Forbes Magazine and How White Folk Just Don’t Understand Racism

14 Dec

I need to thank my friend Katherine McGuiness for inspiring me to write this article.  Katherine is a true social worker!

Just reading Gene Marks title of If I Were A Poor Black Kid in Forbes magazine on-line, I knew we were going to be in for a bumpy ride but I forced myself to read the full article.  Waste of time?  NO!  Very sad and pathetic commentary on how so many white people really do NOT understand what institutionalized racism is? YES!

I just love it when white heterosexual men have the chutzpah to prescribe what black folk need to do to make their lives better.  First, allow me to cut Marks a modicum of slack.  While I don’t believe he participates in racism on an individual level, he certainly seems unaware of how he benefits on an institutional level of racism.  According to Marks:

 I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.  Still.  In 2011.  Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia.

It takes brains.  It takes hard work.  It takes a little luck.  And a little help from others.  It takes the ability and the know-how to use the resources that are available.  Like technology.  As a person who sells and has worked with technology all my life I also know this.

Oops! That would be fine and well if we all started on an even playing field, but we don’t.

Sadly, Marks goes on to say:

If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to read sufficiently.   I wouldn’t care if I was a student at the worst public middle school in the worst inner city.  Even the worst have their best.  And the very best students, even at the worst schools, have more opportunities.  Getting good grades is the key to having more options.  With good grades you can choose different, better paths.  If you do poorly in school, particularly in a lousy school, you’re severely limiting the limited opportunities you have.

Wow!  Did you really say that out loud?  I’m sorry, but it is really hard not to hear you as a pompous, privileged, punitive, pinhead.  I wonder if it occurred to you that if you are a poor black kid, the challenges you would face are not just attending “the worst public middle school.”  Can we talk about safety? Can we talk about is there enough food in the house? What does one’s diet look like? Are you able to get to school easily? Do you have access to health care? Regardless of how bright young black men are, they are still being profiled and pulled over by police.  Mr. Marks, do you ever have to worry about being pulled over the police for the type of car you drive? Do you notice that people watch you very closely when you enter a department store? Do you notice that there just are not a whole lot of black folk in positions of power in our government?

Honestly, I really don’t think Marks is trying to be racist, but I do worry how many people think like Marks and think it is okay for white people to tell black people what is best for them? ACTION: I would strongly suggest all TSM readers please read Dr. Beverly Tatum’s Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And other Conversations About Race, or if you would like to see how a white heterosexual man is able to acknowledge his own privilege and hold a respectful and intelligent conversation about race, read Tim Wise’s White Like Me.  

Unfortunately, Marks’ entire article turns a blind eye to history and the idea of privilege.  His words prove he has no concept of the generational impact of Plessy v. Ferguson, or the fact that the GI Bill after WWII, which allowed returning soldiers to buy a home, was only extended to white officers.  I could go on and on here, but I think you get the message by now.

For those of you wondering why I included this article in Feminism and LGBT, it is because I believe we have to address the intersections of oppression and acknowledge the disproportionality of oppression if you are gay and black, or a black woman. Again, I urge everyone to address racism and call it out when you hear it or experience it.

*TSM is now taking nominations again for Hero and Bigot of the Year Awards.


14 Responses to “Forbes Magazine and How White Folk Just Don’t Understand Racism”

  1. Jennifer Lockett December 14, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    This really reminds me of a current series on CNN “Black in America: Silicon Valley.” It follows eight young black entrepreneurs who are trying to break through in Silicon Valley in technology – a primarily White and Asian business setting. It’s really interesting and disturbing. For example, more than one of the businessmen/women are told to go out and *hire* a White or Asian person (gender doesn’t seem to matter as much) to be their “pitch-man,” even if that person knows nothing about technology or their product. Fascinating.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 14, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      Jen, thank you for including the links. I’m sad to hear that gender is not also being addressed.

      • Jennifer Lockett December 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

        Just to clarify, I meant that in Silicon valley, gender wasn’t seen as an inhibiting factor – race was. So, even if the person knew nothing about Tech or the industry you are selling (e.g. if you’re a fitness person with a fitness program, they don’t need to know about fitness), they just need to be White or Asian. If you walk in Black and knowledgeable, most people tuned you out immediately. Sad and pathetic.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 15, 2011 at 8:31 am #

        Thanks for the clarification. Yes, absolutely sad and pathetic.

  2. nevercontrary December 14, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    After having worked in an inner city school. I can’t tell stories about it without people asking me to stop because they are so horrible. It still amazes me that people think that is an equal start.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

      Thank you for commenting. We need to hear voices like yours. Yes, the amount of privilege for white people is astounding. What worries me is when people in power, such as Marks has now ownership of his privilege. As always, you add great comments. Many thanks.

  3. mindweapon December 15, 2011 at 11:47 am #


    I don’t buy any product if the person advertising it is black or Hispanic, and I call companies and tell them so. I suspect that a lot of people who are likely to purchase software share my preference.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

      May we know why you would not buy a product if the “person advertising it is black or Hispanic?”

      • mindweapon December 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

        Yes. Because I’m sick of constantly seeing them in the media. People in other countries think blacks are a majority of the USA from seeing television. Whites are never allowed to be depicted without “diversity” in the mass media any more, even though in our personal lives we prefer people who are like us, just like every other race.

        Liberals will criticize an area for being “lily white.” What do they call Detroit? Coal black? Mexico — dirt-brown? China — piss yellow? No of course not. All other races are allowed to have value in and of themselves. But any time there are white people being white people, somehow they “need diversity,” they are sinfully “lily white.”

        “Everybody says there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.”

        “The Netherlands and Belgium are more crowded than Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.”

        “Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.”

        “What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?”

        “How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?”

        “And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?”

        “But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.”

        “They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.”

        “Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

        Wow! You have left me speechless here. You really have no clue as to white privilege. Do you have any idea how racist you sound?

  4. Jennifer Lockett December 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Michael, I believe you have fallen victim to a “troll”

    You feed a fever, you starve a troll. This is what the ignore and block features are for!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      Thanks, Jen. I’m very glad I blocked his last comment!

      • Jennifer Lockett December 16, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

        It’s really very, very sad that this is what people do with their spare time.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt December 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

        Indeed! He seemed to have been quoting from a white supremacist manifesto, a.k.a. caveman with a lobotomy.

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