The Gap

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I caught some of Tavis Smiley’s “State of the Black Union” yesterday, in particular the panel on financial empowerment. I applaud Tavis Smiley for what he’s doing; however, there are a number of panelists who appear each year regurgitating the same old jargon and same tired finger pointing. Of course the finger pointing is directed at my generation.

Make no mistake, I know my generation is selfish, spoiled, inconsiderate, and in many ways, lazy and oblivious to what’s going on around them. Still, the holier than thou attitude that some members of the Civil Rights generation have baffles me: Are you not the same generation that raised us?

I listen to panelists go on and on about our consumption based generation; our obsession with self; our ever dying need for bling. Well, in a capitalist society, it’s not that big a shocker that people are selfish and obsessed with material possessions. I’m not excusing this ignorance, merely pointing to what helps create it.

Interestingly enough, the language used to stress the significance of entrepreneurship was very much based on how important it is for one to secure a certain level of money and status. I’m glad the columnist from the Washington Post said we need to talk more about what actually defines wealth and how it relates to our happiness.

Speaking of money and status, those two key factors have a lot to do with the failures that came after the Civil Rights Movement ended. I am grateful every day of my life for the rights I am now afforded. On the other hand, I’m not blind to what happened after those basic rights were written into law. The Civil Rights Movement was not just about equal social rights; it had a lot to do with economic empowerment in the black community. In a capitalist society money talks, bullshit walks. For many members of the Civil Rights Movement, they were already upperwardly mobile. Their grievances lied in not being able to socialize with the mainstream. Once many of them secured those rights, a lot of them became satisfied and blacks on the lower end of the totem pole were left behind.

With that being said, it’s not completely surprising to see why many of us at the lower socioeconomic levels turned out the way we did. I know many of our own struggles have a lot to do with our own poor choices. But, the nihilism that exists in our community is real and a simple, “You should know better” isn’t going to help anyone – especially if you’re pretending to be aloof in your own role in help spawning it.

The blame game will continue to wedge a gap between the generations. What’s more, having the same people spit out the same messages, all competing for airtime won’t assist matters either. I’m glad Tavis said he brought in more young people this year. That is an important step in bridging the gap. Hopefully, with each passing year, people will stop diving into their soundbites of the past, and start thinking about what will really connect with young people in the present, so that all of our futures will be brighter.

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