Sunday, July 27, 2008

Keep Your Guilt...Give Me Your Black Berry

I don't want your guilt...I want your Black Berry!

It seems as if white guilt is a "free pass" card for many liberal whites. It allows some to hand out a hot dog at their church's "outreach" in the poor neighborhood but then leaving if none of the "underprivileged" join their youth group. White guilt doesn't serve any purpose except to make some white people feel good about themselves for not being racist. It doesn't level the playing field.

Yes, white people in America, whether their family was here at the very beginning or they are a recent European immigrant, have benefited from white privilege. The very essence of whiteness means access. It means opportunity. It means possibility in a country that is still so addicted to racism.

I don't want white people to feel guilty of the ease of their lives. I don't want them to hand a poor black person a $10 as they drive by in their Lexus, Mercedes, and BMWs. I want them to hand that poor black person their Black Berrys filled with all their contacts through prep school, college, graduate school, and business.

Keep your guilt, give me your contacts, your opportunities. White privilege is what allowed our president to be in the white house, it was his father's business connections that cleared the path to Republican power. The current Republican nominee boasts about being almost at the bottom of his class, his father and grandfather's connections as admirals in the United States Navy were used to get him into school, his wife's money and connections used to put him on the path to Republican Power. He and our president are "legacies." Many of the nation's prep schools and Ivy League institutions of higher learning have spots reserved for legacy admissions. It is affirmative action by any other name. Keep the guilt, give me the connections.

I thought of it this morning. I have my Masters of Business Administration. I am a full-time writer, organizer, mentor, and teacher as well as a mother. As an entrepreneur, I want access to the power brokers, the creditors, the bankers that determine the fate of business in America.

All the meetings at the golf course, at the Presbyterian all-white churches, the exclusive country clubs, and the ladies teas that happen out here in West County. I want the names casually whispered while sipping a cappuccino at Companion Bread Company on Clayton Road in Ladue. I want favorable rent and a storefront like the Lily Pulitzer and other designer stores catering to the uber-rich. Just a few hours with the Black Berrys and the connections.

Equal access and equal opportunity only serves to broaden the economic empowerment of entire classes of people. At some instances, white guilt is white privilege. Poor white people, rural white people don't feel guilty, they are in the same economic class as any poor urban black and brown people struggling through public schools. It is only the liberal (and I'm not picking on liberals, I am not a right-wing conservative) whites that have the luxury to think about their advantages due to race. The uber-rich whites, likely conservative, are not the ones meeting for coffee, discussing and unravelling the lessons from Tim Wise or Michael Eric Dyson. It is their very luxury to think about it that also gives them the responsibility to do something about it.

Keep the hot dogs and notebook handouts, they are not where the real wealth and opportunity lie. They are just used to assuage white guilt and prevent black and brown protest. Put the same, shiny Mac books in the hands of every urban and rural middle school student. Hire the same tutors for every high schooler. Offer free SAT and ACT prep to every high school student. Enroll the capable black, brown, and poor white students in Algebra, Physics, and French, don't just reserve those for the "gifted" - code for the rich kids. Let's not have a Long Beach school where the honors English class is filled with white kids and the other English classes are filled with black and brown kids who don't have new books (as depicted in Freedom Writers). Remove the metal detectors and police from the urban schools and fill them instead with some of the white liberals who have businesses, connections, and capital. Teach entrepreneurship and opportunity. Give every kid the full set of new, updated books, new gymnasiums, full libraries, computer labs, qualified teachers, and dedicated volunteers. Truly level the playing field.

Give black women and brown women the same respect the white, feminists women receive. Echoing Sojourner Truth, "ain't I a woman?" The CNN "Black in America" propaganda piece tended to lean on the side of either the tragic mulatto or professional single black woman who couldn't get a man or the morale-lacking Jezebel single mother, full of stereotypes. White women have children out-of-wedlock and have the connections to either adopt them out or the health care to get abortions. Or are in the same position as poor black women, trying to wade through America on minimum wage, lack of adequate child care, lack of access to quality health care, lace of privilege. Give the connections, keep the hype. Level the playing field.

Black and brown business owners want real access to the Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus, Toastmasters, and every other club that makes it possible for white businesses to succeed. Give the same access to capital and investors. Advertise in black and brown owned publications, get rid of the "Non-Urban Dictate" and spread around the marketing dollars, hire black and brown professionals, level the playing field and then let the game be played fairly.

White guilt only serves white people. It allows some white people to sit around and talk about how bad they feel for the poor blacks, whites, and browns while going home to million dollar mansions. Keep the guilt, it is not what is needed in 2008. Tim Wise talks about white privilege a lot. He doesn't do it to make white people guilty, he does it to make white people aware.

In my little town, there are no black teens working in any of the small businesses downtown, despite "help wanted" signs. Many of the black teens have put in multiple applications to even chain restaurants, still no black kids hired. Keep the guilty feelings, take action, and open the door to opportunity. Black and brown and poor white people can't take anything from the rich, they won't deny a white child an opportunity or any of the other arguments used against equal opportunity.

One day, in my lifetime, I truly want to see an America where the fields that are ripe for harvest are open for all to go out and pick what they want. Opportunity, for all. No, I don't want your guilt...give me your Black Berry.

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