Forbes.com contributor Gene Marks wrote a silly post yesterday entitled “If I Was Were a Poor Black Kid.” (The original, incorrect grammar in the headline has since been corrected.) The basic premise of the post is that the solution to colored folks’ problems is for their progeny to do really, really well in school with the help of newfangled tools like Evernote and Khan Academy. (Oh, and Spark Notes. I’m sure English teachers did a collective facepalm reading that bit.) There are obvious issues with this simplistic take, but rather than waste my time outlining them all, I’ve highlighted a few responses.
The problem is that Marks seems to think it’s okay to require black kids to be “special” to “succeed.”
Kelly Virella, “If I Were the Middle Class White Guy Gene Marks”
If I was a rich white dude* I would first and most importantly work to make sure I actually saw what it’s like to live as a poor black kid myself before I wrote a condescending column about how we should solve “our” problems.
Jeff Yang, “Opinion: If I Were a Rich White Dude”
*Note: Yes, the grammar here is also wrong.
Update: I’ve come across even more great posts, below:
How in the world can this man create this checklist of things and not realize that he’s requesting that kids do something extraordinary simply to not continue to be in poverty: forget their surroundings.
Elon James White, “Why Forbes’ Column Crossed the Line”
It is comforting to believe that we, through our sheer will, could transcend these bindings–to believe that if we were slaves, our indomitable courage would have made us Frederick Douglass, if we were slave masters our keen morality would have made us Bobby Carter, that were we poor and black our sense of Protestant industry would be a mighty power sending gang leaders, gang members, hunger, depression and sickle cell into flight.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, “A Muscular Empathy”
If I were a rich white motivational speaker, I would first and most importantly make sure that I ignored all historical and social facts about the group of people I was addressing.
Jesse Taylor, “If I Were a Rich White Motivational Speaker”
Brown vs. Board of Education is the most misunderstood Civil Rights case of them all. This was NOT about integration, not about the chance to hold hands with white kids on the playground and attend the same classes. It was about black schools, black businesses and black neighborhoods given the EXACT SAME RESOURCES as their white counterparts, but that somehow got lost in the movement.
Chris Stevens, “Forbes article proudly parrots bootstrap mentality”
And from Twitter:
Writing a little ditty called "If I Were a Teenager in The Republic of Moldova" in response to Forbes' "If I Was a Poor Black Kid"
— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) December 13, 2011
#IfIWereAPoorBlackKid I'd still be smart enough to know that the Forbes piece sucked
— Al Brewquerque (@TheAbbabond) December 13, 2011
Just read that "If I were a poor black kid" http://t.co/8pa0U55i while many things he stated I actually did…Things just aren't that easy.
— TERRANCE ♛ (@SincereSounds) December 13, 2011