Gene Marks, a contributing writer for Forbes magazine who pens pieces about the business of technology, has been receiving much deserved attention about an article he wrote entitled “If I Were a Poor Black Kid.”
During a recent speech, President Obama used a choice quote, which Marks has reimagined:
“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.”
Marks uses that quote as his backdrop in his article, examining the plight of poor black children living in ghettos, putting himself in their shoes and often starting off sentences saying “If I was a poor black kid.”
But here’s what irks me, as it did many who’ve read Marks article: the grand sweeping generalizations and broad strokes in his observations.
He describes himself as a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background with an easy life.
“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 much harder. In 2011.”
Not only is Mark wrong, but poverty has no race attached to it. He shouldn’t presume to know the situation of anyone, especially children.
Marks goes on to make more sweeping statements:
“I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed. Still. In 2011. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia…
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 poor black kid I’d use the free technology available to help me study by using Google Scholar. I’d visit study sites like SparkNotes and CliffsNotes to help me understand books. I’d watch relevant teachings on Academic Earth, TED and the Khan Academy.
If I was a poor black kid I would get technical. I would learn software. I would learn how to write code. would seek out courses in my high school that teaches these skills or figure out where to learn more online. I would study on my own. I would make sure my writing and communication skills stay polished.”
Marks spits out his advice as if it’s easy, his main argument is that the opportunities are there and technology is a vital tool.
Taking a page out of Marks’ logic, let us flip the script so I can become a rich white man.
So if I was a rich white man I would go to downtrodden neighborhoods around the country and tell all the teenage drug dealers, stick-up kids and hustlers to come hang with me on my yacht, private jets and luxury cars.
I’d take them all around the world, buy them anything they want, feed them the best food they’ve ever eaten and when it was all done, drop them back in their hoods, throw them the deuces sign and never see them again.
That’s right; I would dangle the luxuries of life in front of their face and snatch it away from them like a mother would a bottle from a baby. Because even though they know great things are out there in the world, it doesn’t mean they can’t get access it themselves.
So they should dust the ghetto dirt off their shoulders and go fulfill their dreams, because it’s that easy for poor black kids.