Why I Don’t Trust The “Black People Need To Learn Personal Responsibility” Mantra

Why I Don’t Trust The “Black People Need To Learn Personal Responsibility” Mantra November 28, 2017

I’ve heard a lot of people say that black people in this country are always looking for and getting handouts. The key is to stop giving them handouts and force them to work hard to succeed. Personal responsibility.

The kernel of truth in that assessment is that racism is unlikely to vanish in my lifetime, so I have to deal with it as I work to create the best possible life I can for myself and those I care about. Complaining about it won’t put food on the table; you can rant and moan about discrimination, but that doesn’t mean it will end. If you are stuck with your circumstances, as many of us black people are, you might just have to succeed in spite of your unfair circumstances, or even find ways to use those unfortunate circumstances to get ahead.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I found something incredible about the stories of black people who persevered, in the face of enormous odds and pressure, and created lives that they wanted.

And I think some of these black people got ahead when they realized that the unfortunate reality was their reality, and tried to make their way forward in spite of that reality. Not all of the ways they did this might have been kosher according to the law (several successful recording artists managed to become well off because they initially sold drugs, for example), and sometimes they had to cut corners, but in many ways they are people who took a broken system and, like a genius artist, found ways make it work for them. No, their lives were not perfect, but their circumstances were designed, due to 400 years of engineering, to make them second-class citizens, so to make their way they had to be somewhat unconventional.

But the enemy in these circumstances are the barriers to success. Yes, many black people overcome them, but the point is ultimately to overcome them.

Because…well, think about it. If the people saying black people should toughen up were REALLY concerned about making black people stronger by forcing them to deal with and fight discrimination, why don’t they insist on being discriminated against themselves? Why don’t they insist on discrimination?

If fighting hard against enormous difficulties is just part of making black people stronger, why not insist on going through those enormous difficulties yourself? Why not insist that black people be treated better, and you be treated worse, if being treated worse is truly what provides people with character?

It’s a simple rule. If you don’t want barriers yourself, don’t press them on other people.

Do you admire how black people succeed, oftentimes, in the face of discrimination? Good. But if you think that means we shouldn’t do anything about discrimination, imagine what it is like to be discriminated against. Do you want people to look down on you because of the color of your skin? No? Then don’t do it to other people.

Don’t force us to be heroes when you yourself are a coward.

That’s why it’s hard to trust most people who say that black people need toughen up — especially when they support Trump, one of the whiniest complainers in the history of American politics.

Maybe, I think, the concept of personal responsibility, when applied to black people, is not about making people stronger. Maybe it’s about being comfortable bullying people, and rationalizing that bullying by claiming it’s helping when you know full well that you couldn’t, and wouldn’t, take half the abuse.

Maybe it’s time to be honest about what we would like for ourselves, and realize that we are all in this together, and that what we think will empower us to be the best versions of ourselves might apply to someone else. Education, fair application of the law, a leg up, a chance. And when we give others the chance we want for ourselves, maybe that’s when we’ll grow.


Thank you for reading.

PS: I want to thank all 35 of my patrons for their support.

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