“If I Were a Poor Black Kid…”

Dude naw.

Look, if you’re a middle-aged white guy writing for Forbes Magazine, and you find yourself writing an article entitled “If I Were a Poor Black Kid,” just stop.

Seriously. Stop:

President Obama gave an excellent speech last week in Kansas about inequality in America.

“This is the defining issue of our time.” He said. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.”

He’s right. The spread between rich and poor has gotten wider over the decades. And the opportunities for the 99% have become harder to realize.

The President’s speech got me thinking. My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from West Philadelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder. This is a fact. In 2011.

I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me. But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them. Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind. I don’t believe that. 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.

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.

And I would use the technology available to me as a student. I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays. That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home then on the streets. And libraries and schools have computers available too. Computers can be purchased cheaply at outlets like TigerDirect and Dell’s Outlet. Professional organizations like accountants and architects often offer used computers from their members, sometimes at no cost at all.

~snip~

Is this easy? No it’s not. It’s hard. It takes a special kind of kid to succeed. And to succeed even with these tools is much harder for a black kid from West Philadelphia than a white kid from the suburbs. But it’s not impossible. The tools are there. The technology is there. And the opportunities there.

In Philadelphia, there are nationally recognized magnet schools like Central, Girls High and Masterman. These schools are free. But they are hard to get in to. You need good grades and good test scores. And there are also other good magnet and charter schools in the city. You also need good grades to get into those. In a school system that is so broken these are bright spots. Getting into one of these schools opens up a world of opportunities. More than 90% of the kids that go to Central go on to college. I would use the internet to research each one of these schools so I could find out how I could be admitted. I would find out the names of the admissions people and go to meet with them. If I was a poor black kid I would make it my goal to get into one of these schools.

(read the rest)

The white privilege wafting from this article is so thick it’s practically choking me. I grew up in Philadelphia. I attended Girls High (as did my mother and my grandmother; my grandfather and great-uncle attended Central, back when it was still an all boys school.) I applied to Masterman (I don’t think I got in, but I can’t really remember, actually.)

I was not a poor black kid — I was just a black kid. My father was a tenured professor at University of Pennsylvania and my mother was a copy editor for W.B. Saunders (Harcourt-Brace). I never went hungry, I never wanted for technology, and I studied — hard. I worked hard. My parents were both heavily involved in my education. You can imagine growing up the daughter of a professor and a copy editor (it’s the reason I can string two sentences together in a cogent manner). I was a straight A student. But it very easily could have turned out differently.

I moved from suburban Maryland to Philadelphia in the middle of eighth grade. I went to Jenks in Chestnut Hill for about three months before beginning high school at Girls High. When I started at Jenks, the administration there took one look at me and my skin color and unilaterally placed me in math class with primarily black students. When my mother asked me how math was going, I told her it was too easy. I had done all the stuff they were doing. My mother asked me why I didn’t tell the teacher that. I said “But, I did!” (I mostly likely whined it.) I had told the teacher that I knew how to do all the coursework, but she essentially ignored me. My mother had to take off a day of work and go and talk to the principal and my teacher (imagine the look on their faces, when they saw that my mother was white) and basically demand that I be put in a harder math class. Reluctantly, they put me in a more difficult math class (with all the white kids) and ultimately, I got an A in that class. I did well, went on to high school, college, and law school, and the rest is history.

My point is this: Being a poor black child trying to succeed in school is difficult for myriad reasons: lack of resources, parents struggling to put food on the table (often working multiple jobs), teachers paying less attention to black students than non-black students. But being a black child — poor or not — is also difficult because teachers and administrators take a look at you and make assumptions about your intelligence and abilities based solely upon your skin color. In my case, even after I told my teachers and principal that the classes in which they had placed me were too easy, they didn’t believe me. It took my mother getting involved and putting her foot down.

Now how many mothers work jobs that allow them to take a day off to ensure that their child is getting the proper education? My guess is not many. Had my mother not taken that day off — or not been permitted by her employer to take that day off — I likely would not have gone on to take Calculus at Girls High. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone on to Oberlin, or UVA Law. And had my mother been black, who knows how her request to take a day off to talk to her daughter’s teachers would have been received by her employer. I wasn’t sick. There was no emergency. So who knows what would have happened to her — what would have happened to me.

Privilege and racism are embedded in the system, and grand statements like “Try harder! Get a computer (which a poor black kid likely can’t afford in the first instance)! Get into private school!” are offensive in their banality.

So Mr. Marks, the next time you want to opine about life as a poor black kid, just stop. You know nothing of growing up black. You know nothing of growing up poor. You know nothing of the systemic problems in education that result in many black kids, poor or otherwise, being left behind. It’s not a matter of just “trying super hard and really wanting to succeed.” Your assumptions are faulty, and frankly, you sound like a jackass. A well-meaning jackass, perhaps, but a jackass all the same.

So just stop.

[cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]

179 replies
  1. 1
    The Jerk says:

    I was born a poor black child…

  2. 2
    Yutsano says:

    I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me.

    He should have stopped right there.

  3. 3
    Tone In DC says:

    I never could stomach Forbes.
    Just can’t take it.

    As for the article, it’s no different than any GOP commercial or blast fax on the same subject. A waste of paper and electrons. Too bad a lot of people who don’t know any better will lend it credence.

  4. 4
    terry says:

    speechless

  5. 5
  6. 6
    gaz says:

    hmm. I didn’t pick up any sense of shame on the author’s part.

    Curious. I wonder why that is…

    What a damned idiot.

  7. 7
    DougJ says:

    Also too, this is a very good post.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    Barry says:

    “Look, if you’re a middle-aged white guy writing for Forbes Magazine, and you find yourself writing an article entitled “If I Were a Poor Black Kid,” just stop.”

    Forbes is on my list of publications to be put Up Against the Wall, when the day comes.

  10. 10
    fasteddie9318 says:

    I’m going to write a 1000 word piece entitled, “If I Were a Young Female Lesbian Hmong Immigrant in the Bay Area.” When I’m finished, I can has job at Forbes, yes?

  11. 11
    Ben Cisco says:

    @DougJ: You beat me to it.
    __
    That clip makes more sense than the Forbes article did.

  12. 12
    RSA says:

    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 can’t think of any kid, poor or rich, black or other, who makes it his number one priority to be able to read well. Kids don’t have the same priorities as adults, obviously. (And the article writer should put another item on his own priority list–being able to write well. “[B]e able to read sufficiently.” Really?)

  13. 13
    ABL says:

    @DougJ: thanks, homey.

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    Indeed.

    Just being poor and trying to succeed in school is tough enough; much less adding racist assumptions to the burden.

    I was a stellar academic in high school; but I worked AND took care of my younger siblings AND had a mother with mental problems who couldn’t do the proper support for scholarship applications, for instance. I didn’t get SAT coaching and time for those extracurricular activities that mean so much on college applications.

    See the book And Still We Rise for a wonderful “year in the life” of absolutely gifted, but terribly struggling, students.

  15. 15
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @DougJ:

    Also too: I would love you if you were the color of a baboon’s ass.

  16. 16
    AdamK says:

    But think what a huge help this wonderful advice will be to the many poor black kids in Philadelphia who are regular readers of Forbes!

  17. 17
    Maude says:

    A snotty lecture to the poor from on high.
    Punch him out, now.

  18. 18
    Wilson Heath, Maj. Depression in the War on Chistmas says:

    Never mind that his pipe dream by definition could only work out for a small portion of the population discussed. Lake Woebegon where all the children are understood to be above average is demographically white. Curious that.

  19. 19
    kc says:

    Shorter Gene Marks: “If I were a poor black kid I’d be better than all those other lazy-ass poor black kids.”

  20. 20
    Keith G says:

    If I was a poor black kid I would first and most importantly work to make sure I got the best grades possible.

    There is the rub.

    Many of the poor (of all backgrounds) I worked with in public schools suffered under a complex of issues coincident to, and often caused by, the poverty of their family. Everything from no reading glasses and bad dental care to helping raise younger children and surviving multiple movers per year.

    Is is not like a huge number of poor children in America can push back the dinning room chair after a hearty meal in their safe and comfortable house and devote their thoughts to scholastic rigor while mom does the dishes and dad reads to the younger siblings.

    The kids I knew who were best able to be successful were those kiddoes who had an admirable collection of favorable supporting factors in their corner. Desire is very important, but it is not enough.

    Edit – I wanted to add that the goal of our society needs to be to optimize those supports that can help all kids.

  21. 21
    Culture of Truth says:

    I know a few school teachers and they tell me that many inner city parents usually have or can afford cheap computers and internet service nowadays.

    Truly this man has his finger on the pulse of the inner city!

  22. 22
    lamh35 says:

    Oh sweet lord! Have white people suddenly just all gone mad since Obama’s election? Geez. This is use getting ridiculous the number of articles on race that all these white people are writing today. It’s like since Obama’s election white people have just got racial tourettes all of a sudden?

  23. 23
    Zifnab25 says:

    I was a good student, and I worked reasonably hard, got lots of Bs and a few As and a few Cs. For some reason I got a middle class job, a nice apartment, and a generally happy life.

    I didn’t need to crawl over broken glass or take three jobs and a mountain of debt to get by. And yet, I imagine I still didn’t have it as easy as Forbes OpEd columnist of the week.

    Remind me again. What is the virtue of hardship, pain, disappointment, and loss? Why should only the strongest and smartest and most hard working be the only people given a decent living? It is an absurd standard and one virtually no one holds themselves to given half a chance.

  24. 24
    Hawes says:

    You know, if I was to return to high school, I would do a lot of things differently. The author, Navin Johnson, is obviously making broad assumptions about race that are ludicrous, but he’s also making broad assumptions about youth that are really stupid. I mean, he apparently has kids in his house, who no doubt are plastered to the xBox playing Call of Duty and not reading Chaucer like Daddy would, if Daddy had a magic time machine and could back and be smart.

    Hey, Navin, if I went back to high school, with the perspective and wisdom that I have now – as a middle aged white guy – most likely I’d just get laid a lot more than I did back then.

  25. 25
    ABL says:

    Oh, and one thing I forgot to mention is that because my father was tenured at Penn, Penn paid a substantial portion of my college tuition. I could’ve gone to Penn for free (had I applied and gotten in) but I wanted to go away to school.

    So yeah. So much thoughtless fail from Mr. Marks.

  26. 26
    texas muse says:

    I have a friend who had a similar experience – growing up as a black girl in Chicago, she was told by a eacher that she wouldn’t amount to much and should anticipate growing up to be a maid or cleaning woman. School was a formality. She is now just about to complete the final project and defend her analysis of it to earn her PhD. The memory of that slap in the face from so long ago kept her going when she was ready to give up in frustration during the last couple of years. I cannot wait to call her “Doctor”. And I grew up a middle class white kid…. I am quite in awe of her determination. But not all children are as resilient and far too many who get the message that they don’t count unfortunately come to believe that.

  27. 27
    Mattminus says:

    “And had my mother been black, who knows how her request to take a day off to talk to her daughter’s teachers would have been received by her employer.”

    Fun Fact: In America, only white people get PTO days.

    This is just fucking stupid. Time off is a class issue, not a race issue. I highly doubt that the black copy editors at Harcourt-Brace had to struggle to get the same time off that their white colleagues did.

    Oh, ABL. You just can’t resist the over reach, can you?

  28. 28
    Keith G says:

    @lamh35:

    Have white people suddenly just all gone mad since Obama’s election?

    Ok.

  29. 29
    pete says:

    @AdamK: Precisely.

  30. 30
    Pococurante says:

    When I started at Jenks, the administration there took one look at me and my skin color and unilaterally placed me in math class with primarily black students.

    Isn’t it also quite possible they took one look at you and thought you were an average kid to put in the same class the other average kids? Last I recall advanced placement required some sort of formal evaluation first. It’s pretty standard that evaluation comes after a parent requests it.

    Sometimes a banana is just a banana.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    gaz says:

    @AdamK: LOL. I think you just won teh thread.

  33. 33
    gaz says:

    @Keith G: no shit right? The fucking author is an idiot. Complete lack of self awareness. Complete lack of awareness of his White Male Privilege. Complete lack of common sense.

    Why the fuck does this man have a job, while half the posters here are unemployed?

    Oh yeah. Privilege. Covers a multitude of sins does it not?

  34. 34
    Thoughtcrime says:

    @fasteddie9318:

    I’m going to write a 1000 word piece entitled, “If I Were a Young Female Lesbian Hmong Immigrant in the Bay Area.” When I’m finished, I can has job at Forbes, yes?

    No, but if you were a poor Vietnamese boat person, you could live the American dream :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K853GykeGH0

  35. 35
    Brachiator says:

    Privilege and racism are embedded in the system

    So, where, then is the remedy? I don’t see anyone giving up privilege.

    You know nothing of growing up black. You know nothing of growing up poor. You know nothing of the systemic problems in education that result in many black kids, poor or otherwise, being left behind.

    This may be true, but it also reduces everyone who is not black to mere spectators who can never comment on anything having to do with race.

    The Forbes piece is simplistic and uninformed. But by the strict standard suggested here, a poor black kid should listen more to Herman Cain than to Barack Obama. But that is not right, nor I think the conclusion that ABL would want to lead us to.

    And it is not simply about that putative poor black kid. If you are a good nongay liberal, does that mean that you just blindly support gay rights, and this means that you simply wait for the list of demands and quietly nod your head and give assent?

  36. 36
    gaz says:

    @Hawes: Nah. You’d get laid once. Then it’s off to jail for you, on rape charges. =P

    Thanks for playing.

  37. 37
    gaz says:

    @Brachiator: Huh?

    Umm no.

    First of all, in this society, white people are uniquely in a position to effect the most change in this regard. They hold more power, more status and more control in our society than the minority populations. With that in mind, there’s responsibility that comes with that. To be a spectator is to perpetuate the problem.

    As far as the solution? In the short term – that means raising awareness of the pervasive effects and advantages of white privilege and raising awareness of the concept of “othering”. Awareness among white people that is. We’re conditioned from birth to not SEE white privilege. Anyone that fails to see this “invisible” privilege (like the author above failed) is perpetuating systematic oppression.

    I could go on at great length of course, but the above is at least a taste of the solution. Stop ignoring privilege. If you are white, it’s your damned responsibility to do so. Otherwise, you’re an asshole.

  38. 38
    Thoughtcrime says:

    Someone needs to beat into this asshole the fact that many inner city kids go to school hungry and many are so malnourished that they cannot be alert – many with developmental problems.

    I know someone who taught elementary school in Richmond, CA and many times he brought food and supplies to school for his students, paid for out of his meager salary.

    So these kids first priority is going to be to learn how to read well?????????

  39. 39
    ABL says:

    @Pococurante: the class at jenks wasn’t advanced placement. it was math. the “black kids” class was like remedial math.

    and the salient point is that they ignored me when i told them the class was too easy for me. it took my mother demanding that i be switched to the harder class.

    if i say it’s not a banana, it’s not a banana. it was, after all, my life experience.

  40. 40
    gaz says:

    @ABL: bring it ABL. fuck yeah.

    =)

  41. 41
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    The white privilege wafting from this article is so thick it’s practically choking me.

    A white guy telling black folks how they ought to experience being black?

    Yup. I think that’s white privilege in its most pure and concentrated form.

  42. 42
    gnomedad says:

    But being a black child—poor or not—is also difficult because teachers and administrators take a look at you and make assumptions about your intelligence and abilities based solely upon your skin color.

    This is caused by libruls and affirmative action, of course.

  43. 43

    @Mattminus:

    This is just fucking stupid. Time off is a class issue, not a race issue.

    As if there are no parallels between class and race, due to the exact forms of institutional racism discussed in ABL’s post.

  44. 44
    Tonybrown74 says:

    @lamh35:

    Oh sweet lord! Have white people suddenly just all gone mad since Obama’s election?

    Yes.

    SATSQ

  45. 45
    ABL says:

    This may be true, but it also reduces everyone who is not black to mere spectators who can never comment on anything having to do with race.

    no it doesn’t. it reduced those who are not black to the very difficult task of wrestling with their privilege and not writing think pieces about being black before having done that.

    you don’t see anyone giving up privilege? well, that’s the problem. not necessarily giving it up, but recognizing it rather than allowing it to inform one’s world view, especially when discussing a world that is not one’s own.

  46. 46
    Rafer Janders says:

    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.

    If I was a moderately well-off middle-aged white guy writing for a national newsmagazine I would first and most importantly work to make sure I did the best and most-well researched work I could. I would make it my #1 priority to be able to write well.

    “Read sufficiently”? WTF? That is some seriously clunky writing there. This is what comes of outsourcing your editors to China….

  47. 47
    Bitter Scribe says:

    IIRC, David Simon in “The Corner” had a passage about this. I don’t have the book in front of me, but it was something about how we white people just know that if we had been born into a ghetto in Baltimore, we’d have done our homework and excelled in school and gotten out of there. It was exactly the same argument advanced in this Forbes piece, except that Simon was perfectly well aware of the fatuity. This guy is oblivious.

  48. 48
    Nutella says:

    One of the saddest stories I’ve ever read was in the Chicago paper a few years ago. It was about a black girl from a very poor neighborhood who had worked hard and stayed out of trouble and graduated as valedictorian of her local public high school.

    I was expecting to see it continue with the story of her going to state college, getting into some profession, and returning to the old neighborhood to help other kids like her — the classic American bootstraps story.

    But no, that’s not what happened. Although she had good grades in the highest level classes her high school had offered, she did not have the right kind of courses to get into any state college. Her school did not offer them.

    So she became a hairdresser. The highest professional level available to valedictorians in her neighborhood is something that offers hard work, low pay, irregular hours, and no chance of advancement.

    That’s the story of an actual poor black child — very different from the story imagined by the ignorant privileged asshole who wrote that article.

  49. 49
    gaz says:

    @ABL: This.

    Game. Set. Match.

  50. 50
    ABL says:

    @Mattminus: you can’t resist being an idiot, can you?

    christ, you never offer anything useful.

  51. 51
  52. 52
    Athenae says:

    @Brachiator: No, it basically means you get to work on the shit you can get to work on, instead of trying to pretend you have some kind of access to a life you don’t have access to. I can talk about race, so long as I talk about it knowingly from the perspective of someone who’s so Caucasian she’s practically transparent and don’t talk absolute nonsense about what all black people think, do or are. It’s one thing for me to say, “I think this,” and it’s another for me to say, “If I was black I would think this,” which is the distinction being made here. Marks has zero claim on the black experience, but he’s presuming, as k said so elegantly above, that if he was black he’d be exceptional, unlike all these other black people who are somehow wasting their blackness or something. I don’t know, it all got blurry at the end from the screaming.

    Remind me again. What is the virtue of hardship, pain, disappointment, and loss?

    It’s always, always virtuous for others to suffer. Our own suffering, of course, is a terrible thing that must be ended as soon as possible.

    A.

  53. 53
    The Spy Who Loved Me says:

    Uh, ABL, you don’t know what it’s like to be a poor black kid either. You were raised by upper middle-class, extremely educated parents, who could afford to buy you the best education that money can provide.

    I’d also like to point out that not everything is a black/white issue. My daughter (white) was in an Honors English class in 8th grade. Her teacher hated her, never gave her an A on anything, no matter how good the work, and refused to recommend her for freshman Honors English. That year was the first time she had ever failed to make straight As in English. I contacted the high school Guidance Office and was able to get a parental override in order to register her for Honors English for the next school year. At the end of the school year, when the TCAP scores came in and my daughter was in the 99th percentile in Language and Reading, her teacher told her that she should have her parents request an override in order to get her into Honors English the following year. My daughter had the supreme satisfaction of informing that bitch that the requested override had been made three months earlier.

    Throughout high school, college and graduate school, she got an A in every single English and Journalism class she took.

  54. 54
    gaz says:

    @Mattminus: You’re out of your intellectual league here buddy. But I’m here to help.

    Read this, then come back and try it out:
    http://www.derailingfordummies.com

    just glad to be of assistance. You can thank me later.

  55. 55
    Citizen Alan says:

    I was born a lower middle-class white kid in rural Mississippi. Both parents worked except for a three year stretch where my dad was laid off and my mom’s salary paid all the bills. My sister and I were the only family members of our generation (out of something like 25 or 30 cousins) to go to college, and I had to pay my own way. My father worked mainly as a truck driver. His father was a family farmer. His father was a sharecropper who never owned a single inch of land in his whole life. Like Clarice Starling, I am, at best, one generation removed from poor white trash.

    And I am still honest enough to admit that I have had advantages in my life that would be unimaginable to at least 90% of the African-Americans who were born in Mississippi the same year I was.

  56. 56

    ABL – your post makes me think about the friend of mine who upon being transferred to a new school, was stuffed to the back of the class with the one other black student and suddenly began receiving bad grades. When her PhD-equipped dad came in to talk to the teacher, the teacher’s response was: “I did not know she had a father.”

    Your posts also make me think of my kids, who are AA. My wife (white) volunteers in my daughter’s classroom. I have to wonder how that impacts how she would otherwise be treated in the class.

  57. 57
    Paula says:

    I don’t know what is like being hungry. I don’t know anything about being homeless. I don’t know what is like being a poor child.

    I do know that it is inhumane not to treat children like they are the most important asset our society has because they are the most vulnerable and they are future (h/t to Whitney).

    The GOP guts programs to help poor children, so the rich can make more money shipping good blue collar jobs overseas.

  58. 58
    ABL says:

    @AdamK: well-played.

  59. 59
    gaz says:

    @Paula: Frankly, I think your partisan politicization of the issue is counter-productive.

    This thread is about race (and class as well), not politics.

    There are plenty of racist liberals out there. Particularly rich white liberal morons that think driving a Prius excepts them from being decent human beings.

    FTR, I’m liberal. But I resent you trying to make the thread about something it’s not about.

  60. 60
    ABL says:

    @The Other Bob: that is unsurprising. and i don’t even have time to get into the names i was called by black kids — accusations of trying to act white, talking white, being too smart, being an oreo, etc.

    good times.

  61. 61
    DougJ says:

    @The Spy Who Loved Me:

    Uh, ABL, you don’t know what it’s like to be a poor black kid either.

    She said explicitly in the post.

  62. 62
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    @Mattminus: I believe she is using the fact that blacks make substantiall less than whites, work in jobs that offer less time off, and therefore wouldn’t be able to take the time off like those in higher paying jobs.

  63. 63
    ABL says:

    @crosspalms: are you an obie, too?

  64. 64
    Evan says:

    If I was a poor black kid, my first priority would definitely be to read Forbes and follow its advice to the letter.

  65. 65
    nynick says:

    If I were a poor black kid, I’d ignore wingnut concern trolls
    seeking to justify their indifference.

  66. 66
    Cuppa Cabana says:

    Where does ABL get off opining on white privilege, and whither (and whether) it wafts ? How would she know from white privilege ?

    Yes that’s a trollish thing to post but … I haz point.

  67. 67
    Jerf says:

    Sounds a lot like the kind of advice my father used to give me. “Hit those books. Go right up and knock on his door and ask him for a job. If you want it bad enough you can make it happen. Blah blah blah.” Thing is, he grew poorer than just about anyone in this country, but he forgot what the real world is like once he got his foot in the door.

    That’s often the case with people who succeed. They ascribe most of their success to hard work, while reluctantly admitting that some of it has to do with luck and some with support. Because if they were to admit that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, if somebody doesn’t open the door for you, or if you don’t get incredibly lucky and find it open, you can’t get in. Period. You’d be better off playing lotto numbers.

    I never found out who opened my Pop’s door for him. He just went from a year and half of college to a full time job making enough money to support a young family and buy a house in a nice part of town – because he was such a hard worker, you know, and he wanted it, too. So he grew up dirt poor, knocked around for a little while after high school working odd jobs, then met somebody who bumped him to the head of the line, married the daughter of a rich old lady, erased all records of his good fortune, and took to patting himself on his back.

  68. 68
    Keith G says:

    @Brachiator:

    So, where, then is the remedy? I don’t see anyone giving up privilege.

    On a side note, I would like to have a separate discussion unpacking the meanings and usages of the term ‘privilege’.

    I understand and generally agree with Thomas Shapiro and others about specific factors that lead to cycles that more readily benefit White citizens. That is undeniable and must be addressed. And it is also undeniable that the term White privilege has at times been “cliched” out to become a battle cry that disrupts critical thinking.

  69. 69
    B W Smith says:

    It seems to me if this guy wishes to offer advice, why choose black kids? Are there not poor kids of every race? Considering that 1 in 45 of all children are homeless, why make the issue about race at all? The President’s speech surely didn’t make it about race. Yet, in the author’s mind, it was immediately about race.

    Just as a side note and not being trying to be pedantic, but this guy could use a refresher course in grammar. The title is grammatically correct in its use of “If I were”. The author uses “If I was” about a hypothetical. Maybe that is a little pedantic. In an article about education that’s almost inexcusable.

  70. 70
    Brachiator says:

    @gaz:

    First of all, in this society, white people are uniquely in a position to effect the most change in this regard. They hold more power, more status and more control in our society than the minority populations. With that in mind, there’s responsibility that comes with that.

    Sounds like the liberal version of the white man’s burden.

    As far as the solution? In the short term – that means raising awareness of the pervasive effects and advantages of white privilege and raising awareness of the concept of “othering”.

    Apart from solipsistic navel gazing, how does this solve anything?

    And what is that poor black child supposed to do while you are evolving your consciousness?

    @Athenae:

    It’s one thing for me to say, “I think this,” and it’s another for me to say, “If I was black I would think this,” which is the distinction being made here.

    I absolutely agree that the writer was being a presumptuous dumbass.

    Marks has zero claim on the black experience

    Yeah, but who does? The black experience is not a single thing. Nor is any human experience. But there is something that seems to be to lead to a dead end if we keep harping on the notion of some kind of exclusionary singularity in which we can never understand anything about someone else’s life.

    the perspective of someone who’s so Caucasian she’s practically transparent.

    One of the “whitest” women I know has dark hair, blue eyes and practically transparent skin. She is from Louisiana and has legally black parents. She has always had fun with bigots making assumptions about who she is and what she believes.

    Life is funny that way.

  71. 71
    The Spy Who Loved Me says:

    @DougJ:

    True. But then she goes on to conflate what happened to her with other black kids, presumably poor ones, since that’s who the guy at Forbes was writing about. My point being that she assumes that her being placed in a particular class was because she was black. Possible, but not a fact in evidence. My point was that other factors can and do come into play when children are placed (or not placed) in a particular class.

  72. 72
    gaz says:

    @Cuppa Cabana: Yes, you do have a point. I suspect that it must be incredibly difficult to find a hat that will fit it properly.

  73. 73
    Nutella says:

    @Keith G:

    Funny you should use the work ‘unpacking’. Here’s the classic essay on unpacking privilege.

  74. 74
    gaz says:

    @Brachiator:

    Sounds like the liberal version of the white man’s burden.

    That statement is so full of whinge.

    Suck it up. We do have a burden – we also have a ton of advantage.

    Your statement is a non-sequitor

  75. 75
    gaz says:

    @Nutella: Your link is broken.

    I suspect you are referring to this: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

    glad to help.

  76. 76
    Mattminus says:

    @ABL:

    I knew you weren’t pie filtering me ;)

  77. 77
    gaz says:

    @Mattminus: Wow, you are a troll. Fuck.

  78. 78
    Nutella says:

    @gaz:

    Thanks. That’s it.

  79. 79
    hells littlest angel says:

    Shorter Marks: walk it off, boy.

  80. 80
    Greg Laden says:

    Someday I hope to be a poor black kid of the inner city so I can avail myself of all of the opportunities described by Mr. Marks.

    Meanwhile, here is my critique:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xb.....-his-priv/

  81. 81
    JGabriel says:

    Gene Marks, Forbes:

    I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.

    .

    Yep, sure they do: 4%. That’s the chance that someone raised below the middle class will ever, in their entire lifetime, move up.

    Real nice odds there, Gene.

    .

  82. 82
    JGabriel says:

    Gene Marks, Forbes:

    I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.

    Yep, sure they do: 4%. That’s the chance that someone raised below the middle class will ever, in their entire lifetime, move up.

    Real nice odds there, Gene. It should be noted that a significant portion of that 4% is likely to be people who married out of it, meaning the actual portion of people working their way out of poverty is probably closer to 2%.

    .

  83. 83
    Kerry Reid says:

    @AdamK: Okay, that made my sides hurt from laughing. Thank you!

  84. 84
    Tractarian says:

    In my case, even after I told my teachers and principal that the classes in which they had placed me were too easy, they didn’t believe me. It took my mother getting involved and putting her foot down.

    Yeah, hate to break the cycle of victimhood here, but that has nothing to do with your race. Teachers aren’t supposed to “believe” students when they say they should be skipped a grade!

  85. 85
    Al says:

    And let’s stop it with this garbage that we’ve done good as a society by having a few special and driven individuals reach the top of financial success. Our education system and our financial and labor sectors should be designed and regulated to get as many people as possible financially successful.

  86. 86
    Bludger says:

    That article destroys my faith in humanity…

  87. 87
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @Tractarian:

    Yeah, hate to break the cycle of victimhood here, but that has nothing to do with your race. Teachers aren’t supposed to “believe” students when they say they should be skipped a grade!

    Presumably the teacher can look at the classwork that student has done, and go from there.

  88. 88
    Keith G says:

    @Nutella: Thank you. Looks interesting. Having taught econ and gov, I have used work by Shapiro and Deirdre A. Royster to show the results of dominant class rule making on outside groups. It is a universal human phenomena.

  89. 89
    DAS says:

    @RSA: I actually kind of disagree with you — my (almost) 6.5 year old daughter makes it very much her priority to read well. Reading to her is a key to enter into the adult world (it’s how you know, for example, that a given restaurant serves P-I-Z-Z-A) and has quite a cachet amongst her peers. She also sees her parents reading on a regular basis.

    If she were not lucky to have parents who read a lot … if her view of the adult world was not daddy’s work (I am a college professor) but rather a completely dead-end, low-paying job involving hard physical labor … if her parents couldn’t afford her private school education (which includes a very strong reading program) or to live in a place with good public schools … she might have a very different view of reading in particular (as a priority) or academic success in general (as a priority).

    If you (meaning Gene “the Jerk” Marks … not you RSA with whom I suspect I agree almost 100% except for my little issue about reading being a priority for kids) do want to blame “cultural forces” for the challenges faced by poor kids, maybe you should stop blaming poor kids for being born into a culture they didn’t choose to be born into. And maybe you should start thinking about how it is poor people do not have the same privileges as you do and how one might really do something to ensure a more level playing field …

  90. 90
    jayjaybear says:

    @Cuppa Cabana: You know, the recognition of privilege is not an equation that’s read the same way forward and back. I’m white, but I speak as a gay man…those of us who are outside white privilege/straight privilege/Christian privilege are quite familiar with seeing and experiencing it, usually from the other side. Just to speak for myself, I see things like the Kardashian/Humfries “marriage”, Britney Spears’ long-ago 72-hour “marriage”, Newt Gingrich trading wives in like cars when their model year gets too far away, and I know straight privilege.

    Don’t imagine that just because you can’t recognize white privilege for being immersed in it, that those who the stream bends around don’t see it.

  91. 91
    artem1s says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    your story is pretty much mine as well. More of my extended family ended up in college but those were mostly the cousins who had some other extended family knowledge of what college is and how to get in one. My rural community was blessed with a generous scholarship fund that pretty much paid most of my tuition, room and board.

    The weird thing about that community was the rift between the ‘one generation removed’ farm kids and the kids of Battelle engineers who moved there expressly to take advantage of the scholarship. All through high school my siblings and I encountered a hostility from the teachers and administrators that took me years to understand. While I was consistently out scoring my peers in PSATs and SATs and in other ways, there were a handful of teachers who mentally pigeonholed me with the other ‘townies’ who were destined to end up trapped in rural poverty. I wasn’t supposed to make it out but somehow through a huge amount of luck managed to get all the way through graduate school.

    Also, I had the support of the art teacher who also was a ‘townie’ that grew up in the area. I think now he understood what I was going through more than I did. Most of my luck came in the form of other people who knew what to do and when to do it. I was a little behind the engineers kids because my parents had no clue what to do to prepare me even if they expected me to go to college. But I still had tremendous resources bestowed on me by the birth lottery.

    Most of those engineer’s kids went on to get great cushy jobs with companies that had huge defense contracts (one of the them was working on Star Wars at my ten year reunion). I’m betting the bulk of them would parrot this whole article, given the chance. Most of them had no clue how thin the veil was between their world and the next rung down on the ladder. Or they are in deep, deep denial about how easy it is to slip back down into the abyss in just a generation or two.

    There are a whole passel of scared people out there who got out via the GI Bill or Pell grants who don’t want to believe that their grandkids might very well be the next generation who have to figure out a way to crawl out of poverty all over again only with less tools and on a much steeper slope.

    It drives me bats, the supply-siders who thing the way to motivate poor kids is by making it HARDER and taking away resources. FYI, those public libraries are closing all over the country because of Governors like John Kasich who are slowly selling off any public services that citizens formerly had access to. So much fail in that man’s thinking.

  92. 92
    Keith G says:

    @Al:

    Our education system and our financial and labor sectors should be designed and regulated to get as many people as possible financially successful.

    Cool thought, but what happens when what it takes to get as many people as possible financially successful changes as often as it has in the last 40 years? Jobs my h.s. classmates trained for no longer exist and the jobs that they were supposed to covert to in the 90s have been off-shored.

    I am just curious.

  93. 93

    I couldn’t read the whole thing, but one thing that stuck out for me was this:

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

    Is this easy? No it’s not. It’s hard. It takes a special kind of kid to succeed.

    So, what he’s saying is that everybody has a chance to do well. A chance. And, if I’m reading this right, them poor darkies just need to shut up and quit their whining and claw their way up to the top. Only a few will make it, but, hey, that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? About those others? Well, life isn’t fair, after all. If I were black, I’d be worried about me, me, me, and to hell with those I grew up with.

    Fuck that. That’s the easy way out. It’s a slightly less offensive way of saying, “What the hell, you lazy bastards, pull yourself up by your bootstraps! Why should I worry about your lazy asses?” And, again, there’s the underlying stink of the unspoken rallying cry of rich, white, clueless assholes: “What more do you people want? We ended slavery for you. We outlawed Jim Crow, and that only took us 100 years. What more do you want from us? Get it together already and stop blaming everybody else for your own shortcomings, you thankless bastards!”

    I think the thing rich, clueless white guys need to say to themselves before they open their mouths about race is, “If I were a rich, clueless white guy, I’d keep my mouth shut about this.”

    Just out of curiosity, who’s your father? What did he teach? I went to the U. of Penna., where my father was on the faculty, only he was a librarian, not a teacher, so he didn’t have all the cachet that your father most likely had. He was scared to death to talk before people, so he could never have taught…

  94. 94
    The Moar You Know says:

    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 don’t know being black but I DO know being poor all too well and trust me, Forbes Asshole, when you are dealing with trying to take care of your siblings, dodging mom’s new boyfriend, and learning how to drive at age 12 so you can get food and of medical care if absolutely necessary, “getting the best grades possible” takes a bit of a backseat to “keeping yourself and your family alive and out of trouble”.

    This piece might be the most offensive thing I’ve ever read in my life. I frankly hope that Forbes has gotten into the trolling business.

  95. 95
    Susan says:

    That because (and sadly) it’s oftentimes a necessary thing to keep their kids safe at home then on the streets.

    Just. What? Did Forbes actually pay this douche cash money to write this crap?

  96. 96
    Gus diZerega says:

    Marks demonstrates what I think is the single greatest failing in modern conservatives and market advocates: a failure of the moral imagination.

    Moral imagination is the ability to place oneself in somebody else’s shoes.

    Conservatives, libertarians, and the like can be wonderful people if in their view you are like them, which sometimes includes being family even if you otherwise are not like them. But their vision rapidly turns to closed stereotypes much beyond that.

    Of course we all fail at this to some degree, but some people are a whole lot better at it than others.

  97. 97
    Shinobi says:

    If I were a rich white guy I would assume that everyone who is not a rich white guy just really isn’t trying hard enough.

    With regards to privilege, Skepchick just hosted a really interesting essay about how invisible it really is. This example is based on gender, but white privilege is probably even more invisible to those of us who have it.

    If rich white guys really want to help poor black kids maybe they should see about improving funding for inner city schools and school lunch programs and coming up with other ways to level the playing field. That would probably help more than sanctimonious lecturing.

  98. 98
    ABL says:

    @Tractarian: skipped a grade? I was asking to be put in another math class with other kids in my grade, you nitwit. Reading is fundamental.

  99. 99
    daveNYC says:

    @The Other Bob:

    When her PhD-equipped dad came in to talk to the teacher, the teacher’s response was: “I did not know she had a father.”

    Those must have made for some embaressing last words.

    Sad thing about the article is that the first three paragraphs are pretty good.

  100. 100
    Howlin Wolfe says:

    @Jerzy Russian: Jerzy, is that because you are the color of a bonobo’s ass?

  101. 101
    different-church-lady says:

    Maybe if he had been a poor black kid he wouldn’t be a complete fucking schmuck.

  102. 102
    ruemara says:

    @Pococurante: You’re hilarious. I went to a mixed school. The higher you went in class rankings, the lighter the students. I was in the top 5% of the school, where there were 2 black students. Remedial courses were inverse, 90% black, 8% latino and non-chinese asian, 2% white. The only reason I never had remedial courses was because from the minute I entered this country, my mom insisted on some private, black schooling for the basics. By the time I graduated grade school I read at a high school level and did math at a jr high level. By jr, I did math and a special sector in alternative number systems. It was always impressed upon me that academics were a priority and that I would need to succeed because I would have to pay for my college. When I tested for the regional HS, it was a huge surprise that I did not need remedial anything and could just skip a grade. And yes, I got called oreo, acting white etc etc. Neither nor, I suppose.

  103. 103
    Marci Kiser says:

    Truly the Poor Black Kid inside every Rich White Twerp is the Jew of liberal fascism…

  104. 104
    gwangung says:

    True. But then she goes on to conflate what happened to her with other black kids, presumably poor ones, since that’s who the guy at Forbes was writing about. My point being that she assumes that her being placed in a particular class was because she was black.

    Dude. White privilege.

    YOu’re assuming that she wasn’t. Why?

  105. 105
    Jewish Steel says:

    I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed.

    That’s where I check out. An argument from personal belief? Give me a fucking break.

  106. 106
    ABL says:

    @Mattminus: i happened to be logged in when i saw your comment. the pie filter doesn’t work when i’m logged in.

    don’t worry. you’re pied.

  107. 107
    travis says:

    …If I was a poor black kid my number one priority would be to make sure I was born white in a wealthy family. Then I would learn how to read, blah fucking blah blah.

    As long as these poor black kids are laying out the game plan of pie in the sky, pleasantly uninformed, fantasy bullshit. The fucking asshole has no idea of poverty in any race.

  108. 108
    ABL says:

    @The Spy Who Loved Me:

    Uh, ABL, you don’t know what it’s like to be a poor black kid either. You were raised by upper middle-class, extremely educated parents, who could afford to buy you the best education that money can provide.

    gee whiz, it’s almost as if you didn’t bother reading what i wrote. anything else you’d like to tell me about my own life experience?

  109. 109
    ABL says:

    @The Spy Who Loved Me: oh fercrissake.

    white privilege. look it up.

  110. 110
    ABL says:

    @ruemara: and the reactions from black folks on twitter detail similar problems that you and i faced.

    but listen, the white people want to explain to us how we might be wrong and we haven’t proved our case.

    so fuck us, i guess. :)

  111. 111
    Pococurante says:

    @ruemara: How am I “hilarious”?

    ABL didn’t originally post that she was put in a remedial class. Who knew “the black kids class” automatically means remedial? Not me – the schools I went to had a pretty diverse range of kids that needed help in many topics. Particularly math. I was one of them.

    Nor did she originally share that after her parents complained the class she was put into was a standard class. Who knew “white kids class” meant the standard classroom? Again not me. My life experience didn’t run that way. Had she built in more detail my response would have been slightly different.

    I can reel off just as many life experiences where myself or friends, of any shade of melanin, got screwed over by a nasty person or people who were too overworked to always do the best thing. I saw kids of all colors being prematurely pigeonholed.

    I went to school in Southern Michigan. In a town whose only real economy was based around the state prison. My schools were pretty much half black / half white. My first girlfriend was opposite my skin color.

    Not every nasty person is a bigot. Not every institution is racist. Don’t believe me, go ask Eddie Murphy.

    I’ve heard the “woe is me” card played many times from folks of all different colors and economic class. The details may vary, but the universal of all whiners is “I’m the only one this happens to because I am one of XYZ”. And it’s bullshit. It’s a broken world for the 99%rs.

  112. 112
    Citizen Alan says:

    @Gus diZerega:

    Moral imagination is the ability to place oneself in somebody else’s shoes.

    In other words, empathy, i.e. that thing Republicans openly mock and deride when it’s listed as a desirable trait in a Supreme Court Justice.

  113. 113
    Keith G says:

    @Pococurante: Monroe Mich, eh?

  114. 114
    Citizen Alan says:

    @ABL:

    that is unsurprising. and i don’t even have time to get into the names i was called by black kids—accusations of trying to act white, talking white, being too smart, being an oreo, etc.

    Three good friends of mine back in high school were African-American and all three of them suffered varying degrees of hostility from other black kids due to “trying to act white” because they were academically successful. Interestingly, at our twenty year reunion, excluding a handful of lawyers, those three were the only ones out of a class of 120 who had achieved doctorates.

  115. 115
    Gex says:

    @Culture of Truth: And there’s how we know either he or they are lying through their teeth. There’s no such thing as affordable Internet in this country. Just the oligopoly imposed highway robbery prices.

    ETA: In addition, these computers and TVs and Internet are all things the poor are expected by their betters to sell off in order to have food or health insurance or housing, so his assumption that the poor should be able to afford these things runs counter to his other assumption that they can’t afford those things.

  116. 116
    Pococurante says:

    @Keith G: Close. Jackson. Not exactly a town known for its vibrant middle class. Fortunately I escaped in 1976.

  117. 117
    Keith G says:

    @Pococurante: The same year that I left rural Lucus Co., Oh.

  118. 118
    Roger Moore says:

    @Jerzy Russian:

    Presumably the teacher can look at the classwork that student has done, and go from there.

    They can’t necessarily get a good handle on their ability from their classwork if it’s a student who’s just been put into their class. And in-class results aren’t necessarily a perfect measure, since some people respond to boredom by slacking off. What they can do, especially if it’s a transfer student whose ability they genuinely don’t know, is to give the student a placement test to see if they really do know the material. If the complaining student can pass the final exam without having taken the class, that’s proof they know the material well enough that they shouldn’t have to take the class.

  119. 119
    Brachiator says:

    @gaz: RE: Sounds like the liberal version of the white man’s burden.

    Suck it up. We do have a burden – we also have a ton of advantage.

    My question still stands. How does your navel gazing about your privilege and responsibilities actually help anybody, or eliminate the privilege in which you clearly love to wallow?

    What do you have to offer black people aside from the liberal version of a condescending noblesse oblige?

  120. 120
    Roger Moore says:

    @Keith G:

    Cool thought, but what happens when what it takes to get as many people as possible financially successful changes as often as it has in the last 40 years?

    Then you need to extend the education system to include people who are already out and in the workforce. There’s an old saying that if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. That applies just as much to older workers who lack relevant job skills because their existing ones are outmoded as it does to younger ones who lack job skills because they haven’t learned any yet.

  121. 121
    FreeAtLast says:

    ABL – What year did you graduate UVA Law?

  122. 122
    The Other Chuck says:

    If I were a poor black kid, I wouldn’t be writing for Forbes. Or reading it.

  123. 123
    Plantsmantx says:

    @The Spy Who Loved Me:

    Uh, ABL, you don’t know what it’s like to be a poor black kid either. You were raised by upper middle-class, extremely educated parents, who could afford to buy you the best education that money can provide.

    Which means, of course, that anti-black racism has never had any practical effect on her at all…ahem.

  124. 124
    staci says:

    Boy, oh boy the stories I can tell about the public education system and black children.

    My oldest daughter could read the Sunday paper before she was 4 years old. When I started her in kindergarten, I pointed that out and asked that she be given something more than learning the alphabet since she could already read. It took almost four months of consistent visits to the school before they would even test her. When they did, the school was willing to jump her a grade to get her in with kids on the same intellectual level. Instead, I had her tested to enter the classical program – still through the public schools, but a much, much better all around education. The fight for her education continued all the way through her high school graduation. This was a kid that tested at 12th grade reading and math levels in 4th grade, and I still had problems. I cannot imagine a parent whose kid is a bit borderline getting any help from “educators”.

  125. 125
    Ruckus says:

    When I read anything like this I think back over 40 years ago to a man I worked with. He was about 5-8 years older than me with a wife and child. He is of course black, was born in a bayou in LA. Had to drop out of school in the 4th grade to help support his family. So he has a southern, segregated 1950’s education, he could read and write, and add and subtract. With that, 2 of us taught him trig in about a month. A kind, gentle man, built like Muhammad Ali, with a brain, but little to no opportunity of which he made the best of anyway. He has always been one of my three heroes.

  126. 126
    henrythefifth says:

    5 Words for that chump: Go Watch “The Wire,” Asshole.

  127. 127
    Naive and Sentimental says:

    There was a chem grad student named Carlos who worked as my TA for a class and I did undergrad research in the same lab as him for a few years.

    His father immigrated from Mexico, college educated and spoke 3 languages. In elementary school the teachers put him in ESL despite him speaking perfect English, responding to questions without any difficulty etc. It took a trip from his father to get things fixed too.

  128. 128
    prufrock says:

    @Hawes: I wish I could marry this comment.

  129. 129
    Jebediah says:

    Mr. Forbes Guy has me thinking about all the people that I could help with similar advice. I’ve never played football, but I believe that every quarterback could get hundreds of yards per game if they just wanted it badly enough. You know what I would do if I were an NFL quarterback? I would totally always and only throw to open receivers who are at least ten yards down the field, putting it right in their numbers so it is easy to catch. Maybe sometimes I would run with it, but I would always only run where there was no one trying to tackle me. It’s so simple and easy, I don’t know why those dumb-ass QB’s don’t take my simple, sure-fire advice.

  130. 130
    Woodrowfan says:

    I’m going to write a 1000 word piece entitled, “If I Were a Young Female Lesbian Hmong Immigrant in the Bay Area.” When I’m finished, I can has job at Forbes, yes?

    Or Penthouse Letters, depends on the direction you take it.

  131. 131
    vernon says:

    It’s incredible: Marks wrote the entire article openly telling the hypothetical Black Kid how to be an EXCEPTION, then he acts like he’s solved a widespread problem!? Some kid or other can always be an exception; it doesn’t change anything. For that matter, some kid or other could win the lottery. It affects nothing; it doesn’t even address the issue. All the rest of the kids in his school remain the faceless underclass, because that’s what our system creates and demands.

    Until white people in general face the discrepancy Marks acknowledges regarding his own kids (they’re “just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction”)—until we see that THAT’s the inequality, THAT’s the injustice, THAT’s the lack of opportunity—we’ll never make any genuine progress.

    (ABL: I realize this adds nothing to the point you already made; I’m just fucking infuriated by Marks’ piece and venting.)

  132. 132
    Gus diZerega says:

    @Citizen Alan: Yep. It’s ironic because one of the best discussions of morality and its dependence on empathy is by the hero they never read: Adam Smith. But then, if contemporary ‘conservatives’ read the serious thinkers whose names they like to drop, they would not have the views they do.

  133. 133
    AA+ Bonds says:

    The sort of white guy who reads Forbes magazine will nod sagely. He thinks like this all the time.

  134. 134
    Chad says:

    @Tractarian: It’s not skipping a grade. It’s telling a teacher this work isn’t challenging me. I was an AP kid because my teachers saw that I was finishing my work early.

    Lord the flips people will do to absolve any person anywhere of racism.

  135. 135
    Crusty Dem says:

    I have a cousin that writes articles similarly ill-informed tripe on Forbes’ website. It’s embarrassing, but then, like all the Forbes contributors I’ve read, she’s an ignorant, right-wing, white, privileged, clueless twit.

  136. 136
    hitchhiker says:

    It takes brains. It takes hard work. It takes a little luck.

    That actually hurts me to think about. A LITTLE luck?

    Seriously? Mr I’m-A-Believer in how open our society is thinks that a LITTLE luck, combined judiciously with brains and hard work, will do the trick.

    Dude, it’s ALL luck, just as your own cushy spot in the hierarchy is ALL luck. Brains and hard work are transparently not factors in where you sit, or you could not possibly have authored such a stupid piece of writing.

    Good effing jeebus, it takes my breath away.

  137. 137
    Chad says:

    @Pococurante: Are you seriously citing Eddie Murphy to make your point?! The statistics from essentially every area of life from integration, education, income are insufficient because you have anecdotal evidence!

  138. 138
    Intercalation says:

    I feel like I can credit ABL nearly all of her points, but I still find it sloppy and distracting that she treats her own interpretation of her life experiences as objective and beyond question, up to and including reading the intent and attitudes of others from their outward behaviors.

  139. 139
    Chad says:

    @Brachiator: What do you suggest? You see the holes in everyone else’s boat. Where are you rowing?

  140. 140
    Sebz says:

    My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from West Philadelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder. This is a fact. In 2011.

    In fact, rather than a vicious racist, the writer is clearly a true believing liberal. the statement above is demonstrably false. His kids likely have IQs similar to their parents, in the 120 and above range. The kids in the inner city have average IQs in the 70-90 range, just like their parents. Everything else flows from that.

    Until we all figure out how to be comfortable speaking the truth about these issues, we are never going to realize Obama’s “goal”:

    Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.

    I put goal in quotation marks because the sad truth is Obama does not care about working class people. If he did, he would do something about the corporate-mandated destruction of the middle class via globalization and open borders. But he doesn’t, so he won’t. He is just trying to get stupid white people to feel guilty about the little bit they have left.

  141. 141

    My point is this: Being a poor black child trying to succeed in school is difficult for myriad reasons: lack of resources, parents struggling to put food on the table (often working multiple jobs), teachers paying less attention to black students than non-black students. But being a black child—poor or not—is also difficult because teachers and administrators take a look at you and make assumptions about your intelligence and abilities based solely upon your skin color.

    Nod. I was a TA at a college, and that’s when I stepped right in my white privilege doing exactly that.

    I didn’t judge *incorrectly*, exactly – but the black kid who’d done poorly on the first two exams? I assumed he had piss-poor prep. And it wasn’t his fault. But, hey, he probably needed to drop and re-take the class.

    Now, I’m sure – really, truly sure – that any other college kid would have gotten the same treatment from me, because I based my assessment on the mathematical probability of pulling it out. And I’d given the same advice to other college kids.

    That’s when I realized how insidious racism is. Because, while I didn’t treat this guy any differently – I could have. I could have felt he was doomed by insufficient prep and been less willing to work with him and more pushing him towards dropping and re-taking the class.

    As a side note: the class allowed one to take both the regular exams, and re-take the previous exam, for each of the three exams. He ripped through the next exam, and the second exam, and did very well on the final and passed easily. I don’t think he got an A, but probably a solid B, maybe a B+. And that’s why I keep this incident in my mind. I could have encouraged him to waste a semester re-taking a class when he clearly had the ability to succeed in the current one.

  142. 142

    @vernon:

    Damn. You made the point I was trying to make, but, unlike me, you got to the point you were trying to make.

  143. 143
    Sebz says:

    Until white people in general face the discrepancy Marks acknowledges regarding his own kids (they’re “just lucky enough to have parents and a well-funded school system around to push them in the right direction”)—-until we see that THAT’s the inequality, THAT’s the injustice, THAT’s the lack of opportunity—-we’ll never make any genuine progress.

    In fact, the opposite is true. African american schools are OVERFUNDED, not underfunded. Primarily black school districts are literally having money poured on them compared to white school districts. Ultimately, it does not mean anything because we already know that more money hardly improves achievement.

    And parenting has nothing to do with luck. It has everything to do with genetics. Yes, the poor performing child might have done slightly better by having the smart parents, but ultimately, what you see as two independent events drawn together by bad luck (low achieving parent and low achieving child) are in fact a single event (low achieving genes).

    None of this means we should do nothing. In fact there is much we could do to improve things. But what we must do is quite different from what we are doing right now. The solutions we would come up with if we were able to speak honestly about these problems would be quite different.

  144. 144
    Mister Papercut says:

    @Sebz

    His kids likely have IQs similar to their parents, in the 120 and above range.

    120 IQ? For this assclown, after this facile piece of shit? You’re awfully generous.

    The kids in the inner city have average IQs in the 70-90 range, just like their parents.

    Yeah, whatever, Mr. Bell Curve. You sit tight, I’m gonna go grab me some pie.

  145. 145
    vernon says:

    @Sebz:

    Primarily black school districts are literally having money poured on them compared to white school districts.

    Which school district taught you what the word “literally” means? Cause you might want to, I dunno, sue them.

    Seriously, the analyses you’re citing are bogus. Urban school districts may be “primarily black,” but the money in them tends to go to the white schools. If I may quote from the Center for American Progress:

    A growing body of literature documents funding inequity, including racial disparities, within districts. The Education Trust’s Salary Gap series, for example, found differences as large as $10,000 between average teacher salaries in districts’ lowest and highest minority enrollment schools. And analyses of school-level per pupil spending data from Florida reveal a negative relationship between spending rates and the percentages of African American and Hispanic students in schools, even after controlling statistically for student poverty rates.

    And speaking of poverty rate, what in the world is this bullshit you’re spewing about “luck” vs “genetics”? What are genetics, if not luck? “Hollywood Dreamboat-of-the-Year was not lucky to be born good-looking; it’s genetic, you see!” It’s complete nonsense. We need good genetics … and a pony!

    Anyway, your main point was that poor people have “low achieving genes.” Do you realize that this, in the context of the current discussion, is pure racism, about as stinkingly bad as racism can be? Or that outside of that context it’s doctrinaire social Darwinism? Just in case you don’t—just in case you’re a decent and well meaning person despite this monstrosity of a misinformed opinion—let me help you into something: This “low achieving genes” idea is & has always been pseudoscientific bullshit with no grounding in fact.

  146. 146
    Sebz says:

    @vernon: the study you quote is not looking at funding. it is looking at how funding is being spent. i have NO DOUBT that black school districts spend their money unwisely. i live in baltimore city. i know.

    but why is that an argument for giving them even more?

    the best research i have seen on this suggests, adjusted for cost of living, the average black pupil gets about $1000 more than the average white pupil. that’s just the facts, sorry.

  147. 147
    Sebz says:

    Anyway, your main point was that poor people have “low achieving genes.” Do you realize that this, in the context of the current discussion, is pure racism, about as stinkingly bad as racism can be? Or that outside of that context it’s doctrinaire social Darwinism?

    vernon, i was referring to low achievement within the context of the article: educational and income achievement.

    i do believe that there is a WHOLE lot more to life than getting ivy league degrees and earning enough money to have three SUVs.

    So, no, i don’t believe what i said is racist. But you are completely right i should have been clearer about what i meant by achievement, since many readers might not have immediately associated my statement with the article at the top of the page.

  148. 148
    Karen says:

    I didn’t really understand white privilege as anything but an abstract concept until I was in my first real job in 1987 and I and my AA friend and co-worker were talking about our salaries. We found out that I was making $500 more than she was.

    I wasn’t surprised because I was taught by my parents that those who went to college made more money. Of course the reasons for that had never been discussed or whether it was fair or not, it was just a “fact” my parents drilled into my head to make me go to college.

    I stupidly said that I was a college graduate, as if that explained the salary discrepancy and an assumption that she must not be a college graduate.

    Nope. She was. That was when I realized the racial unfairness of salaries and from that point on, I was never oblivious about my white privilege.

  149. 149
    vernon says:

    @Sebz:

    the study you quote is not looking at funding.

    Say what? Funding is exactly what it’s looking at. “A growing body of literature documents funding inequity … analyses of school-level per pupil spending data … relationship between spending rates and the percentages of African American and Hispanic students” etc, etc, etc.

    i live in baltimore city. i know.

    Yeah, why do I get the feeling that what you know plus 50 cents will get me a dime’s worth of snake oil?

  150. 150
    Sebz says:

    Vernon,
    the study you presented had two pieces of data:

    one was florida per pupil spending data, which is out of line with the national trend, so i assume it was cherry picked.

    the other was about teacher salaries, which is not funding. it is how the funding is spent. i would not be surprised if there is a “disparity” in how black and white administrators use the money allocated to them.

    i stand by my original statement.

  151. 151
    econtutor says:

    Kind of funny actually, the preview on the Front page only has the first three paragraphs up and the rest is below the fold.

    I read them and was like “this doesn’t sound bad at all…”, and then the “If I was a poor black kid” shit show fail parade started. Le sigh.

  152. 152
    Tarsa13 says:

    @Pococurante:

    Funny then how the ‘average’ students are all black and the ‘advanced’ are white? Did you miss that part, Poco?

  153. 153
    PIGL says:

    @Zifnab25: everyone is missing the point. As long as a sham of a case can be made that it does not violate any law of physics nor of logic that a poor black kid make it into the top 1%, hell the top 10%, then it’s all “hey, meritocracy” and the unearned, in fact looted, wealth and privelege of the Forbes 500 Club is [imagined to be ] secure.

  154. 154
    vernon says:

    @Sebz:

    the study you presented had two pieces of data:

    Actually, “the study I presented” has a great deal of data. You might want to read it. It includes a pretty well substantiated attack on the Jason Richwine/Heritage Foundation bullshit I suspect you’re peddling. Here’s the link: http://www.americanprogress.or.....ragons.pdf

    And you’re wasting your breath with all this hair splitting over “funding” vs “how funding is spent.” I quoted Marks’ reference to “a well-funded school.” A school whose funding is misspent is not what I or Marks mean by “a well-funded school.” Okay? You’re off on a different subject.

  155. 155
  156. 156
    vernon says:

    @Horrendo Slapp (formerly Jimperson Zibb, Duncan Dönitz, Otto Graf von Pfmidtnöchtler-Pízsmőgy, Mumphrey, et al.):

    I can’t tell if he’s a really, really dumb dude or a top notch troll. Either way, he’s trolled me good!

  157. 157
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Sebz:

    i have NO DOUBT that black school districts spend their money unwisely.

    Yeah, you know how Those People are when it comes to money. Always spending their government money on t-bones and Cadillacs.

  158. 158
  159. 159
    suzanne says:

    If I was a middle-aged white guy who writes for Forbes, I would go to Arizona, find an intrepid, hardworking lady named, oh, maybe, Suzanne, and pay off her frightening amount of student loans.

    I figure it never hurts to ask.

    All the fail has been adequately documented before I got here.

  160. 160
    suzanne says:

    I remember being in an art class in high school, and my teacher was old racist coot. Id been asked to be there to give demonstrations of wheel-throwing, and the parents of one of my classmates showed up to talk to the teacher to see how their daughter was doing. My classmate had just moved to the US from Guatemala, I believe, and spoke little English, so my teacher had seated her near other Spanish-speaking students. Because he didn’t care to pay any attention to the Latino students, he didn’t realize that she was an exceptional student artist. Her parents showed up, and all he could think of to say was that she was “very nice”. He actually expressed surprise to me that they came, and he actually said, “The wetbacks don’t care about school.” He’d never bothered to learn where she came from, and didn’t notice her at all. I ended up showing her parents her projects, because she did really good work, and I told them so.

  161. 161
    Jess says:

    @Wilson Heath, Maj. Depression in the War on Chistmas:

    Never mind that his pipe dream by definition could only work out for a small portion of the population discussed.

    This.
    (Nice handle, btw!)

    I teach at a state university that serves a mostly white, primarily working-class population, and I can see that even for them it’s a huge struggle, and they don’t have the added challenges of racism, a dangerous environment and true poverty. Many of them work full time and just can’t put the hours in to keep up their grades. If any problems crop up (such as with on-line access, financial aid, and so forth), which they always do, it’s a nightmare for the students to find the time to sort things out. Since they don’t work high-status jobs, they have a hard time negotiating time off for school stuff. Most of their parents are not particularly well educated, and I can see that that is a huge disadvantage as well–so much of what I learned about the larger world was learned at home, which gave me a huge head start over kids like these.

    Add all these challenges to the ones facing the “poor black child” of the article, and you have situation few adults could overcome, much less a child with little understanding of, and probably less faith in, how the system works. White middle-class privilege is not just about material resources. It’s about connections, access to information, good role models, a safe and healthy environment, self-confidence and support from your community. What’s infuriating is that those who have grown up with those things don’t understand how privileged they are to have them. And in a sense, they’re correct to see it as a given, a right that any citizen should have. The next step is to understand that many are denied those rights, and that as citizens we have the civic duty to ensure everyone has those rights.

  162. 162
  163. 163
    gwangung says:

    i have NO DOUBT that black school districts spend their money unwisely.

    And now I have no doubt that you are a bigoted racist. An example of one is not data.

    Twit.

  164. 164
    Dan S. says:

    Sebum, or whatever your nym is: let’s say your unsourced, unsupported allegations about “primarily black school districts” literally [sic] having money poured on them compared to white school districts, and the avg. Black pupil getting $1000 more than the avg. White pupil … Let’s say they’re true. Here’s a question: how much would I have to pay you to raise your (hypothetical) newborn baby in North Philly as opposed to some area with a “primarily white school district? We can start from there …

    (of course, as has come up in this thread, it’s race *and* class; there are areas of desperate poverty and obscenely limited options that have mostly-white school districts, something that tends to get left out of popular discourse about education for some reason or other …)

  165. 165
    Admiral_Komack says:

    Well, I read Mr. Marks article.
    I wish I could get that time back. :-(

    Mr. Marks, you are not black.
    Full stop.
    Your white priviledge is showing, and it is not flattering.

    Let us wait in breathless anticipation as Mr. Marks in the coming weeks explains to the downtrodden masses:

    If He Was A White Woman.
    If He Was A Woman Of Color.
    If He Was a Person With A Disability.
    If He Was A Latino Kid.
    If He Was A Criminal On Death Row. (…)

  166. 166

    […] Angry Black Lady at Balloon Juice really gets annoyed with the author of a Forbes magazine article, Gene Marks, who presumes to tell poor black kids in Philadelphia how to succeed. […]

  167. 167
    Admiral_Komack says:

    @Jebediah:

    “Run, Forrest, run!”

  168. 168

    If I were a hack writer for Forbes, I’d want to kiss the corpulent asses of my readers, who’d wouldn’t be saying so but would want to read something, anything to get them off the hook for their most ardent desire to do nothing for anyone other than their own rich white male middle-aged or older asses.

  169. 169
    JS says:

    Eh, what do you expect from Forbes? The article isn’t even worth getting all worked up. And who cares about Angry Black Lady’s background? She isn’t famous or published.

  170. 170
    Peter A says:

    ” My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city.”

    This is his first mistake. Odds are his children would score much higher on an IQ test or any standardized test than most Philadelphia kids from the inner city. You can’t help inner city kids, or poor white children for that matter, if you pretend that they are all cognitively the equals of a bunch of upper class white or Asian kids. Our society is skewed to reward a certain way of thinking and a certain type of heritable intelligence. It is skewed to the benefit of people of Northern European, Jewish and Asian ancestry. That doesn’t make those people “superior” in any abstract or moral sense, but it is a fact that our ancestors have created a civilization where the odds are stacked from the womb against people of African, Polynesian or native American ancestry.

  171. 171
    Paula says:

    @gaz

    It is political. Accept the realities.

    Racism is not just ppl who speak horrible things, but ppl whose acts are racist. These ppl, “My best friend is black” and “We are reforming the system”, are incidious because they convince some that what they suggest is good. Always cloakingvwhat the end result will be.

    The begining of the year, the house GOP started gutting programs to assist poor children. That is a fact. Ryan’s plan, guts our social safety nets to preserve and extend tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.

  172. 172
    Jado says:

    I grew up lower middle class, with the prospect of sliding down the scale as I grew up and became responsible for myself, but I ended up as a professional solidly in the middle class, with the house and the cars and the wife and the kids.

    How did I do it? I got lucky. I got SOOOOOO lucky, and I had help from A LOT of people. I managed to get hired by a company that had tuition reimbursement for college, and had bosses that encouraged me to go to night school. I had a girlfriend/fiance/wife who managed the finances and rode herd on me to help insure I didn’t fail out (this time). I had professors that believed in me (cause hey, I’m a white guy. White guys can do anything). I had faculty advisors that pulled fast ones on their own administration to insure I graduated on time. ANY of these things doesn’t happen, and I am still in my old dead-end job with my old dead-end life, probably sliding down the ladder to laid-off-ville.

    The idea of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” is an attractive narrative, but it is exceptionally rare.

    No man is an island, and kids especially are almost totally defined by their experiences. I had both a father and a mother, a relatively stable home life, and I’m a white male. The ONLY advantage I didn’t have was family money. And I almost missed it. This guy is an idiot

  173. 173
    marblex says:

    What race problem?

  174. 174
    brantl says:

    @Mattminus: Dear arsehole, plenty of poorer people can’t get a job that’s treated as full-time, even when it is, or they are treated as “self-employed” even when they aren’t, because they can’t afford to contest it. You douchebag.

  175. 175
    Ordovician Bighorn Dolomite (formerly rarely seen poster Fe E) says:

    @Jado:

    Mine’s sort of a similar story. Not to sidetrack this too much from ABL’s point, but I just want to address the whole “bootstrap” thing.

    I was raised in a working class environment (trailer park raised son of a factory worker) and I sit here now with a graduate degree and a completely middle class wage and lifestyle. If I tried to tell you (or anybody) that I did this all on my own I’d be a fucking liar. I didn’t build a decent, if not outstanding public school district by myself, nor those two state universities I attended (which are both pretty well ranked). And the job I got is at a place I heard of only when I saw the want ad–which was forwarded to me by a professor.

    So, I didn’t have any family connections into sweet colleges, or a posh assignment at my uncle’s company, or any thing such as that. But my story wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of thousands of people working to keep my path open.

    These “nose the grindstone, pull yourself up by your bootstrap” assholes just simply are not cursed with even a smidgeon of self-awareness.

  176. 176
  177. 177
    doudc says:

    @Peter A:

    Peter A, may I borrow your copy of “The Bell Curve”? I seem to have flushed mine down the toilet.

  178. 178
    Misha says:

    This is all C.V. fluff for Marks. His biz site is highly instructive: “My Columns Are Read By Thousands Of Business Owners Like Myself” — all very motivational (and self-fulfilling) circle jerk. Maybe after the fallout from his essay, he’ll end up living in a van down by the river.

  179. 179
    Shelley says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful and sincere response. His post was infuriating.

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