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.