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.
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.