This weekend I was kicking it with my little niece at what is supposed to be the happiest place in A-merry-ca, and bits and pieces of things went down to inspire my next rant.
The first thing that moved me was kind of obvious: I saw all those happy families in Disney with even happier children. Sadly, (and most of you who have been to Disney World will vouch for this) there were not a whole lot of families of color there. Well, not my color. There were, relatively speaking, quite a few Asian families; and Indian families; and yes, even quite a few Latino families. But not a lot of us. Why is that? Field, Disney is expensive, our people can't afford that kind of disposable income. But why? Why can families from other races---even those who traditionally have less disposable income than we do--- afford to go and take their children, yet we can't? I know the shit is expensive, I just blogged about it. But even if it was half the money pit that it is, would you see us there?
The next thing that inspired this post was an article I was reading from the Orlando Sentinel while flying home this morning. It was, in essence, a book review of William Julius Wilson's new book, "More Than Just Race" which dealt primarily with urban poverty in A-merry-ca and its root causes. The premise of the book is that poverty is caused primarily by "structural" and not "cultural" factors. Wilson writes in his book that it's institutions that are most responsible for poverty, and not the culture of poor people. Although, he argues, that "persistent" poverty does have many causes, he ultimately concludes that structural causes are "far more important" than cultural ones. (I will get back to that in a minute.)
And the final thing that moved me to do this post was watching Boondocks late one night from my hotel room long after the little one was fast asleep. The brilliant episode called "The Itis" was in full effect. You remember that one don't you? Where Huey's Grandpa opens a restaurant called "The Itis" and soon everyone is hooked on the soul food and invariably the "Itis" sets in. (Every one of you Negroes reading this know exactly what the "itis" is, so don't front. )
So let me connect all these dots by first commenting on the lack of us at places like Disney World. Here it is in a nutshell: Black men still do not understand the negative financial impact of fathering multiple children with different women. I see it every day here in Philly. Brothers with very good paying jobs, making good money, but getting little of it because of their child support obligations to different families. We don't build. We don't understand that marriage is good not only for our emotional and physical well being, but it can be good for our financial well being as well.
It's not rocket science; marry one woman, have children with her and concentrate all of your wealth into one household. Mommy works, daddy works, and the children are all better off in the long run. Why? Because all of daddy's pay check is coming into one home. Daddy can focus all of his attention---not to mention his financial resources---on those children. Little Jamal will be off to college, and hopefull he will be able to repeat the cycle one day.
And this is where I take some exception with Julius Wilson's book. Yes, poverty is caused partly by both the structures in place and our culture. But I don't think that the structural reasons are "far more" as he would suggest. For whatever reason, as I mentioned above, too many of our men have fallen into this mind set that it's cool to walk away from our baby mamas. Hey, we all enjoyed being single and living the single life, and for those of you who still want to go that route by all means go at it. But live the single life without fathering children you won't be there for. That shit is not cool and it contributes to poverty.
Just like certain habits [plural] that we have. (This is where Boondocks come in.) I know the "Itis" episode took it to the extreme, but are there any among us who do not believe that our dietary habits are seriously messed up and that it causes us all kinds of problems? All the civil rights in the world won't stop us from killing ourselves with the shit that we eat. We fought to sit at the lunch counters and when we ordered our meal it was shit that could kill us faster than anything the white man did to us ever could. We can't build wealth when we are spending half of our time and all of our money in the hospital fighting shit like diabetes, high blood pressure and all kinds of heart deceases . That shit is cultural, and it's just one of the things in our culture that we might want to consider rethinking.
So yes, institutions, for the most part, are not blameless for our condition, but we have to take responsibility as well. I won't be as hard on us like my man AI has been in the past, because I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. But far too many of us have lost sight of what is really important in life: building wealth for our future generations and putting something away for them when we are no longer here. And, in the end, taking care of our bodies so that we can be around long enough to see them enjoy some of the fruits of our labor. (But field, if the institutions and the structures in place are working against us, how are we going to have wealth to build with in the first place?) They might be working against us, but they haven't stopped us from building something. Let's start with what little we have and then we can start bitching a little more about the institutions and the "structures" that are in place, if they happen to prevent us from building our wealth.
What's the title of that old Billy Preston song?