The following excerpt from yesterday's Dallas Morning News Viewpoints section contains a profound insight into the challenges faced by many in our community in attempting to achieve the American Dream...
On Sunday, The Washington Post ran an extensive poll delving into the experiences of black men and their attitudes toward themselves, as well as other Americans' attitudes toward them. Here, two employees of the Dallas-based Foundation for Community Empowerment – an African-American man and a white woman – mull the implications of the sometimes surprising findings on this highly charged subject.
Victoria Loe Hicks: So, Marcus, what jumped out for you in the poll? For me it was that black men are their own toughest critics. For instance, a majority of all respondents said that black men are too focused on sports and sex and not focused enough on getting a good education, but black men were much stronger in those critiques than black women, white men or white women. Of course, no one knows us as well as we know ourselves.
Marcus Martin: I think what surprised me most is how many black men have internalized the obstacles and hardships that many black men across America face. They blame themselves, just as others blame them, for not overcoming those obstacles and hardships.
Hicks: So what I interpreted as self-awareness, you interpret as something more like internalized oppression?
Martin: Exactly. And part of this, I believe, is rooted in the way we measure whether a person has achieved the American dream – typically, we look only at the end result. I believe that is a flawed measure.
Hicks: But what is there to measure, other than the end result?
Martin: Well, I as a black man and you as a white woman have the same goals: a good education, good job, nice home, etc. However, because of my starting place – poverty, single-parent home, racism, etc. – I have 50 obstacles to overcome, where you have five. You manage to overcome those five and achieve the dream. I manage to overcome 30, but if the other 20 leave me by the wayside, society is ready to tell me I did not try hard enough. The African-American single mother who manages to get her three kids to graduate from high school has been just as successful as the upper-middle-class family that managed to get their three kids through Harvard – although society won't agree.
There is a lot to think about in this short excerpt, but 3 thoughts come immediately to mind:
First, starting place, while not the only factor, is one of the most significant factors in determining one's opportunity to achieve "success".
Second, we need to reconsider our definition of success. I was reading Ecclesiastes earlier today and was reminded again about what is important in life.
Third, I was reminded again how much I admire and appreciate Don Williams.