Repackaging Success

Posted: November 25, 2008 in Commentary

While on one of my evening walks recently, the following thought came to mind.

“If doing security rounds at 2 AM in 16 degree weather doesn’t provoke you to find a way to move ahead in life, nothing will.”

I was reflecting on my time working as a security guard some years ago while living in the Denver area. I hate cold weather–especially when I am sleepy. But hey, bills had to be paid and I just worked it. Then I also had this other memory flashback of my years in middle and high school.

“Anytime I missed the bus, I would make it a point to do all I could to catch it before telling my mom I missed it. I can remember the days hearing the roar of the bus engine just as I was rounding the last corner of my walk to the bus stop. The initial feeling of helplessness would eventually turn into determination as I slowly convinced myself I could catch the bus at a stop roughly 2 miles away. So there I was with book bag, lunch box and coat in tow running like I stole something down various streets until I reached the next stop. Yes I was hot, sweaty and ashy at the same time from the cold wind beating against my skin. But in most cases I made it. Yes, there were times were I missed it at this second stop as well. But fortunately it always seemed that this happened on the same day my friend missed the bus as well. With her mom sitting in the car, I was able to hitch a ride to school with them. Little did I know at the time I was learning a life lesson that has stuck with me for all these years.”

I find it both amusing and sad anytime I read someone’s 10-20 point plan on how others can help themselves. This is especially true when talking about Black folks who for numbers of reasons have lingered just below the middle class sector. Many of us who are in the middle class know good and well that moving ahead in this country — especially in these last few decades — has boiled down to both the choice and determination of the individual. Yet in order to avoid being perceived as an uppity brute who has no compassion for the less fortunate, we point to the lack of programs and handouts as the culprit for this group of individuals. What is worth noting here is that the same folks who are forever marginalizing poor Black folks to the success and failures of government intervention are the very folks who did not need government intervention to come out of their own challenging backgrounds. So why then do we feel the need to shackle the fate of poor Blacks in this country to the whims of Washington?

Please hear me on this. I am not suggesting that every government-sponsored social program needs to be axed. If it works, keep it. But any 12-step program is dependent on one thing: Participants who have made the decision to change. There is no program out there that can make people want to do better for themselves. That has to come from the individual. If that individual refuses to make that decision for themselves, then I feel no obligation to cover for them in an effort paint myself as ‘non-uppity’. That’s really what if comes down to for most people. They want to be on record as one who defends the less fortunate. Little do they realize that oftentimes their defense is what is keeping many of these folks down in the first place.

There is no secret formula to success. Yes our people had to go through slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of segregation. But those vices did not stop our people in those days from maintaining strong families, striving for excellence and holding each other to that same standard. Why some people today feel the need to expect less from our less fortunate bruthas and sistahs is beyond me. If expecting no more than you do for yourself from others makes one uppity, then oh well.

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