I am reminded of something I heard that was a version of something my mother often tried to instill in us:
It isn’t just low-paying, menial work. We call it opportunity.
Oh, how we tend to be ungrateful for what we have. In the Quran, God tells us that there are those who would settle for the crumbs that fall off the Master’s table, than to take a chance on the riches of heaven… When I see and hear my Black brothers put down and ridicule those who don “Lady Liberty” costumes to stand on street corners and dance for minimum wage, I cringe. I cringe for the Black man who is too prideful to “accept” work he deems unworthy of dirtying his hungry hands (are we ever really offered work?). I cringe for the Black men who pass up opportunities for “menial” work in order to “look” for jobs he will possibly never find, too proud to take whatever stepping stones line our path to success. I cringe for the children who must be fed by a government who finds them more valuable behind bars, feeding the extensive-but-lucrative Correctional/Penal system–or running behind a ball, or dancing and singing on a video, or making a fool of himself on some movie screen. I cringe for the Black men who would rather be unemployed than caught picking fruit or vegetables like a Mexican, or dancing on a street corner for Liberty Tax… but making money.
I cringe for the deaths of our uncles and fathers, and leaders, who died during the Civil Rights Movement, just so that it would illegal for a place like Liberty Tax to toss your resume in the trash, just because you’re a Black man. Yeah, a Black man too fucking proud to “take” work to feed yourself and your children. You call it humiliating; my mother called it opportunity. I cringe for the industries who make a fortune off our stupidity as a people: Liquor stores. Check Cashing places. Title loans. Bail Bondsmen. Auto detailing and tire rims. Pawn shops. Everything except tutoring centers and libraries. None of the industries feed our people; they only feed off us. And we make it so.
Our grandparents did whatever was necessary to feed our parents and send them to school. Our parents took low-paying jobs and made it work. To hell with the idea that back then housing prices were lower–our parents weren’t walking around with thousand dollar rims on their cars, living off of credit and trying to dress like celebrities. For some reason, OUR people have this idea that we should look good, whatever our budget. We will lie, cheat and steal–damn near–to buy these houses we can’t afford, to go on vacations we can’t afford, and dress nice along with our children–when we can’t afford it. We are the biggest people to live beyond our means and act like we are something we’re not. The Black man of yesterday, the REAL man, was something of a James Evans, of Good Times. He was a strong, but modest and loving man who tried his best to give his kids a good home. Even when that home was in the projects. He did not dress fancy, but his clothes were clean and well taken care of. He took pride in himself and in his children. He stuck by his woman to keep the family together, even when they failed to see eye-to-eye. He held his hat in his hands when he lost his job, because he would hear nothing of his woman getting on County benefits to feed the family. His wife knew her place (if that phrase pisses you off, then we need to talk a little, because I’m sure you have relationship problems) as his wife. She was tough, but yielding. She made sure the kids were always taken care of and fed, and that her man felt like, well, a man. She did not degrade herself to her husband. But when she disagreed, they hashed it out, and sometimes her man got his way–and sometimes she got her way. Being a strong, domineering man does not mean you don’t listen to your woman.
I mean, come on. The man worked in a car wash. If you found a brother working in a car wash, you wouldn’t know it by the clothes he wears and the car he drives, can I get an “Amen”? And many of you sisters wouldn’t give him the time of day, anyway! Our fathers took whatever kind of work they could find and if it wasn’t enough–most of the time it wasn’t–they had a second, and maybe even third, job to make ends meet. Our Dads dressed up sometimes, but they had no problem going to the mall with a white T-shirt with a gravy stain on it… to buy US designer clothing (that they could barely afford either). Both my mother and father had second jobs, and they were so strong with it, we didn’t realize we were “poor”.
Oh, if we could just understand this concept today.
In my last job, I saw young men who have children they often do not pay child support for. They are being garnished, and I must sign off on garnishments when payroll receives notice. Each time I had to counsel the employee to get their acknowledgement, I speak to them about taking care of the responsibility so that they could avoid more action. I hear the sorriest reasons why these brothers do not pay: “I can’t afford it” is the primary excuse. Ah, but you can afford a nice car, going to the club, weekly visits to the barber, your jewelry, etc. It’s a cop out. When you are looking at suffering and you’re a parent–it’s either the kids, or you. Guess who you chose.
We must do better. We have bills to pay, we have children to feed, we have families to support. We have to do whatever we must do to make that mission a success. If we can do that, and still manage to drive a nice car, purchase nice clothes and floss on Facebook–then do it. There are a plethora of reasons our people are not working: The job market sucks, racism and discrimination, those silly ass tattoos and piercings that you can’t seem to cover for the interview. But if it’s because you feel you can’t do certain jobs, like work fast food or dance for liberty tax, because it’s beneath you, how wrong you area. Look around you, my family. We are at the bottom of the barrel. Nothing is beneath us. Regardless of what kind of work it is, that glass ceiling is a platform you push with the assistance of any job.
Thank you for visiting my blog.