by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I am not interested in trying to convince anyone to be a saint. I am also not trying to present myself as a perfect human being. But, without telling people to stop drinking, I would like to make a point that could help some of us feel less awkward about walking away from the bottle. Sometimes, when the whole world has lost it’s mind, the sane people end up infecting themselves with insanity in order to fit in. It’s OK to be who you are, and it’s OK to be a leader.
When people hear that I don’t drink, they often ask me, “Why don’t you drink?” I just ask a return question: “Why should I?” Given that alcohol is technically poison designed to disrupt your neurological functioning to the point that you are not in control of your actions, I am not in the least bit tempted to put myself in situations that will make me an easy target. When I think about all the relatives I have who’ve destroyed their lives over alcohol, it makes me happy that I don’t know what I’m missing.
We live in a country that is obsessed with both drugs and alcohol. Drug cartels from around the world see the United States as an extraordinary economic center due to our high incomes, lack of focus, and significant interest in recreation as a lifestyle. Running back and forth to a party is far more popular than running to the library in a nation that has fallen so far behind in education that our kids are leaving school with the training of a Norwegian sixth-grader.
For years, I’ve yelled at the top of my lungs about the dangers of being lackadaisical about the consumption of drugs and alcohol. My campus, Syracuse University, is known for producing nearly as many alcoholics as college graduates, largely because the adults are afraid to warn 18-year old kids about the horrible things that can happen when you make alcohol a regular part of your life. The best-selling book, “Wasted” was written by a Syracuse University graduate who told stories about vomiting so much that the inside of her stomach was coming out of her mouth.
So, every year, I know that there are going to be a certain number of rapes, drunk driving deaths, arrests and other unfortunate, life-altering incidents that occur due to the use of drugs and alcohol. Many crimes that put people in prison for life are committed while the perpetrator is under the influence. Also, there are millions of 40-plus year old alcoholics who took their first drink on a college campus. If only we had taught them better and more courageously, their lives might be different today.
My sensitivity to the issue comes from watching my older brother (technically my uncle) struggle with alcohol until he died last year. He took his first drink at the age of two because his pathetic, irresponsible father thought that it was cute to see a little baby staggering after taking a drink. I’ve dedicated my life to doing all that I can to help other black men avoid the same path that led to his demise.
I’ve seen other relatives become horrible parents because of alcohol, picking up their kids half-drunk or abandoning them altogether. I’ve seen friends die young because we live in a society where few people are willing to speak out about just how dangerous this substance can be. Again, I’ve never once condemned another person for recreational drinking, but it might make sense for us to take this topic more seriously. There is a REASON that there is a liquor store, a gun store and a church in every black neighborhood in America….I’ll let you figure out why.
Just as bad is the loss of economic potential within the African American community that can result from substance abuse. A man who is drunk is not going to be able or willing to work as hard as one who is focused.
A drunken “baller” at the club is more likely to get caught “slippin” due to his inability to cognitively process the environment around him, leading to death or incarceration.
An alcohol-addicted man isn’t going to wake up with a dream of success each day if his first vision in the morning is the liquor bottle in the refrigerator. The point is that racism is already designed to kill you spiritually, physically and economically. Only a fool goes into the battlefield of life planning to be psychologically disengaged and vulnerable. Malcolm X was right that there are people who WANT you to be high and drunk the same way that some men try to get a woman under the influence if he wants to sleep with her. You’re easier to exploit when you let your defenses down.
All throughout human history, nothing great has EVER been accomplished by a group of people who remain high and drunk every day. To understand this, go read the history of the opium addiction epidemic in China and what it cost that country economically. Similar to the situation in the United States, Europeans exported Opium to the Chinese, which led them to spend a chunk of money and free time chasing a drug instead of chasing their dreams. As a result, millions of Chinese were broke, addicted and incredibly unproductive, until their strongest leaders spoke out against the epidemic and declared war on the problem.
Similarly, America keeps you high not just on alcohol and drugs, but you’re also doped up by ignorant reality TV shows, a pathetic educational system, gluttonous materialism and music on the radio that teaches our children the habit of self-destructive thinking. Kids in our school systems are drugged at an early age due to misdiagnosed psychological disorders. We are trained to become dummies to capitalism as we enter our careers, going Black Friday shopping as if our lives depended on it. The objective of keeping any group of people addicted, uneducated and numb is to ensure that they are never in a position to empower themselves and are always happy to give away whatever resources and power they might have in their possession. This is the same reason that a pimp wants his hookers to remain addicted to drugs, helpless and uninformed: It makes it easier for him to get his money.
I love this video by Malcolm X because it provides a clearer understanding for all of us regarding just how alcohol and drugs are used as an artificial escape from the lives that we hate so much. He also tells us that being overly lenient about the use of drugs and alcohol is a great way to turn an extraordinary black man into a mediocre one.
Be thoughtful about what you put into your body and I encourage you to aim for greatness, even if it takes you off the beaten path. Clarity of mind and spirit is a great place to start, so don’t be afraid to say “no” to the liquor bottle.
The video is below: