Monday, August 21, 2006

Living in the victim-hood

Juan Williams is a smart guy. It's interesting when I see a smart person I don't notice their race. Think about a public figure that inspires your immediate thought of their race, or is it the thing that you admire in them? I don't see Juan as black, just a smart guy. Juan has, in a sense, taken the baton from Bill Cosby in saying what's wrong with black America. Juan's new book ENOUGH: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It echoes much of what Bill Cosby has been saying for years and taking heat from those who are a major part of the problem. Juan also has a piece in today's WaPo on this culture of failure for blacks.

It's really all very leaders (figures in popular culture, politicians, educators, etc.) could have the biggest and most efficient change to the future for black youths...and yet they seem against it. They largely promote a victim and entitlement message to the black community.

The best training ground for self reliance and responsibility is of course the home, but given the epidemic of broken black families the black leaders can have the biggest effect on the youth. In my childhood I can remember various influences (parents, popular culture, school, my pier group) that lead me to understand my future was up to me. It was a given that you needed to be creative, you needed to work for things, you needed to do things with integrity. I did a lemonade stand on occasion, had a kid's version of a garage sell (the early version of eBay), rebuilt and painted and then sold bicycles, moved up to a paper route, pitted apricots at a local ranch, worked pool maintenance at the local swim club, worked as a stock boy during college and so on. I never assumed that the end goal was to live on some form of assistance. I also never assumed the end goal was to work for someone else. While my father, and most fathers around me, worked for large companies and would retire on company pensions the environment they created for me had a spirit entrepreneurism.

It's clear that spirit is missing from the poor black communities, but worse is that you could argue it has been replaced with the notion of a Cliff Notes shortcut to "making it" is through crime. The messages that permeate black popular culture embrace crime, drugs, disrespect for women, being smart is acting white, big business is bad, the police are evil, everyone else is prejudice, blah, blah.

I have posted on the idea that black leaders get their power from their communities believing they're victims and that their race (and it's baggage) entitle them to something, or everything. If most black fathers stayed married to their children's mothers, if most blacks believed in doing well in school, if most blacks believed in the American dream of working hard and anything is possible, if most black entertainment was smart, civil and uplifting, if most black sports stars were model that world what would the message from the likes of Jessie Jackson, Luis Farrakhan, Julian Bond, Cynthia McKinney and Kanye West be? Are these figures influential in the black community preaching a message that will inspire a black child to do well in school, that they can accomplish anything but that it's up to them?

Academia and journalists in the black community also share blame for sending the wrong message and for taking a stance against those with the right message. Case in point is Peniel E. Joseph, a teacher of African Studies at Stony Brook University, who rebukes the message of Juan's book. Joseph's final message is that William's thinks the civil rights movement had a beginning, middle and an end but that the truth is we are in an "unfinished saga of racial struggle". That's exactly the problem! People like Joseph believe if your black and poor, if your black and a hoodlum, if your black and at the bottom rungs of a job it's because of racism and nothing to do with you.

Hat tip to where I found both WaPo pieces linked above.


Schadenfreude said...

To me, this isn't a black thing -- it's a poverty thing in which most of the affected poor happen to be black.

I agree with your stance overall, T -- however I wonder how a poor youth in say Watts or Compton California can focus on the entrepreneurial spirit of America when he's concerned about being shot or stabbed in school.

What you find in many poor households and neighborhoods is that the people there have a collective "survive" mentality as opposed to a "thrive" mentality you find in more well-to-do areas. Yes it's short sighted and self-defeating, but when you see a good chunk of people you know die early from violence, you tend not to take the long view because most likely you can't bank on it.

This is merely an explanation, not a justification.



Tiny said...

I agree that the "survive" versus "thrive" goal is color blind in poor areas. My point was that there are powerful (they have media access, people listen to them, they are on tv, radio, and the big screen) blacks who DO NOT acknowledge this culture is bad and instead PROMOTE IT for their own benefit. I'm not aware of a prominent (key word) version of this in the white, brown, red, yellow, pick your color, communities.

I don't blame those living in that survival mode....I blame those who they watch and listen to not saying the culture that has developed is promoting the wrong values.

It's also true that plenty of blacks who are not poor area are accepting this lifestyle. I see what look like hoodlums getting out of brand new Escalades and Navigators at the most upscale shopping centers in silicon valley. Do they live this lifestyle I'm refering to? I don't know but they look as if they are. Do they don silicon valley engineer clothes 9-5 and then after work transform? I don't know......but the look is hoodlum and their music is as well.

If I drove around with the music loud enough so that even with my windows up all the cars at a stop light can hear the lyrics....and those lyrics say things like "beat your ho" or "put a cap in the cop" or whatever, what am I suppose to think?

In my opinion, people who have their head screwed on right don't listen to words all day that they don't agree with.

My honky $0.02