Judge Greg Mathis has a reputation for straight talk, and that’s what he delivered Wednesday evening at Millersville University.
Black Americans have made tremendous progress since the civil rights era, he said. That progress is real, and it continues, despite efforts to roll it back.
Yes, the black community continues to face tough challenges, including poverty, drugs, guns, crime and inequities in access to education and economic opportunity.
The biggest social problems in America “disproportionately affect blacks,” he said.
That’s no excuse to give up, he went on. Take action and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
“If they close the door, don’t give up,” he said. “I fought back. … You’re going to have to fight back as well.”
Several hundred people attended the event at the university’s Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. The audience appeared to be split about 50-50 between blacks and whites, and between students and adults.
Mathis drew laughter, murmurs of approval, and cheers during a free-form talk that lasted about an hour.
Media depictions of black culture perpetuate false stereotypes, especially about young people, he said.
Most young black men and women are doing the right thing: Going to school, going to church, leading positive lives.
But for too many young black men facing bleak opportunities, a street gang leader becomes a substitute for the father they probably don’t have at home.
Gangs teach a “twisted sense of manhood,” Mathis said.
“We need to challenge our brothers to man up,” Mathis said. “Don’t punk out!”
“Drop your guns and pick up your books,” he said.
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