They say that as a white man in the Untied States I can’t understand what it is like to grow up in America as a black man. I would think that is true. They say that having grown up in an area where blacks are few and far between that I am probably a racist myself. I would think that is also true. Having been an Affirmative Action Officer I learned that we are all racists. Humans compartmentalize information to make it easier to remember things and make judgments. Compartmentalization results in biases. However, the opportunities I have had to be friends with individuals of other races and ethic backgrounds have been quite rewarding and I have come to really enjoy the diversity these relationships have offered. Living or working in a homogenous environment is like walking into an ice cream shop that only serves vanilla ice cream. It’s really good but your just not getting the whole experience. And while I don’t think that I can fully understand what racism is like, I can perhaps empathize. As a white male Affirmative Action Officer/Human Resources Administrator I have lost job/advancement opportunities specifically because I was white and I was denied my chosen career for over 20 years, simply because I was male, but that isn’t the point is it? What many of us “white folk” don’t understand is that while we sometimes suffer unfair treatment, we did have the opportunity to grow up in an environment where we learned how to be successful, or did we?
I recently read the book “The Triple Package” by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld. They studied groups within the United States that are, statistically speaking, excelling within the American Culture way beyond the norm. The twist is, none of these groups are white America. Without exception, each group, which is excelling in miraculous ways, is a minority group, which has suffered or currently suffers unfair treatment. (To be fair to the authors I think I should make you read the book to find out specifically who these groups are.) The book does point out that: “America’s persistently low-income groups became poor because of systematic exploitation, denial of opportunity, and institutional or macroeconomic factors having nothing to do with their culture.” But then all of the overly successful groups had similar disadvantages and over came them. So what is the difference? Each of these successful groups believes they are special. Every one of these “super groups” has a “superiority complex.” Unsuccessful groups on the other hand, “learn not to trust the system, …come to believe that discipline and hard work won’t really be rewarded- …don’t think that people like them can make it (and) have little reason to try…” That is THE difference.
“The Lessons of History” (by the Durants) points out “History is color-blind, and can develop a civilization (in any favorable environment) under almost any skin.” So, here is my point. It doesn’t matter what color you are or where you come from; when some millionaire in an Armani suit stands up and tells you that you have an unfair deal and that you are being discriminated against it is doing more harm than good. When that man or woman tells you that you are a victim, it is not helping you. It is perpetuating and exacerbating the problem. Such ideas are merely reinforcing the very defeatist behavior that is keeping us from being successful. What we need are people telling us that we are special and then providing us an opportunity to prove it. The current trend in education is to point out that we are no different or “better” than other nations. What we need on the other hand is for our society to tell us that we are special because of our freedom and heritage and then give us the skills to go and prove it-that is when things will begin to change. When the government puts us on welfare and offers to provide for us, they are merely offering another kind of bondage. What we need from our government are jobs and economic opportunity. What we need is for someone to believe in us.
A white man who understood persecution in ways that none of us ever will, rose above it to become arguably the most successful Governor in US history. When speaking of poor or disadvantaged peoples, he said; “…give them the same opportunity that you possess to become independent and self-sustaining, and endow them with all the wisdom and knowledge that they are capable of receiving, and let them increase with you and unitedly grow and become strong.” You see:
Convincing people they are victims is true discrimination and binding others in the bonds of the dole is nothing more than oppression.
On these two points, some of our current legislators are confused. They don’t understand freedom. They think that they can buy your vote with political bribes when what you need is the opportunity to work; the opportunity for self-determination the opportunity to believe in yourself regardless of where or to whom you were born. Others with similar problems are doing it, and doing it very well and so can you.
So, sacrifice for education and cultivate a little bit of a superiority complex while you are at it. That should be easy because you are good, really good. You are right, I don’t know what it is like to be you but I do know that you are exceptional because you are an American. Don’t let anyone, even that rich guy in the Armani suit, tell you otherwise.
By: Samuel Waen Jensen