One of the things I have learned over the years of writing this column is how when it comes to subjects to write about, I am never at a loss for one. I try to be observant regarding the community and to ask the questions many of you would ask if you had the opportunity.

Recently while in the lobby of the Merchandise Mart, I saw a phenomenon that is unfortunately far too common on the streets in many an African-American neighborhood. I was so taken aback by what I saw, that I just stopped and stared.

A young black man around 22 years old was walking in the lobby. His shirt was half-tucked into his pants. But what was most astounding was that he had his hand inside his pants holding himself! Now this young man didn’t appear to have mental problems. Based on his dress, I would assume he has an office job. He also has a habit that is unacceptable in society. But he was oblivious to it.

Now before some of you get yourself in a dither, the hip-hop culture, along with far too many music videos, has made the image of men grabbing at their crotch an everyday occurrence. What makes the situation I saw most disturbing, was that for far too many males in our community, this has become a habit they aren’t even consciously aware they’re doing.

I’m seeing boys of all ages now groping their crotches. Many walk down the streets holding themselves as if it would fall off if they let go. Sadly, a lot of grown men also have that habit.

These men having never been taught to do better-so don’t! Instead we as a community and a society tolerate it. We put up with bad behaviors because it’s easier than chastising, criticizing, or training our young men in the proper etiquette while out in public.

I am at a point where I believe far too many “big mamas”-you know, the ones who would say something, do something, even try something-have disappeared. They been replaced by an entire society of adults who are “too tired,” “just sick of it,” and generally worn-out individuals who look at the problems in our community and have become completely overwhelmed by it all.

We accept the worst and expect the least. We are the only community with 50 churches on a block, yet the behavior in the community is more like we are auditioning for Satan and hell.

If you don’t believe me, then count the number of times lately you have seen men “pee in public.” I won’t say any more on that subject.

Getting back to that young man, he saw me staring at him because I had stopped dead in my tracks. Only then did he realize what he was doing. He pulled his hand from his pants and continued on. But the lesson here is very simple. Don’t give any lessons, and the lessons learned will be the worst.

Stand up, Austin! Stand up, black community! Know better, do better!