Saturday, April 26, 2008

Underrepresented Maybe, Certainly Not a Minority

Les and Moore Speak
Aris Winger

Les and Moore went for a walk
Les thought “It’s time for that important talk.”
He knows that now is the time
To express the pressing issue on his mind.

“When in all the history of this society
Has the victory gone to the minority?
Never! Certainly not here in this country
Where all is dictated by the majority.”

“So when the majority gets to choose
It seems the minority is destined to lose.”
Les tried to contain his sadness
But that emotion was tempered by a subtle hint of madness.

“Please Brother Moore tell me I’m paranoid
that all of my suspicions are really null and void
that when you view me as a minority
that it’s not some helpless bum that you see.”

Moore was taken a bit by surprise
But knew Les was serious by the look in his eyes.
Moore then told his brother what he thought was fair.
All the while showing that he really cared.

“Minority is just a term referring to a number.
In no way does it mean that you are dumber.
I don’t say “minority” to hurt your pride.
I love you because of what’s inside.”

Les breathed easier and felt proud
That he could say how he felt to his brother out loud.
Given this, there was one last simple task.
To reveal the question he always wanted to ask.

“Moore could you do me a favor, please?
Could you stop referring to me with the term ‘minorities?’
I know my pain is not your intention
But as I just explained, I find the term offensive.

This is not just a numbers game
Of whose greater, fewer, or the same.
It’s really about the percent.
It’s so low that we have little chance to represent.

We certainly are not a high percentage of success.
Have you taken the latest inventory of Congress?
You may see us in the latest video
But would find it difficult to find us as a CEO.

So please Moore, know that I am underrepresented.”
Upon hearing this, Moore understood and relented.
“I am sorry,” he said and he meant it.
The brothers hugged, feeling content with it.

This can happen if we really talk
About the things that usually make us balk
The discussion may be hard and bring a tear.
But the road to progress starts with being sincere.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Working Class Blacks Work It Out

Understanding the power, privilege, and difference that is afforded to white citizens and workers in the United States is essential to grasping the frustration and suspicion of Black citizens and workers. It is impossible to comprehend the impact of capitalism without acknowledging how racism informs our economic system. Yet, for some of us working class Blacks economics, social status, and even race do not define who we are or how we live.
Analyzing the Black working-class removes the anomalies of those too few Blacks who truly fit into the socioeconomic middle and upper middle class or the even rarer wealthy Blacks. It also takes out of the equation those Blacks who due to myriad reasons are no longer working or seeking to work. Limiting our discussion in this manner allows a more focused analysis than to take a monolithic approach or a multifaceted study.
As a Black woman nearing the half century mark, I have been exposed to Blacks in various socioeconomic statuses; however, I myself have never lived beyond the bounds of the Black working-class. Yet, it has always fascinated me that those studying the social patterns of people often do not realize that it is misleading to apply the same labels or class identifiers to all people. Often the Black working-class considers themselves middle class and indeed they live like it. The difference for this group than whites in the same economic status is the formal and informal social support systems developed to sustain their families and communities.
I have a large extended-community family, which results in innumerable resources. While I was a child we shared in poverty together: housing, food, clothing, and care were shared. As each of us were educated and took occupations we shared our talents, treasure, and time with one another in much the same way that our parents shared houses and cars. While some of us obtained more professional positions than others, we all had excellent pediatric care for our children as one of our "play cousins" became a pediatrician. She treated all the younger "play cousins" regardless of insurance coverage. Those with no insurance coverage bartered with her for services she needed personally or professionally.
Similarly, a few "play cousins" became barbers or stylists and even those of us working minimum wage never went to work looking unkempt. Many Blacks I know share similar histories. Indeed, I know of families who have legally given custody of children to an adult with benefits while retaining physical custody of their children. In this way the children were able to obtain benefits or college aid while providing financial assistance to a family member in a higher tax bracket.
The Black working-class as a group is characterized as industrious and innovative, many of the Black working-class leave wage-earning jobs after their shifts to continue working in self-operated service business. Many of these entrepreneurs operate service businesses that are similar to the services performed by slaves and later domestics and handymen. However, the significant difference is that now these people determine how and when they will work and for what price.
In my experience it is the Black working-class that works in the labor industry, their homes, and their communities. It is because of their determination to work to obtain a better life for their family that they are drawn into movements to end economic disparity, racial inequality, and labor discrimination. Too often the Black-working class has not been seen as essential, intelligent, and qualified to lead or even to work as equals.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman

I had no model, being born in Babylon, both non-white and a woman.What did I see to be except myself? So I made it up, right here on a bridgebetween star shine and clay, my one hand holding the other. Oh, come andcelebrate with me, that everyday something has tried to kill me …but it has failed. (Lucille Clifton)

Black women have and continue to provide evolutionary as well revolutionary visions for themselves. Ours is an overlooked, under-considered, and undefined position - yet it is always a position below, a step behind, a dollar short, and marginalized.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

When I consider the expectations for women of color and then observe the women who excelled beyond race and gender, I realize there are no barriers unless I set them.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

Reading the powerful and provocative words of women who were not supposed to read or write. These women whose voices were regarded as valueless, I am inspired to learn more that I might speak with understanding.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

Feeling the spirit and awe in the sculptures, sketches, and paintings of women regarded as barbaric births creative appreciation in my spirit as I see my innermost twinges depicted before me.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

Watching scientific sisters ready themselves for space, surgery, and safari, I am gratified that knowledge is neither race nor gender based.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

Sitting in the home of Black wives and mothers who create the refuge and sanctuary from a society that is so cruel, I am hopeful that we will continue to achieve what others doubted we even dreamed.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

I so love the camaraderie, the complexion, the conversation, and the consciousness that comes from being a Black woman…living life, learning and loving the challenges that come to me because I am a Black woman. Challenges that cause me to rise and overcome without example or expectation and knowing when I do my sisters from the ancient of days through all eternity will celebrate.

I find strength and hope in my position as a Black woman.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What Happened to Neighborhood Stores?

Between 1950 and 1980, the corner shops sold groceries, did dry cleaning, was barber & beauty salons, laundromats and restaurants. Someone in the neighborhood worked on houses, fixed cars, planned weddings, and sold fish dinners. The children sold cookies, lemonade, newspapers, did shoe shines, etc. All of these things kept the money within our community and prepared the next generation to do the same. What happened? Well here are some thoughts: it was easier for someone else to do it, we lost belief in the ability to do for ourselves, and we lost our opportunities when they were staring us straight in the face.

We have been complaining for some time now about store owners disrespecting us in our own communities and being displaced when there is urban renewal. But, this does not have to continue. Consider trying just a few things to reclaim those corner stores:

  • Start a side business or just take that existing hussle and grow it. Who knows, your sales may require you to go into a store front or office.

  • If you stay home-based, make sure you are taking advantage of those additional tax deductions.

  • No business ideas? Consider a multi-level marketing way to start. There are so many options now

  • Take advantage of the FREE business training offered by the government and non-profits. I have used these services for many years. Find your local Small Business Development Center- as a start.

  • Have your children be creative and earn the spending money for things they want. Instead of buying them that designer jacket, tennis shoe or electronic gadget, they can buy it themselves and develop some business skills at the same time. Need some ideas, look up the local Kidpreneur program or get your local business community to start one.

  • Buy your house instead of renting. The market has slowed down, what a perfect time to see if you can own something for the same amount as your rent payment.
    Let's maintain our strength in the community. Communities must recycle. Put off gentrification, as much as possible.

  • Buy the building that you currently run your business out of. No-one can displace you, in fact, if you or your business needs a break, you can rent to someone else. I am moving to Philly shortly from DC and am surprised at the opportunities to purchase there

I say, reclaim those corner stores! What do you think?