In a Presidential Election year, it’s important we all discuss, understand and get involved. It’s irresponsible not to have a view when so much of our future is at stake. The popular vote is divided down the middle, where many are unwilling to see the other side of the story. It is my pleasure to highlight a unique viewpoint from an old friend. Hope you gain some perspective, no matter which side of the party line you are on. Having perspective makes everything better. S
I’m going to tell you a little secret, which is rarely spoken in the African American community. There are some of us who live in fear because we went to college, found good jobs, and do not fully support President Obama. Because I am black, everybody just assumes that I support him. Although I think he is a magnificent orator who is much more entertaining than all others, the fact of the matter is that I do not support his policies that expand the ever growing powers of government. I’m sorely disappointed by the racial and socio-economic divide he has perpetuated since coming to office.
In an earlier post Sam asked, “Why Isn’t President Obama Considered White To The World?” The reason is, he doesn’t speak of or identify with a full 50% of his ethnic heritage. He says he’s black and that’s that. Forget about his Caucasian mother and her heritage. He is one of us, and no matter what, my community has to support him. He’s deemed courageous because he denounces his white half. As someone who is majority black, there’s no way I can go against him.
I knew after reading Sam’s post that I had to speak about my consternation as a black woman in America today. Perhaps I can clear up some misconceptions that not everything is as “black and white” as it seems. I hope you’ll spend the time to read my story and share your thoughts below.
GROWING UP IN THE SOUTH
I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia with my mother and two younger brothers. My mother worked at the shipyard as an assistant and my father left us when I was 8 years old. She made around $28,000 a year and sometimes up to $30,000 with over time. She never went to college and knew she would never make much more.
The three of us lived in a cramped two bedroom, one bathroom apartment downtown. The boys shared one room, and my mother and I shared the other. We never found our living situation awkward since that’s all we knew. One evening, my mother came home crying because her manager had insulted her in front of her co-workers. I guess my mother forgot to send a fax, or it never went through. I didn’t get the details nor did I want to pry. All I did know was that she was so sad and said she never wanted to go back. We talked for hours until she finally fell asleep on her side with stained tears on her neck.
The next morning, my mother got up as she always did and put on her clothes to go to work. I only had one eye open, and she was smiling at me. “What momma?“ I asked her.
“I‘m thankful I have a job and no matter how bad it seems, it makes me so happy that I’m able to take care for you and your brother,” she responded. And then she left.
I was in the 10th grade at the time and knew then that I was going to college no matter what. There was no way I was going to let my mother take any more abuse. I was determined to go to college, graduate and take care of her. She’d be 55 by then.
MY GREATEST FEAR
Six years later, I graduated from The College of William & Mary with a Bachelor’s degree in Business and joined one of the big accounting firms in Washington DC. I was able to get a scholarship for half my tuition and I paid for the rest myself. While my wealthier friends went overseas for the summer, I worked those two and a half months at a Williamsburg diner along with taking some classes.
Half of my friends back in Norfolk never went to college, and decided to be assistants at the shipyard like my mother or go to vocational school. Many of them decided to be hair dressers come to think of it. They are still there a decade later and have families of their own. Every time I go back, they complain about how good the wealthy have it and how difficult it is to find a good job and make money. A quarter of my friends are unemployed or underemployed.
They voted for President Obama because they believed he would take care of them. After all, he is one of us, and we take care of our own. Obama became their crutch and as a result, they didn’t bother to further their education. My girlfriends didn’t feel it necessary to take command of their own lives. Motivation evaporated like our high school dreams.
My friends growing up believed in President Obama and didn’t even bother to understand his policies. I fear that millions of African Americans feel the same way. Because of incredible government social welfare, there is little or no incentive to break free from poverty. When you can live off $28,000 a year feeding three kids, and the government offers up a similar amount year without having to work, it’s very hard to get motivated.
I’m a principal now at my accounting firm and my mother no longer has to work, but she still does. Instead of working at the shipyard, she’s working at a local non-profit organization to help teach kids about the importance of education. I am in the income level that President Obama targets as wealthy to have their income taxes raised. Even though I know that Obama’s desire is to raise more money from me to help support my very own people back in Norfolk, I don’t believe my money will ever reach them. There is no empowering the lower income by redistributing other people’s wealth.
Instead, I will gladly give my own money and time directly to the people I care about most. The more government entitlements we get, the more we don’t want to work. These government entitlements are keeping my entire community down and I am mad. We are never going to end the cycle of poverty in the lower income community if we keep getting subsidized for just living.
You might not see people like me, but there are many professional African Americans who earn a decent living and started with very little. We never thought we had a government safety net. Instead, we walked the tight rope with no safety net because we knew that we’d rather starve than be stuck in our small towns earning minimum wages. We worked hard, day and night, practicing failure in order to succeed. We crossed the line and don’t ever want our kids to go through the sense of entitlement and fear.
IT’S OK TO HAVE YOUR OWN OPINIONS
Because of our race, and the race of our President, we must assume the roll of Obama supporters and never share any thoughts that diverge. We live in fear because we will be ostracized by our community. Yet slowly, we see people like Condoleezza Rice and lesser known politician Mia Love step out and tell us their stories. If Mia can come from Haiti and grow up in poverty to become the Mayor of Saratoga Springs in Utah, then perhaps anything is possible.
Let me be clear. Of course we want President Obama to be the greatest President America has ever known. None of us ever thought a black person would become President in our lifetimes. However, with more divide in our country than I have ever experienced, Obama needs to stop pitting groups against each other and focus more on improving the economy. The social issues for debate are none of any party’s business.
The best thing we can do to help our community is to show them there is something at the end of the rainbow. I want to stomp out poverty and I don’t want people to suddenly fall through the cracks thanks to a sudden shutoff in government funds. There has to be a measured approach to direct efforts towards opportunity. Growing the government and increasing welfare is like a slow drip of morphine administered intravenously. It feels good in the beginning, but eventually we become hooked and can no longer live without it. While we stay attached to our feed, the world passes us by.
Photo: Mia Love, Wikipedia.
Readers, why is the 2012 Presidential election so racially divided? Why weren’t there more minorities at the Republican National Convention?
I’ll be publishing a completely different perspective of my own in an upcoming post. S.