Black Progression Starts With the Right Questions
From the Inkwell of: Bartholomew J. Worthington III
I have to admit it, for a long time I slept on Twitter. Largely because I didn't understand how to even use it. Partly because I didn't see its relevance.
Over the past few months, however, I have come to understand Twitter's power and potential. What I have most appreciated has been the opportunity to connect and dialogue with like-minded individuals. Individuals I have learned from. Individuals who have asked questions that have forced me to teach myself. Recently I had the following exchange:
Now, for a long time I've been of the mindset that a large part of the problem that we have as a community is that we seek the right answers. But by any quantitative measure, we've been seeking the answers to the wrong questions with no progress to show for it.
Here are just 3 of the wrong questions we are currently asking, and what we SHOULD be asking instead.
Wrong Question: How can we get white people to hire more of us?
By now, it shouldn't be news to anyone with mahogany skin that Black unemployment is chronically higher than white unemployment. Rather than being a new development as a result of the recent Great Recession, Black unemployment has consistently been almost double that of general unemployment for over 50 years now.
The unemployment rate of Black youth, especially young Black men, is even higher than our already absurdly high rate of joblessness. I recently read a story titled, "Why Young Black Men Can't Work". I hated the title as I thought , "Why Black Men Can't Find Jobs" would have been more accurate.
But, semantics aside, research has shown that Black men are at the bottom of the hiring totem pole. Even below white men with criminal records.
But another study revealed there is a silver lining. It turns out that Black hiring managers are significantly more likely to hire Black applicants than hiring managers of other races. And 64% of the employees working for Black-owned businesses are Black themselves.
Which means, instead of trying to gain traction with a corporate world determined to keep us out, we should, as a broad objective, be looking at Black entrepreneurship as the ideal strategy for dealing with our high rate of unemployment. Considering that almost 98% of Black-owned businesses have no employees other than the owner, there is significant opportunity for us to seek the answer to the question:
How can we create and grow our own business?
Wrong question: How can we best raise our children to survive in the world?
A lot has been made about the shortcomings and faults of our young people. But since we are the ones raising them, the fault really lies in our example. Often we find ourselves steering our children down the very same path that we were once forced down: Go to school; get good grades so we can; go to college; get good grades so we can; get a good job; pay taxes; die.
Unfortunately, we are doing our youth a disservice by advocating the perpetuation of this cycle of misery. The brutal truth is, we suck at convincing our children that this path is the BEST path for them, because we are aware that it isn't even the best path for us.
The simple reality is that many of us as parents are miserable. Adulthood is not as advertised.
We wake up at time we don't want to, to go to jobs we don't like, to make money to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like. Ours is an empty reality. Many of us simply survive. Very few of us actually LIVE. One of the most enduring legacies of slavery and Jim Crow has been the Black aversion to biting the hand that feeds us. The same hand that quite often also beats us.
So many of us accept our fates and suffer through our miserable existence. Our children are extremely perceptive. They pick up on our unhappiness. And it de-legitimizes our efforts to sell them on the status quo.
No, more than any other time in our history, Black people in general, and our youth specifically, are realizing that there is no fairness when applied to our communities.
Ultimately, in order for us to raise better children, we have to answer the question:
How do we serve as better examples?
Wrong question: How can we gain validation from mainstream white America?
Almost every civil rights campaign since the Emancipation Proclamation has focused on convincing our oppressors to stop oppressing us...with the notable exception of the Black Panthers.
As an internally organized community movement, the Black Panthers sought out the issues our communities faced, identified solutions and implemented these solutions. Since they were targeted by "law enforcement" and forcibly disbanded, we have not had another internally driven movement focused on our empowerment.
Sure, we have the legacy organizations; the UNCF, the NAACP. But these organizations still follow the now largely ineffective model of seeking validation from those who would see our communities implode. This is not to say there is no place for these organizations. But there needs to be a push for internal organization lead by our youth. It is no longer enough to abdicate our responsibility to speak for our empowerment to those who have been effectively assimilated into the system.
We should be seeking ways to create or our control our own business industries, our own educational system, our own infrastructure. We should be seeking ways to provide for the security of our own communities, instead of allowing outsiders with no respect for us as a people to provide our "security".
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we should seek to control our political destinies. We should ensure that those who seek to represent us actually advocate for our issues, or they should no longer represent us. The question we should be asking is:
How do we better empower ourselves?
Ultimately, we won't actually be able to address the most pressing challenges we face collectively until we realize that the first step will be to start seeking the right answers to the right questions.
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