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“Poor” is a mindset, not a condition

I am not one to use the word “poor” when referencing someone’s financial status for reasons I consider pretty simple: being financially challenged—or broke, is temporary. The word “poor” reflects a deeper and embedded state that prevents the infiltration of hope or the pursuit of opportunity.

Unfortunately, the word is commonly used and has become synonymous with those who occupy urban areas and are often the brunt of disasters or social circumstances, and are then dependent upon the help of government entities or the general public’s kindness and generosity as we see playing out currently in Flint, Michigan with the water crisis.

Everyone wants to help the “poor” people in Flint. Constantly saying and repeating that title is almost as insulting as the crisis itself. It paints the picture of black, broken, hopeless and helpless, none of which are true in their totality. There are people of other races and cultures that live in Flint (and in conditions around the country that mirror those in Flint) and who are negatively impacted by the water debacle. They are human, have families and lives outside of just giving sound bites and providing photo opps to the endless news inquires of late.

Using the word “poor” makes for a better story, and fuels and helps to sustain the negative perception we have of those who may be in need, short or long term. It makes us feel bigger and maybe even better about giving but we’re doing so at the expense and exploitation of those we say we want to help.

To me, “poor” is a state of mind, not a socio-economic condition. Being economically challenged or broke is repairable; believing you are poor of spirit, opportunity and a solution is a psychological condition for which there is no cure. As we see, it can permeate generations and overshadow opportunities that would otherwise cure this ailment.

So if you want to do something to help others, who are in need, then do so without the title and leave the condescending and incorrect stigma behind.



The Message From Missouri

To the football team at the University of Missouri, I say thank you. Not just for standing up and speaking out for what you believed, but for delivering a lesson that has somehow fallen through the cracks since the height of the Civil Rights era. It’s the same formula that drove the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The lesson is powerful, albeit quite simple; Collective efforts and money matters. It’s really as simple as that. That is how change is made. The football team, which is undeniably the core and pride of the university, threatened to not play unless the university’s president resigned or was terminated because of racist remarks. Less than 24 hours after the demand, the president resigned. While he may have personally not given two-cents about the students or their demands, the university and those who run it recognized the collective and financial impact a “boycott” would have.

Nowhere was there a “hold out” player trying to talk the other team members out of their plans; no dissention in the ranks of the team or students of all races who supported or shared their view and demands. This is usually an undercut in many social efforts, as one or two “key” people are engaged to talk the others out of what they plan and believe.

And, there was a clear recognition by the football team of their worth. They realized their value and financial contribution, impact and apparent influence on the university. This is called leverage.

This is the lesson that all communities, but especially urban ones, should duplicate; Collective application and leveraging of worth. Period.

From stores with poor quality service and goods, to companies with a lack of diversity or sensitivity to increased levels of excellence and performance in schools; racial injustice and everything in between, it all could be positively swayed if and when folks stuck together to impact the bottom line.

The key is to be simple, organized and focused. Know what you want, and be willing to sacrifice something to get it. Realize your value and worth, and be willing to withhold it without compromise as a negotiating chip. Be willing to support a cause that may not impact you directly, but will certainly matter to your or someone else’s quality of life. We live in a society fueled by capitalism, and ears perk up when money talks. And, like it (or each other) or not we are all in this together.

It has long been said that the next era of change will be ushered in by our young people. Well, the University of Missouri football team has just kicked down the door.

Our Hypocrisy of Independence

By now, you’ve seen the viral video of the male sheriff’s deputy dragging the female high school student out of her desk and onto the floor. While the details are still emerging, the video shows undeniable excessive force in the situation. There are a lot of contrasts in this story: male/female; black/white; young/old; subordinate/superior. And, social media is arguing every angle, including the possibility of the student being insubordinate by not leaving the classroom when asked after being caught for trying to pull out her cell phone. Words like “disrespectful,” “no home training” and “ignoring authority” are being tossed around as though they somehow justify the attack. They do not.

I couldn’t help but to think back to my days in high school. I was raised what would socially be considered the “correct” way. I knew and practiced my manners, had respect for self and others, and was taught right from wrong. And, I was punished for doing the latter. But, I was also taught to think for myself, speak up and stand for what I believed. For that, I was supported by my parents even when I staged a walk-out in support of a teacher who I felt had been wrongly fired, and after a teacher called me a bitch for engaging other students to help a massive school activity. There was also the teacher who I felt just didn’t like me; he threw me out of class every day. When we met, my mother sided with the teacher, but I wasn’t admonished for having a different opinion.

But, things are different now. Instead of encouraging independent thinking and respectful opposition, our young people are admonished, beaten, arrested or killed when going against the grain of authority, even if and when that authority is wrong. Age, culture and color are a direct and sometimes automatic conviction of guilt without any consideration, review or assessment of the facts. At a time when our young people are smarter than ever, this seems backwards and wrong.

The assumption of guilt on the part of our young people has circumvented adult accountability and altered the landscape of mutual respect. Instead of teaching and protecting our children, those responsible for such are terrorizing and penalizing them. Sure, there are those who defy the doubt’s benefit and dictate a different level of discipline. But, the situation in South Carolina—like so many others—doesn’t appear to be one of them.

On the other side of the coin of discussion, the need is for accountability and respect. Mutual accountability and respect among those contrasts of male/female; black/white; young/old; subordinate/superior.

For as long as we champion for blind submission to authority we are generously handing the reigns to those who will exploit it.