2008-10-13

The Sell Out Syndrome: Why Success In Black America Is A Soul Killer


We all know that in America they way whites obtain success and black people obtain success are two different things. Hard work, nepotism, social class, and white privilege are keys to white success. For black people it is hard work, advanced education, more experience, few or no mistakes in their career, and sheer luck.

Some blacks manage to get ahead. Some do it by assimilating into "mainstream culture", some manage to just work hard and move ahead, but for every black that manages to get ahead, there are others who never seem to make it. Lack of opportunities due to social class, educational opportunities, and the realization that to make it is almost impossible in some instances, keep many from succeeding.

When you do succeed, you still fail, because for all your hard work, and your ability to make it, there is going to be some who didn't make it who feel you turned your back on them. Black people are the only race of people who expect a person to become successful to "keep it real". The problem is that sometimes "keeping it real" goes wrong.

You can't expect someone to leave the ghetto to go to school, and then come back to the same damn ghetto and succeed. If you surrounded yourself with people in high school whose ambition in life it was to sling dope on the streets, you can't go back to that and do well. If your neighborhood was filled with men who hang out in front of the liquor store all day, you can't come back to that and do well. St. Ides is not going to help keep your brain cells in tact. So you can't kick it with the boys who drink St. Ides all day long. The only thing you can do is help those who don't do that. You can show a high school student the steps needed to take to get into college or vocational school, because their school won't or their parents just don't know. You can tell a elementary and middle school students the importance of an education, and what to do and where to go if they are struggling, or their parents can't or won't help them. You can tell some of those liquor store men about Job Corps and how to apply. You can tell families about resources available to them to help them get their loved one out of in front of the liquor store, but you cannot save everyone. You can only save those who want to be saved. To succeed, you cannot surround yourself with failure and negativity on a constant basis.

I hate to say this, but in this country we can't be exactly like white people and isolate ourselves into our own community. We need those white corporations, companies, and employers to get ahead until we can start our own businesses. I am not an advocate of isolation, but I do understand that in order to rebuild black communities, we need to look at forming successful black businesses, and right now we need to model ourselves after the traditional business model, and the only way to do that is to work for those companies, learn how they work, and then bring that back to the community. So yeah, we are going to have to "sell out" and go work for the white man so we can learn.

Another thing that irks me is if white people like a black person, that black person is automatically an Uncle Tom. Oprah can't help that white women love her. They like her because she doesn't seem like a threat. I think Oprah knows this, and she is knowing it all the way to the bank. One thing I will say is that Oprah sticks to her guns. She decided a long time ago she wasn't going to continue with the tabloid spin of her talk show when she first came out. Remember Oprah was the momma of the talk shows as we know them today, even Jerry Springer. Oprah used to be on par with the other talk shows. She used to have the KKK on her show spouting "white power". She had the black militants on her show as well. Did she let them duke it out on her show, let's keep it real, she still had some standards, but needless to say, she kept it a little trashy to keep up ratings. She hasn't had to go Jerry to keep her viewers, and the white woman loved has only recently waned, but think about it, we are 20 something years of the same show. She doesn't do a show to necessarily to appease them, if that was the case she would have had Sarah Palin on her show, instead she does shows that interest her, and let's face it over 20 years and several billions dollars more in worth, her interests have changed. I don't think Oprah has become a mammy to white woman, she is now showing her elevation in class, and sometimes she is out of touch. If I were a billionaire, I would dare say I might be a clad out of touch with the reality of the middle class on occasion as well. She has mammified the white women who love her, not become a mammy to them.

Living in the suburbs, the way you talk, managing to get out of a low income area, or never living in a low income area, becoming successful, and having white friends does not make you a sell out. What makes you a sell out is the mentality of thinking that you are somehow better than another person because you got lucky. Yes some people live in the ghetto because they are lazy, but take into consideration many or most aren't, and those that are lazy are dealing with generations of a mentality and surroundings that give them a sense of hopelessness. If you lose touch with humanity, that makes you a sell out.

Ultimately to become a success as a black person is almost a curse because you never ever truly fit in with your white co-workers and neighbors (they never forget about your blackness, and when they do, they actually notice it) and you don't fit in with the "down" black folk. You are on your own, hoping for the best.