I don’t have time go give Gene Marks’ asinine column the kicking around I’d like to. Suffice to say that if you’re white, you probably don’t want to write a column on what you’d do if you were a poor black child. It’s not going to end well.
If you do want to read a nice, thorough, and well-written takedown, may I direct you to Elon James White’s piece over at The Root? Because it’s full of win, and touches on what I think is the most important thing to remember about Marks’ post:
Now, in the midst of this overall attack on poor black children, Mr. Gene Marks comes along as an ignorant wolf wearing “I just want to help those poor Negroes!” clothing. Mr. Gene isn’t trying to be condescending or anything. He just wants to postulate the best way to fix poor Negro children, is all.
This isn’t him being an ass — this is simply what he might do as a middle-class, middle-aged white dude if all of a sudden he were attacked by Voldemort, a spell was cast and he was turned into a poor black child.
He just wants to give some advice to the poor black children … in Forbes magazine.
That’s reasonable, right?
We Negroes are familiar with this particular brand of help. The #WhiteLove™ style of caring. Movies love to show how, when a white person with an open mind shows up and deals with poor blacks, their lives aremagically changed. As I read this piece, I sighed to myself and mumbled, “White liberals.”
Yup. It’s “Nice White Lady” syndrome — the idea that if only those poor black kids understood the value of hard work and book learning, why, they’d all be rich! And who better to explain it to them than a white person — there being no African Americans who understand learning or work.
Even when it’s delivered with the best of intentions, it’s obnoxious and offensive. When it’s delivered, as Marks did, with utter cluelessness (hey, poor kids, buy computers!), it goes up to the next level.
White people? We can empathize with African Americans, but we can’t really understand what it’s like to be black in America, because we aren’t. As always, we need to talk less and listen more. Which is why I strongly recommend you read all of White’s article.