While confined in my lower-middle class existence, I cannot help but think about the words I see daily on the Internet about Black people who receive unemployment compensation, food stamps and other government benefits, people whose lives have been touched by the mean specter of poverty. Although I have a decent job, paying a living wage, I am still broke as hell, trying to find ways to earn more money, so I normally would not have time to think about your condescending self-serving words but I had to speak to you people about this. The current discourse on the lives of poor Blacks in this country has been taken over by well-dressed, well-fed career White politicians and Black folks one generation themselves off welfare and one foot in the unemployment line and I thought you needed some enlightenment.
First of all, no one wants to be poor. I know that you believe that little Black children spend their time discussing ways to be indigent and homeless by the time they are eighteen but the children I know have big plans for their future. My now fifteen-year-old daughter’s plans for the future change on a daily basis: One day she wants to be a fashion designer, the next a mad scientist who is going to take over the world. The one thing she has made clear is that she does not see motherhood in her future because in her words, “Being a mother takes too much work.”
I know that you like to believe that the children of poor Blacks are a drain on society but you are so wrong. I was a teenage mother at the age of sixteen and had two children by the age of twenty-one. According to statistics on teen mothers, by now my daughter should have had a slew of kids by different men and my son should have dropped out of high school and be currently imprisoned for numerous drug offenses. Not! My daughter graduated from college last year with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and my son is college studying Communications. My children watched me work for various corporations who paid me very little money and proudly watched when I walked across the stage at the age of thirty-five to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with honors.
But I realize that you people probably do not know too many Black people personally so when you chose to discuss them amongst your constituents, you like to use tired, worn-out stereotypes about them. According to you, Blacks have no work ethic and like taking baths in the piles of food stamps they receive on a monthly basis. Blacks have been in this country since 1619 and still have not made any progress although White people have given them everything! What is wrong with these trifling Black people?
And the Black folks who espouse this same rhetoric really need to be ashamed of themselves. Do you really believe that taking on the customs of your oppressor against your own people is really going to benefit you at all? Do you really believe that downing poor Black people is going to get you a seat at that fabled table of white supremacy along with a steak and lobster dinner? Nope because you are traitor and all you are going to get is crumbs because that is what these people look at you as: a filthy crumb. No matter how white your neighborhood is, how well you speak, how well you “blend” in, you are still considered a Negro and you cannot run from blackness.
It is very easy for you and your kind to sprout these words, snugly enveloped in your cloak of White privilege and Black Self-Hatred but what you do not realize is that although Blacks were freed from chains of slavery, they were never made equal, financially or mentally. Throughout the years, American society had every opportunity to make amends to African-Americans by giving them same economic advantages as Whites, but it never happened because that would mean Blacks would be on the same economic playing field as Whites and that is a no-no.
It is funny how you people like to blame the media for everything wrong in your world but the media in all actuality is your best friend. The media, owned by the ruling class, has played a major role in distorting views about social economics by pretending the ruling class does not exist and poor Blacks are the dregs of society. The media with its ‘magic’ can make the historical legacy of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow laws vanish by pretending it is their fault that they are poor. By doing this, upper and middle-classed Americans learn to fear and loathe poor Blacks and refuse to make the connection between systematic racism and high poverty levels amongst African-Americans.
The dominant culture has succeeded in making African Americans subhuman to other groups, who passively accept these bigoted views. In your speeches, in the media, and on the Internet, the message that you and others have given is to degenerate Black people at all costs and to keep poor working-class Whites in a constant tizzy about the advantages given to them.
Clueless white folks and brainwashed black folks, I feel sorry for you and wonder what you would do if Blacks did not exist in this country. Race and class was socially constructed for the advancement of Whites and the making up of a social class of poverty-stricken African-Americans who could be blamed for everything wrong in society. Take away the pretensions, the feelings of superiority that comes with having the “right” skin color and people like you in this society would be lost. No more scapegoats to blame and you would have to face up to the fact that you have no plans for making the economic system in America more equal. But it is easier to blame Blacks who, unlike your ancestors, had no choice when they were brought to this country as chattel and broodmares to make the lives of the ruling class easier.
Kathy M. Henry