A 'Poor Black Kid' Responds to Gene Marks

Friday, December 16, 2011

According to the U.S. Census figures from 2010, one in four African-Americans live in poverty. Less than one in five has a college degree. The question of how to help the community be upwardly mobile has been debated for decades, and it was on the mind of commentator Gene Marks when he wrote a recent commentary for Forbes called "If I Were a Poor Black Kid." "If I was a poor black kid I would get technical. I would learn software," Marks wrote. "I would learn how to write code. I would seek out courses in my high school that teaches these skills or figure out where to learn more online. I would study on my own. I would make sure my writing and communication skills stay polished." Gene Marks is neither black, nor poor, and some people wondered why he would be giving advice to those who are.

Most recently on the internet - after an a commentator for Forbes-dot-com wrote an opinion piece called "If I were a poor black kid" ... Gene Marks argues that black kids can escape poverty by making sure they work hard at school to get good grades, become tech savvy and do their homework over the internet

Gene Marks is neither black, nor poor. And some wondered why he would be giving advice to those who are, saying his piece is condescending and displays an arrogance about race in this country.

Baratunde Thurston is one of Marks' critics. A comedian, writer, and co-founder of the blog Jack and Jill Politics, Thurston wrote a response to Marks from the viewpoint of a former "poor, black kid." But Carol Swain disagrees. A professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University and author of "Be The People: A Call to Reclaim America's Faith and Promise," she says Marks makes some good points. Jeff Yang, columnist for The Wall Street Journal, also weighs in.

Produced by:

Alex Collins

Comments [5]

Spo 101 from Albuquerque

If I were a poor Black kid I’d start a revolution to hold the ruling class accountable for their waste, fraud, abuse of power, scandal, corruption, sexual deviancy, bold-faced lies, media consolidation, welfare for the rich, war profiteering, Enron/others from a corporate crime wave and violations of our Constitution? I am somebody cyberbitchslap2.blogspot.com

Dec. 18 2011 04:49 PM
Mike from Seattle

I thought this was great when I first heard it 15 years ago, and yesterday when I watched it again after having loaned out the tape never to be seen again, it's STILL great to watch (and relevant to the topic):

Ronald Johnson (Family Life Center) on boy's becoming men:



Dec. 16 2011 05:42 PM
homebuilding from central USA

All youths seem to be led by our advertising and entertainment culture, with rather fewer instructional examples on life skills and "how life works." Expect children living with only one parent to have fewer net adult influences (life teachers). This author is speaking only to young blacks, while general lessons and observations from adults regarding structuring success in life are useful and essential ideas. More promotion of hiphop, 22 inch wheels, saggin' pants, and inarticulate ghetto dialect are not.

Dec. 16 2011 10:52 AM
David D from Dearborn MI

If you take Baratunde Thurston advice you need to ask a lost person for directions!

Dec. 16 2011 08:43 AM
Mike from Seattle

All things being "equal" this shouldn't be a problem. The fact that it is strongly suggests that all things aren't "equal".

Consistently, reliably, we are shown our biases, our prejudices, our stereotypes and in spite of that we'd like to insist that everyone is capable of succeeding if they just try hard enough. It doesn't adequately explain why so many with so much to offer don't, while so many with so much less to offer do. And the distinguishing differences aren't income, education level, aptitude, the things we associate with success.

In short, if, in Africa, South America, Japan, they can figure out which asian, which african, which latino has talent and ability, why are we so seemingly and so disproportionately incapable?

My guess is they use different yardsticks.

Dec. 16 2011 12:44 AM

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