Gene Marks wrote an incredibly myopic article on Forbes 3 days ago entitled, “If I Were A Poor Black Kid“. I remember reading it and just shouting out frustrations – all while my dear BF sarcastically remarked at what excellent points he had.
Now there are so many excellent rebuttals out there to Mr. Marks’ ridiculous article; so I won’t bother to take apart his article piece-by-piece on here. And just like the whole Matisyahu story, I’m glad that I waited a bit before running straight to my blog, and venting all of my frustrations surrounding the article immediately. If so, my words would have been those of emotion, more so than those of reason and discussion.
While some of the rebuttals focus in on the more severe familial problems that poor Black children face, in my own personal situation, I was a poor Black child that came from a relatively stable and happy home life. I was raised by two people primarily (my Grandparents) and even though we lived in subsidized housing (a.k.a. “the projects”), the environment was pretty safe and far from being crime-ridden. I did very well in school, often competing for the top grades among my White classmates. In spite of the poverty in my household, as a child, I always felt equal or even better than my peers. Sure, I did not have all the latest, greatest, newest things. But I had developed something much more important — intellect, a personable demeanor, and work ethic. My poverty was just a situation that I was born into that would easily be overcome by my hard work.
Well in the end I grew up to be a poor adult. No I don’t live below the poverty threshold, in fact, I make almost 3 times as much money. But I still have no sense of financial security…and live paycheck to paycheck (i.e. this self-hosted blog was pre-paid for by the proceeds of my BF selling parts of his car on eBay). So I will be the first to tell you; it is not enough to do well in school and go above and beyond academically. You also need mentors and guidance in other areas of your life…especially in financial matters. You need others, whether it be individuals or organizations, to support you financially until you are ready to walk on your own.
When I broke my leg and my hip, I was ordered to not put any weight on my broken bones for 6 weeks; after that point, I could progress to 50% weight-bearing, but could not be 100% weight bearing (which is what walking without any assistance from canes, crutches or walkers is) for 12-14 weeks. All along that time, I would have x-rays taken to help the doctors to determine when to move on to the next stage. Now if I would have tried to walk on my own without a walker or cane before I was ready, my bones would have not healed properly. They would misshapen…and it would forever affect my walking. It even could have reached the point where my bones would have had to be re-broken (ouch!) and I would have had to start all over again.
This is what happens to all poor children; but especially poor Black children, in their transition from childhood to adulthood. When I went to college, I had no one close to me to really turn to for guidance on how to pick a major, how to establish your professional focus…none of that. Yes, I could handle the college course work, but I didn’t see the end goal. No one told me that career success is as dependent upon personal connections just as much as academics…maybe even more so. And for poor Black youth…making those crucial professional connections is about as easy as finding a leprechaun with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But let me make something crystal clear; I am not making excuses for my lot in life! I am actually blessed to be employed full-time, have two college degrees (and hopefully a third soon) earned, to not have any issues with substance-abuse or be an unwed mother. But I am saying that I did not start this game on a level playing field. I’ve had to, and still have to, overcome the fact that I am a Black woman with few connections and resources to turn to other than myself.
If this article is not the epitome of White privilege, I don’t know what else is. For any and all who are confused about what the concept of White privilege encompasses, I encourage you to read “White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness” by Maurice Berger. I cannot recommend this book enough; it is an easy read and clarifies the problem of White people dismissing the additional struggles that their Black peers must go through to achieve the exact same goals.
I pray for the day where your skin color and background truly will not matter; that people will be judged and ideally receive merits based upon their own skills, talents and abilities. But for now, that all is just a dream — the reality, as we all know, is quite different.
“That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned: That until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained” – Emperor Haile Selassie I