The Bridge: The Esteem of Self

By Darryl James

For many of the stupid Americans who look down on impoverished African Americans, they claim that people are “choosing” to do worse than anyone else. Such a thought is simpleminded and evil, but popular nonetheless.

Some of those stupid Americans compare Blacks to whites who are born with the privilege of America’s legacy to the former slave owners, or to other Blacks who are also born with a certain privilege.

Some of those stupid Americans compare impoverished African Americans to other immigrants.

But African Americans have a different history.

Even Sydney Poitier acknowledges that his self esteem had already been established by the time he encountered Jim Crow in Miami.

For the African in the United States, the self esteem is under attack from the beginning of life, especially for the African American male.

Some manage to wade their way through the worst of circumstances, but the constant thread in any of the Black rags to riches stories is a person or people who delivered self esteem.

And the thing that is a similar thread throughout most of the world where whites came to dominate while subjugating African descendants is the system of class.

“There was this whole race/class thing in the Bahamas,” wrote Poitier in his book “The Measure of a Man,” “and among Blacks, the class thing was prevalent and vigorously administered. If you were really poor, you were without leverage and powerless, and that was the majority of the people. Also there was a class of Blacks who felt they were above you. They mimicked the colonial value system and saw themselves at the top of the Black community.”

But in the Caribbean, particularly in nations such as the Bahamas, Blacks are the majority, and so even amongst the racism and classism, there is a sense of self that is very different from the United States.

Poitier said that his self esteem was shielded from complete destruction by “the fact that I was a member of the Black community that was indeed the majority of people in the country.  And when that kid got to Florida and Florida said ‘let’s sit this kid down and explain to him what the rules are,’ it was too late.”

Still, there’s something Poitier referred to as the “Poverty Syndrome,” which he was subjected to just as the impoverished anywhere else.

“You can’t have been subjected to poverty at one time and ever live free of it again,” he explained. “It can be subdued, but external circumstances can bring it right out of its dormant state.”

The thing is that in America, the African descendant is bombarded with negative images of himself and negative perceptions of his entire experience.

I remember as a child reading a poster that went something like this: “What if white people were held captive and beaten for four hundred years and shown a Black Jesus with nappy hair?”  Well, of course the result would be a poor self image and poor self esteem that would be hard to shake, even after some decades of relative ease.

That’s why I fight so hard and rage so viscerally against Black myths. I know the destruction they can wreak.  For example, Black boys who hear that there are more Black men in prison than in college can either choose to be the exception to the rule or simply to follow the rule—the choice will be made depending upon the circumstances they are subjected to and the image of self as well as the esteem of self already acquired.

Many American morons believe that making such choices comes easy and is open to all individuals.  But these are fools who have no idea how some children are bombarded with negativity to the point where the image of self is twisted and the self esteem is destroyed.

Back to my childhood–I realized that on the south side of Chicago, where most of the Blacks lived, there were different opportunities and different lifestyles from those found on the north side of the city, where whites lived. And, because I knew what they had, my determination was to have some of it for myself.

But I also knew that some of the kids in school with me knew nothing more than the depressed conditions in which they lived. They weren’t shown other worlds and they weren’t reading with the fervor I was, so they didn’t even get to imagine themselves in other worlds.

And finally, I knew that because I had good grades, I was being exposed to much more than some of the kids with average or poor grades, creating a mental segregation, which affected self esteem.  Same conditions of poverty, but different exposure made the world of difference.

At the end of the day, even our conversations with the people in our families were different. I had most of the people in my world telling me what a great man I could become and even showing me great men who looked like me, while some other kids had most of the people in their worlds telling them what pieces of crap they were and showing them other crappy people who looked like them.

A child’s mind is so easy to shape and mold.

Some kids were pushed into sports and fighting and street crimes.

I was pushed into books and lofty goals and dreams.

And this is the reason why I want to beat the snot out of people’s noses who suggest that opportunities are open and available for everyone and that when people fail to take advantage of opportunities they are simply “choosing” not to be successful.

Those are evil ignoramuses who have no idea how human nature works. No one simply makes a choice to fail, because we all want to succeed and to have the trappings of success. The choices we believe we have for ourselves are determined by the concept of self.

I am reminded of two such ignoramuses—one large and one small.

The first one, the large one is Bill Cosby, who laid the blame for everything bad at the feet of the “lower economic people,” as if they made a conscious choice to be impoverished and to become failures.

Recently, on Meet the Press to promote his new book, “Come On People,” Cosby again indicted the “lower economic people” for making poor choices, even after admitting that there is systematic racism. Come on Cosby.

The second one–the small one–is a so-called Reverend named Jesse Lee Peterson, who runs an inane radio show designed to press his lips firmly against the ass of white America. This Black-hating moron insisted that only Black people have an “Affirmative Action” mentality, in which they expect the government to take care of them when they “choose” to be lazy.

Petersen is too much of a white loving coon to realize that many whites, including the retarded president are the result of Affirmative Action. So are the airlines who received billions in corporate welfare.

This dead-brained coward also claimed that the homeless were also “mostly Black people” who are on drugs and alcohol and “choosing” to seek government support so that they don’t have to work.

I point out these two examples, because when people are bombarded with these kinds of messages, without many positive messages, the esteem of self can be diminished. Even the most tktk would be diminished if facing roadblocks and told repeatedly that they were downtrodden because of a “choice” they made.

None of us are islands. We are all connected and the sum total of the things which we are exposed to. And those things we are exposed to can easily affect our self esteem, which will determine how far we are able to go in life.

So, the next time you find yourself looking down on someone who you think has simply made bad choices, ask yourself, what if they simply have poor self esteem?

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” Now, listen to Darryl live on every Monday from 7-9pm, PST. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at


7 Responses to “The Bridge: The Esteem of Self”

  1. It’s a shame that that Mr. James doesn’t get it.
    Dwelling on how hard it is never makes it any easier.
    The point behind “choosing” is to choose to think optimistically, rather than, say, whining.
    I wonder if Mr. James has helped anywhere near the young men Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson has in turning their lives around.
    60 minutes tonight had a piece on the ‘narrative’ fed to Pakistani (and other) Muslims is that the US is all about killing Muslims… including that the US CIA engineered 9/11 to create a reason to kill Muslims.
    There’s clearly similar ‘narrative’ that plays among some black circles that say “whitey” is the cause of all “our”problems.
    Mr. James seems to be in one of those circles.
    Further, to disparage Mr. Cosby is just plain stupid. When Mr. James gives any HBCU say, $20million (as the Cosby’s have for Spelman) then maybe I’ll listen to him.

  2. I recently came across your webblog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice Blog. I will keep visiting this webblog very often.

  3. I doubt Jesse Lee Peterson has helped many young men in a positive manner that uplifts them, instead of turning them into the kind of man that he is (white is right and good, black and brown is wrong and bad). Peterson is a pawn bought out sometimes to bigger outlets to say the things that his handlers are afraid to say, and portrayed to be more of an independent thinker than he actually is.

    As for Cosby, I respect him for what he’s saying, and sometimes feel he’s misinterpreted, and his intentions are also, while other’s like Dyson, Sharpton, get passes in their ignorance, and pimping of the black community.

  4. “The thing is that in America, the African descendant is bombarded with negative images of himself and negative perceptions of his entire experience.”

    Yes, and it’s African-Americans themselves that promote these “negative images” through rap music and other cultural depictions.
    Are you aware that Africans sold Africans to whites during the slave trade? And without the help of African elites there is no way the slave trade could’ve flourished.
    Henry Louis Gates wrote a great article about it last week(April 22) in the New York Times.

    The reason Black pepople fail to progress is because of people like Daryl James who continue to make excuses for bad behavior by blaming it on “white subjugation.” Complete BS. Most of the Black people I know that are successful are so because they came from good, strong families. Unfortunately, black families are falling apart for many reasons and black kids are put in foster care. Yes, self esteem is key, but that comes from validation in the home. If your own parents are lowlives or absent, it’s no wonder the kids turn out troubled. But that has nothing to do with “white subjugation” that has to do with people who are more concerned with their own needs than the needs of their children and refuse to grow up. Don’t have kids if you have no intention on raising them properly. I was ‘raised’ in a black home where I was disrespected often –white people didn’t make my guardians harm me. That also didn’t stop me from recognizing them for the cowards they are and vowing to be better.
    What I’ve noticed about liberal Black people is that they love to make excuses and blame other people for their problems –always failing to look in the mirror.

    An what’s up with the name calling Mr. James? It certainly doesn’t help your argument.

  5. i forgot to add that slavery existed in Africa before the arrival of Europeans and slavery still exists in Africa today. Chad, Mauritania, Sudan, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Ethiopia…slavery still exists in modern Africa, so perhaps you should direct your energy towards current victims of slavery instead of making excuses for Black people in America who haven’t been slaves in the past 150 years. But I guess Africans that own other Africans would be contradictory to your “blame whitey” victimization hustle.

  6. Daryl James is an Asshole with a capital A. To blogger above Tlen, the reason why daryl James uses such name calling is because he lacks the vocabulary to use more extensive words to express himself intelligently. There is another website I ran across where this imbecile disrespects women to no end. He is the worse of what Black women don’t seek to find in Black men. Daryl James is nothing more than a Pig. Anyone that disrespects Black women with such vulgar profanity as he did on the website some of us came across in my book is less than the dirt underneath my shoes. No wonder why the dude has problems keeping women. Or mayhap he’s possibly Gay!!!! Daryl James opinion on any subject matter is mute! This Pig verbally attacks Black women with such filthy, fowl language which speaks volumes of his mentality and his ghetto upbringing which he failed to shed from the 2 bit college education he received during his younger days, long gone! Well, Enough said, less I totally bring myself down to this lowlife’s gutter level! Although anyone with such a gutter mouth as Daryl James deserves to be savagely spoken to as its the only thing he most likely understands! Daryl Jones, there is a Zoo that has a cage with your name on it in Bold Print….Pig!!!

  7. BlackCowboyBurt1953 Says:

    Jesse Lee Peterson,Jesse Louis Jackson or Jesse Gregory James(okay,the last is Sandra Bullock’s slimeball husband!!!),we black folk don’t NEED ANY OF THESE
    SELF-STYLED “African-American leaders!!!”THEY’RE ALL THIEVING,LYING,SWINE WHO PROFIT FROM “interpreting” us to “sympathetic” honkies!!!get a clue,you brain-dead lemmings!!!

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