gather with no sense of ethics or morals. As he notes, "What began in the mining camp and bunkhouse has simply continued in the urban world of today, where many young, armed, intoxicated, honor-conscious bachelors have reverted to frontier conditions." In other words, Black is not the issue; young, single men without moorings are (see the recent film "Gangs of New York"). (2) inner city violence is a young person's sport. This relates back to our schools and the need to prepare all young people for the future, not just the college bound. (3) religion or a sense of ethics and morals, a conscience, or a sense of God or s supreme being, if you will, is still important. In Chapter 5 of my book I offer the Golden Rule. See my “Seven Solutions” piece. (4) the irony of racism: it is now in vogue in too many places among Black youth to say that education is "White" and therefore Blacks should steer clear of it. (5) The “Seven Solutions” piece outlines 7 areas that need to be addressed for the positive future of Minneapolis: (1) Education, (2) Jobs, (3) Housing, (4) Public Safety, (5) Safe Environment, (6) Governing, and (7) Ethics.

In the case of this discussion, our modern, inner city youths have gotten into something that, in the United State, is indeed very "White:" violence and fighting, of dueling over perceived slights or insults to preserve one's "inner directed" sense of honor based on what peers think as opposed to approaching relations with others as "other directed," meaning ethical or moral as a base of "conscience" as a guide to relating to others in community as opposed to the opposite of that, "self oriented," relating on the basis of what makes one feel good or bad regardless of whether the feeling is correct or not and regardless of the feelings and sensitivities, and honor, if you will, not to mention consequences for, of others as a result of the action taken. We see this leaving the inner cities as it influences hip how and "rap," and is now picked up by young White men who also get too much into "hip hop" rather than "high hopes."

Part VII: Learning how to become men. New books teaching manhood to young men. The Power of Positve Expectations Over Negative Ones

In the “Seven Solutions” paper, this is stated about young men:

1. In terms of education: (See Chapter 7)

a. Abandon the notion that neither the city nor state has “no meaningful obligation to provide any high school education at all” (p. 121).

b. Change the attitude from accepting poor schools (”beat the odds”) to expecting good schools and expecting all kids to be winners (p. 122).

c. Divest the investment in ideologies of college prep, muted or no gender identity, and invest in the practicality of positively channeling male puberty not ignoring or subverting it.

d. Recognize that the skewing of the education system as a socialization system for high achieving boys that fails those with no desire for o inclination to college, who are thus not served by a college prepatory system.

e. Recognize that socialization takes many forms, not the few offered in the schools, especially during the period of puberty. “The crux of the matter, as with all societies, is how best to harness the energies of young men” (p. 152).

f. Re-evaluate the prejudices of “modernity” and again provide boys with vocational schools or technical tracks.

g. Abandon “the modern” prejudice against physical and technical education so needed, especially for adolescent males.

2. In terms of jobs : (see Chapter 9)

f. How this relates specifically to young Black males is on pp. 154-156.

3. In terms of housing (Chapter 8)

h. Stop the “concentration and containment” of Blacks in crime impact and poverty neighborhoods, and open all housing to all.

4. In terms of Public Safety (Chapter 16):

b. Acknowledge the problem with Black youth and crime has reached emergency proportions and needs to be dealt with immediately (see my my Solution Paper on the ”emergency” with Black youth.

c. Stop making the war on drugs a war on young Black men (”When society purposefully not only prevents, but also withholds opportunities for decent education, jobs and incomes through policies that allow discrimination and exclusion, it is the same as making war on them” (p. 148). Call it racism, call it prejudice, call it discrimination, call it what you will (as a rose by any other name is still a rose), end the disparity in arrests and imprisonment among citizens:

i. Note: “76% of all users of illegal drugs are White, yet 70% of drug convictions are Black…White youths are one third more likely to have sol drugs than Black youth, yet it is Black youth who get arrested” (pp. 150-151).

ii. “Blacks constitute 13 percent of all drug users, but 35 percent of those arrested for drug possession, 55 percent of persons convicted, and 74 percent of people sent to prison” (Human Rights Watch Report: Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System, May 2000 Vol. 12, No. 2 (G),

7. In terms of a moral framework:

c. Self-reliance requires an asset base, which includes education, housing, and jobs (p. 147). Stop taking Black wealth (Interlude 8) and enable it.

i. Utilize the best that can be found in conflict resolution models (see ), as well as the four questions on p. 321 in the Conclusion chapter.

f. Call “a family meeting”: as has been pointed out elsewhere, back in the year 2000, Dave Jennings, now with the school district, in discussing the stadium problem, said “someone other than the teams have to create a public discussion about the future of the Twins and the Vikings in Minnesota. The teams are crying out for somebody to call the family meeting” (Star Tribune,8-10-00). So too, the problems outlined in my book call out for a public discussion, for a “family meeting.” Who should call it? Why not the Urban League, the NAACP, or the two together? How about a newspaper? A company? A coalition? Let the family meeting be called. Let the conversation begin. Use this Solution Paper to develop the agenda.

These excerpts from the “Seven Solutions” paper point to the social context needed: Learning how to become men. Studies regarding high expectations, as opposed to low expectations, show the latter is what is called "The Minneapolis Story" as "clubbing the cubs" whereas the former enables them to grow up and succeed as responsible adults. This has also led to the "coming back" of time honored understandings regarding the socialization process of teaching manhood to young men. Needed: applying the power of positive expectations to defeat negative Ones.

We currently operate under the low expectations of the 1968 Kerner Commission Report inspired policies and the 1998 The Bell Curve, both of which state Blacks can't make it on their own (low expectations) for different reasons. The liberal Kerner piece merely says Blacks didn't come over like normal immigrants and therefore don't have that avenue open to them. The conservative Bell Curve says we can't make as we are too dumb. Both teach/demonstrate low expectations. Research shows that people respond to expectations of them. Kids respond to teachers according to the expectations of them. Teams to coaches as well.

This is huge in terms of education (Chapter 7 in my book) and should be very helpful in the inner city working with kids as it bolsters our argument in the book and those as expanded in my “Seven Solutions” paper.

So if the NAACP and others of their ilk say it is hopeless and that it will take generations to fix the problems of education and jobs and housing, etc., and that expectation is conveyed from the pulpits and in the homes and classrooms and neighborhood, is it any wonder why it is so easy to club the cubs?

The book: Season of Life: A football star, a ballboy, a journey to manhood, by Jeffrey Marx, tells the story of former outstanding NFL staward, Joe Ehrmann. His goal is to teach manhood as fulfilling responsibilitlies to family, community and country. From "Real Sports" by Joe Ehrmann:

As a menacing defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts in the 1970s, Joe Ehrmann experienced first-hand the hyper-masculine world of professional football. Yet his success as a professional, and the rousing lifestyle and fame that it afforded, left him unfulfilled. Inspired by the loss of his younger brother to cancer, he began studying for the ministry, and was ordained a full-time minister after retiring from the NFL. Today, he has made it his life’s mission to preach a new definition of masculinity to impressionable young men. As an assistant coach at Baltimore’s Gilman School, he teaches young football players that the success of a man is measured not by blocks, tackles or touchdowns, but by his ability to fulfill his responsibilities to his family, community and country. REAL SPORTS catches up with Joe Ehrmann, whose simple philosophy of love has taken hold in the unlikeliest of places: the football field.

To purchase a copy of Season of Life by Jeffrey Marx or for more information go to:

Joe sees his coaching as part of his ministry to teach boys how to be men, that sports is merely illustrative of life, not life itself, and that life is not about x's and o's or winning or losing, but rather about what kind of father they will become, what kind of husbands they will become. They are to learn how to achieve responsible change to do good in the world. Joe serves as an Assistant Coach at Gilman high school in Baltimore. Both the Ravens and the Cowboys have ordered this book for their teams.

In the old days, boys learned by watching their fathers and the men in their village or town. But with fathers now leaving home to go to work or leaving the home altogether, boys have no one to watch. Thus a huge influence on kids is their male coaches. They teach that men are built to help others.

This is what David Pence writes about in his book Apostles, Knights & Founding Fathers . For Pence we have sustained an inversion of values such that we have set aside the reality of sex roles and the natural order of the role of men in protecting their communities out of civic loyalty vis a vis their masculine fraternity, the latter being dismembered and feminized. David writes of the need to re-invert such that as we turn boys to men they become protectors and not predators, and understand the need to follow both the time honored traditions by which we have lived but also learn a time honored trade to be productive, whether learned in college or vocational school. This also fits the "state of emergency" of young Black men, as taken from the book by Kunjufu, a Black Christian Ph.D. and preacher in his book "State of Emergency: We Must Save African American Males," of which the key lines are printed on pp. 155-156 of The Minneapolis Story.

This is important not only for young Black men but young White men as well. How often do we hear people expressing disbelief at actions of young White men with the phrase "They'r from such good homes."

The good news about his violence is that very little is interracial. Its Black guys being violent on other Blacks and White guys being violent on other Whites. The cop-out phrase "boys will be boys" must be replaced with "men will be men," meaning men responsible to family, community and country, with their focus on protecting family, community and country, not tearing any of them down.

William James, considered to be the father of American psychology, answered, when asked what was the secret to success in life, said three things: kindness, kindness, and kindness. Along with the sociologist Lester Ward and philosopher John Dewey, they didn't accept the notion of social darwinism predeterminism. Believing all basically the same but from different starting points, it was their contention that the so-called "uncivilized masses" could learn and that the seemingly most mediocre would double or triple their achievements if properly taught. At the heart of it all was education. But for this to occur they said people had to be free. Thus Teddy Roosevelt couldn't see how any totalitarian state could long survive because crushing despotism also crushes the human spirit to achieve. Our fundamental difference with many countries and culture is that we genuinely believe in every man's and everyone woman's worth. Missing is seeing full worth in those not White. The 7th of my ”Seven Solutions” is ethics, because society is not a factory, people are not potted plants to be bio-engineered, and individuals have free will and thus need guidance in their choices between what will be good or ill for self/family and/or community/society. The moral dimenion of values and faith is what enables us to persevere and achieve. We have allowed our abdication in society of properly raising young men to lead not to neighborliness and generosity, or individualism achieving great things, but to nervousness, gloomyness, apathy and violence, as we create a group of THEM who in turn take over the role of socializing the next generation of young men in their neighborhoods and beyond coming after them, etc. If thinking of dealing with the current generation produces yawns or more moves to isolate them in separate “containment zones” of the inner city, then think of their arithmetic growth as they socialize those coming after them. That should get our attention, if for no other reason than selfish self preservation. That should inspire us to act now so as not to have to pay for lack of action later in the form of social unrest.

The expectation literature, the positive thinking literature, the possibilities of meaning literature, the motivational and success literature in general paints a picture of the potential for achievement and progress and success for everyone if they’ll follow any one of a number of recipes. But society holds the mixing bowl. Society determines the ingredients, especially the main ingredient, education, and society greatly influences whether we will also foster a free, fair, and wealth allowing society so that all have an equal opportunity to learn and equal access to the process of trial and error in finding one’s way in employment. So what is the recipe for young men? One would have to look long and hard to find a better starting point than Rudyard Kiplings poem "If," which runs through a series of "ifs," and then concludes, if the ifs are met, "Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, / and-which is more-you'll be a Man, my son!"

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

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