If I Were A Rich, Privileged White Kid

What would I do? I have no idea. Which is exactly what Forbes should have concluded before proffering advice to poor black kids.

It takes more than being a concerned, outside observer to have the expertise to offer solutions; it takes ongoing, direct engagement with those living the experience. And lest you think this response is just a knee-jerk reverse-racist reaction, being white does not necessarily disqualify you as an expert on the life and challenges of poor black children. There are white people who’ve spent extended time (as in years and decades, not hours and days) in black communities, talking and working with the parents, teachers, schools administrators and others who order the steps and shape the lives of poor black kids. They live and/or work in black communities, serving and mentoring such kids and getting to know their families and circumstances. Apparently, Marks is not one of them. As I read his post, I kept waiting for Marks to share evidence of expertise on urban education, or public education in general. To share the experiences that make it even remotely credible that he has the slightest idea of what it means to be a poor black child. To talk about the actual work he’s personally done to put the “solutions” he offers in his post to the test.

I have an opinion of what I think a child of a wealthy white family needs in order to become a well-rounded, productive, exceptional citizen. But I suspect that my experiences and knowledge (as a former poor black kid with an absent father, raised on public assistance by an under-educated, young, single mother of four) no more qualifies me to provide expert advice on that topic than Mark’s knowledge and experiences have prepared him to weigh in on this one.

On the other hand, I know about being a poor black kid, because I used to be one, raised on the Jersey shore not far from the West Philadelphia neighborhoods that are home to the black kids Marks purports to advise. As a father of three children educated at public schools in Brooklyn, I am intimately familiar with the obstacles facing resource-starved black kids. If Marks wanted an idea of what poor black kids need to succeed, he could have asked me. Better yet, he could have talked to Harlem Children’s Zone’s CEO Geoffrey Canada, Eagle Academy Foundation CEO David Banks or Capital Preparatory Magnet School Principal Steve Perry and other people who’ve made it their mission to help poor black kids succeed academically and beyond.

Which brings up another question: What was Marks really trying to accomplish with his article? Who is he really talking to? If Marks really intended to provide helpful advice to poor black kids—and the parents who want the best for them as passionately as he does for his kids—is Forbes really the right media platform to reach them, or to reach the people who live and work where they live? Poor black kids aren’t helped by web links and advice in blogs on media platforms they and their parents would never read (as if Forbes had the slightest interest in black communities and the people who live in them, rich, poor or otherwise). They need live, demonstrated, engagement and personal involvement from the people offering the solutions. Absent that, this post reminds me of the words of the great philosopher James Brown: “Like a dull knife, just ain’t cuttin.’ Just talkin’ aloud, and saying nothin’.”

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  • Lucinda

    Speechless by the choice of words he used “poor”. Thank you for the rebuttal I think I may have to tackle this one as well from a mom perspective….

    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Lucinda, Loved your response to Gene Marks. Thanks for sharing the link to this post on your blog and with your Twitter followers!

    • Big Bill

      Let me translate.

      1. Black kids, there ain’t a damn thing a white man can teach you, so just don’t listen. If his skin is white he don’t know you and he don’t have nothing to teach you.

      2. White people, there ain’t a damn thing you can teach black folks so just keep your mouth shut (but send us your checks). We know best what black folks need, not you.

      • Airborne

        Wow – great grammar Big Bill. You truly impressed the masses.

      • Senatobia

        Wow Bill, assuming big isn’t brain size!! So what if it was a rich, privileged black kid? Jerk…hey, keep that hate going! I wish you had a picture so we could see what the face off a true racist looks like! Funny though, wouldn’t be the face of a white person, it would be the true color of who keeps racism alive in the U.S.A. I’m sure you make you’re parents so proud!

    • Ken Brown

      I am white and grew up dirt poor in an all white society and was discriminated against because of being poor. I lived in the country in a three room shack where I had to lug water year round and use an outhouse in the summer and below zero temperatures in the winter.

      My step father was an abusive alcoholic and was gone half the time. We had no cell phones, X-boxes, cars and ate oatmeal or cornmeal mush three meals a day until my mother could afford more food.

      I am sick and tired of black and white people talking about being held back. Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordon, Chris Rock (a racist) and every professional black athlete in America are multi –millionaires which I will never be and I am white.

      What are they doing to help their down trodden brothers and sisters to stop the drug addiction and gang bang killings in the streets every day “. Answer nothing.

      What has Obama, Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton done for you . Answer nothing. What have they done for themselves? Answer everything at your expense.

      I am not rich but I worked my way out of poverty by serving my country and working my way through college working hard and being honest.

      Big wake –up call not all white people are rich, not all white people are racists, there are racist black people, and not all black people are poor.

      • Robert

        Ken, I am a black man and I agree that not all blacks are poor. But what many white people fail to realize is that it takes more effort for me to succeed than it does for you. There was a research study done a few years ago and the study indicated that it was easier for a white felon to get a higher paying job than a black college graduate. That is the reality that we live in and whether we like it or not, people tend to be comfortable in the in their own skin. The mire fact that you are white allows you to be exposed to opportunities that many blacks have to fight harder to obtain. I am not racist nor do I believe that you are racist, but the reality is that race does matter.

        • DanAz

          “the study indicated that it was easier for a white felon to get a higher paying job than a black college graduate.”
          I’d like to see that study and it’s validation. I work with many college graduates of many colors, creeds, sects, etc…, none of whom would have a snowballs chance in hell as a felon. Without the conviction, the doors are open where I work. And we don’t have quotas, bias councils, or any other “great ideas” to offset equality. My perception is we teach too many of our children that the quality. or quantitiy, of their excuses determines their future. Unfortunately, that only applies at the state/federal assistance office. Out where they pay cash for work done, excuses affect success a whole lot less than tangible results.
          If we teach our children that success is based primarily on external issues we will continue to cripple them in the competitive market place. EQUALITY BEGINS WITHIN

          • LivinginVA

            The researcher was Devah Pager. The title “The Mark of a Criminal Record”. Although it seems to be talking about “service jobs”, not high-paying ones. Either way, it’s a pretty eye-opening statistic.

        • Senatobia

          Oh please, talk about an excuse for life! So how’s this! I’m a woman, which makes me a minority & as a woman, we get even less than BLACKS, have to work harder than them too…unless they are women too. What a crock. Blacks are what keeps the racism going, don’t like it…change it! Stop holding on to bs that happened 150 yrs ago. You are responsible for you! I grew up poor, no one ever gave me anything….the difference, I was willing to work for it, no matter what that took. (ie waitress, cna, secretary, etc) If I had to shovel dog poo to make money to feed my kids, I would. Unfortunately, majority isn’t like that..thinks their too good. Wants to be unskilled & be paid CEO wages, & if not, just won’t work cause beneath them. Be responsible for yourself!! Stop looking & using excuses for bad behavior!! If you are grown, act like it!!!!!

  • The Insane Asylum (Mr. Chap)
    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Dude, Your response is so WRONG–and absolutely HILARIOUS!!!!! LOLOLOL I guess TV is not really the best place to learn about middle-aged white guys, huh? LOL Thanks for sharing!

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  • Leah D. Gordon

    THANK YOU for your rebuttal! One of my first thoughts about the Marks article was in your last paragraph: “Why Forbes?” If Marks’ intention was to show interest in the “poor black kid” demographic, again I ask “Why Forbes?”

    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thank you, Leah. Marks choosing to share his advice through Forbes is the biggest head scratcher of this whole debacle. I’ve yet to hear an answer to the question, “Why Forbes?”

  • Gerard Head

    Great Article Alfred!

    • Alfred Edmond, Jr.

      Thanks, Gerald!

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  • Jemal Aikman

    A white man will never be able to know what it feels like to be a poor black kid in this world or the next.
    Great article. – @Achosendesign

  • Harold

    I will admit, Mark’s comes off as very clueless in his article. Nevertheless, he does make good points, although I can only see them being useful to those with a lot of luck. I’d say that this article could probably be useful to kids who don’t know about Project Gutenberg and these other resources. Take the best and leave the rest. If a “poor black kid” stumbles upon the article while searching for this label of theirs and they happen to learn about a resource they didn’t know about, then good!

  • Connie

    Good article ! Hey, I remember this picture (Aunt Louise) smile!

  • James

    Maybe Forbes wanted people like you to read the article and use the info to assist kids who are begging for help?

  • Jay

    This article really ticks me off. I’m so sick and tired of black people using their race as a crutch to whine and cry about not being able to better themselves. I was a poor, white child who lived in extreme POVERTY in one of the poorest counties in Michigan. The public school I went to was nowhere near a top school. I finished high school and worked 60 to 70 hours a week in a restaurant until I decided I wanted more. I went back to school with federal grants (also available to black people) and when that ran out, I took out loans (also available to black people), and continued working 60 to 70 hours a week to support myself while I studied 17 credit hours a semester. Don’t tell me that you can’t make it in this world if you want to. If you are willing to work for it, anyone can do it even if it means working at McDonald’s to work your way through school. Get off your butts, black and white people, and work for what you want instead of expecting everything to be handed to you while you sit back and enjoy the ride. Success takes work!

    • Nihilicious

      You. Aren’t. Black.

      • CountryClubber

        THANK GAWD

        • Kindasparkly

          yeah sorry that was rude, but how does that comment pertain to his post. Case and point- change your mentality.

  • TheOtherJay

    @Jay….Umm did we read the same article? What are you ranting about? Nowhere in this article did the author blame Whites for being poor and Black! Nowhere. He stated that he was a former poor Black kid. He listed several educators that have extensive knowledge about poor Black children. He gave his opinion that the Forbes contributor was not exactly qualified to speak on the topic of Black children due to his limited interaction with the subjects in his article. Not once did he say “Whoa is me” or “blame whites”. Not once! 1) Learn how to read with comprehension. 2) Stop looking for code words in articles and then blindly ranting about your disgust with Black people. 3) Don’t lump all Black people into one category based on what you read, hear on the radio, or see on television. 4)Don’t believe the hype. All Blacks aren’t on welfare or blaming the “system”. Plus, there are tons of people of ALL races collecting checks and blaming the system.

  • Nihilicious

    You don’t need advice for “If I was a rich, privileged white kid.” That’s like, asking, “I’m tall dark and handsome with a 10″ c***, how can I meet women?”

  • stopwiththewhingeingalready

    Speaking as a former poor black kid from West Africa who was once hospitalized with malnutrition (malaria actually, but compounded by malnutrition), I say, quit with the whingeing already. I never saw a computer working until I came to Europe as an adult. I arrived in England with hand luggage and an address. I learnt mainly by spending a lot of time in the public library. After working in hotel kitchens and clerical jobs, I got into a top university. I took a masters degree. I got into the tech industry. I moved from the bottom decile to the top decile in just a few years.

    A relative of mine was born in Africa, went to high school in the US, went through a gifted education program, got into a top university, became a medical doctor.

    Schools in the US, even in the poorest inner city areas, are extremely well resourced compared to what many of us who grew up in the third world experienced. (In my case, most of the buildings were corrugated zinc huts, there was electricity, but it was intermittent, water came from a standpipe, and most teachers had no teaching qualifications — at least one of my teachers had just finished high school himself.)

    I don’t believe lack of resources is the problem. If it were, then immigrants from the Third World (like me) or from Eastern Europe would do much worse when they arrived in the Rich West than is the case.

    • Kindasparkly

      You are exactly the type that this and any country needs- someone with drive and determination. Congrats to you for overcoming all that you did, you’re an inspiration to everyone regardless of race.

  • pammmmmm

    stopwiththewhingeingalready I admire you very much! We need more people like you to give us an encouraging boost! 🙂

  • MaD_dOG

    Interesting. You toss away Marks’ advice without evaluating it’s effect because he’s rich and white and doesn’t know anything about being black.

    You offer no solutions or recommendations other than “including some links” of your own. You were poor and black. Now you’re not poor. Where’s YOUR attempt to help our struggling children?

    Telling our community to ignore Marks’ suggestions because he doesn’t look like us, or come from our background is ridiculous. Who should our children listen to… poor black folk? Like Dave Ramsey says, “Don’t take financial advice from a broke person.”

    Black underachievement in our educational system is a HUGE problem. Was there nothing of value in Marks’ article? I tell my children to seek out and model themselves after successful people; at school, church, and in our community. They are successful for a reason. Find that reason and make it your own. I never tell them to first see if the person is a man or a woman, white, black, Asian, or something else. Focus on the success.

    I fond your analysis to be so much whining, with no solution offered. Too many of our leaders already fill that need.

  • Michael

    If you want to be treated like a white person, then speak, dress, and act like a normal person in society. If you come into my office with baggy jeans, untied tennis shoes, speaking in an unintelligent manor and with an attitude that says “I don’t care”, then I will toss your application into the trash the moment the door shuts. You cannot look or sound like the fringe of society and then complain that you are overlooked by that society.

  • Kindasparkly

    In all seriousness check out the article about the homeless girl who just got into Harvard. No one is saying go to Harvard- heck go to a community college and get good enough grades to transfer. Do anything but quit whining about no one doing anything for you. It can be expensive, so take out loans like I did to pay for my four year college education.  Use the resources that are available. Public libraries have all the tools any student needs.  And whatever happened to parents playing a role. Now its all underpaid teachers who have to do your parenting for you? Are they supposed to follow your kid home and make sure their homework is done, too?  My parents were instrumental in teaching me good habits when it came to school, and by the time I got to high school they never had to say a word to me because I knew how important the work was.  Not everyone gets to be a CEO, or even considered “rich”.  Some of us are happy that we are able to support our families.  I’m a single mother of two girls, I work as a nurse and I dont receive any child support or public assistance.  I’m not entitled to anything except for that which I earn. I made it work, because in my mind it was never an option not to.  Its the mentality that needs to change here- act like no one will ever do anything for you so you know how to do for yourself.

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