So let’s get this straight, Gene Marks (and by extension, Forbes magazine) really thought he was helping when he posted his ‘If I were a poor black kid?’ piece? Because its facetious tone came across as the clueless musings of a guy who’s full of himself.
The structural inequalities facing young black kids face--or poor children of any race--will never be remedied through an ill-advised and preposterous tutorial of bookmarking Web sites like Cliffnotes or Khan Academy. Marks clownishly writes about what young black kids can do in a way that can only be categorized as bigoted and stereotypical.
And I’m not the only one with a negative reaction to the piece published Monday, readers across the Internet reacted and responded.
Dominion of New York, a New York City based black magazine wrote :
Now, it’s obvious that hard work, intelligence, and assistance from others are necessary to succeed. I grew up in a trailer in rural Alabama and I graduated from Stanford University. I am publishing this blog post at a start-up magazine that I founded with capital that I — along with my African-American husband, a Brown University graduate — saved from our wage earnings. We work hard and our families have always worked hard too (See slavery). The problem is that Marks seems to think it’s okay to require black kids to be “special” to “succeed.” I don’t.
Good magazine weighed in as well:
You find this sort of thing a lot among the white, moneyed, conservative set: "If only blacks and Latinos would work harder, they'd be fine." I don't think Marks and people who think like that are malicious, but I'd love to ask them how best to focus on your studies when all you can think about is the very real possibility that your mother is being assaulted in the bedroom where you're supposed to find sanctuary at night. How best to prioritize learning to read rigorously over scheming to get home and be the man of the house in the stead of the father who left?
Imani Gandy, voice behind the Angry Black Lady Chronicles blog wrote:
Privilege and racism are embedded in the system, and grand statements like “Try harder! Get a computer (which a poor black kid likely can’t afford in the first instance)! Get into private school!” are offensive in their banality.
So Mr. Marks, the next time you want to opine about life as a poor black kid, just stop. You know nothing of growing up black. You know nothing of growing up poor. You know nothing of the systemic problems in education that result in many black kids, poor or otherwise, being left behind. It’s not a matter of just “trying super hard and really wanting to succeed.” Your assumptions are faulty, and frankly, you sound like a jackass. A well-meaning jackass, perhaps, but a jackass all the same.
What do you think, was Marks out of line or poorly dispensing some well-intentioned advice?
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