Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Myth That Being Black Means Starting the Race to Wealth at a Hopeless Disadvantage

It is a article of faith that being black is such an enormous disadvantage that you are doomed to poverty.  From "10 billionaires like Oprah Winfrey who grew up poor":
Family wealth isn’t the secret to this billionaire and media maven’s unparalleled success. Now worth an estimated $3.1 billion, according to Forbes, Oprah Winfrey was born to a teenage single mother in Mississippi. In an interview with Barbara Walters, she talked about not having running water or electricity growing up.
Of course, not all black people starting out the race to success end up billionaires.  From 5/19/20 Points & Figures:
Last night, I watched the Clarence Thomas documentary on PBS. It was interesting and I hope you get a chance to watch it. I hope people that detest Clarence Thomas watch it.

There is a lot to learn from his life. One of the aspects of his life that is quite interesting is Thomas ability to take risks that others might not have taken.

It was revealing in some interesting ways. The abject poverty that Thomas faced as a child is something that most people in America understand. Sure, there is poverty in America today but Thomas got dealt an extra special dose of poverty. Grinding poverty combined with a racist society that was trying to keep him down. Thomas speaks candidly about it and you get a good mental picture of what it was like.
Thomas got a lucky break. His mother couldn’t raise him and his brother by herself since his father had left the family. She gave him to her mother and father. Instead of being raised in a one-parent family, Thomas got the benefit of having two “parents”. His grandfather had a third-grade education that wasn’t typical. The school wasn’t in session like schools today. He probably had the equivalent of a second-grade education. But, he had great values. He had a lot of street smarts. He had a nuclear family he knew the history of.
Now Justice Thomas has admitted that Affirmative Action benefited him, but it is to imagine that it would have done him any good  had he not been prepared to work hard.

That  "10 billionaires like Oprah Winfrey who grew up poor" lists a lot of other people who started the race at a big disadvantage because of generational poverty, and became successes:

Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz helped Starbucks become the company it is today — a giant coffee retailer with 23,000 retail stores in 73 countries and a market value of about $85 billion, according to Forbes. However, this successful businessman, who boasts a net worth of $2.9 billion, wasn’t born into wealth.

In an interview with Dr. Mukund Rajan of the Group Executive Council, Schultz discussed his childhood and what it was like growing up with less.

“When I was seven years old, I experienced something that deeply affected me that I carry with me every single day,” he said. “And that is the scar and the shame of being a poor kid living in government-subsidized housing.”
Schultz said his father became a “broken man” after working in many dead-end jobs that offered neither money nor respect. But, this hardship seemed to motivate Schultz to become the success he is today....
Oracle founder and former CEO Larry Ellison was born in New York City but grew up in a lower-middle-class community on the South Side of Chicago.

“I’ll never complain again about living in a bad neighborhood, after moving from the Lower East Side of Manhattan to a still-worse neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago,” said Ellison in an interview posted on the Academy of Achievement website. “After my ninth month, I kept my mouth shut about the neighborhood.”

A 1997 Vanity Fair profile on Ellison described his childhood home as a “cramped walk-up apartment.” According to the article, Ellison was raised by his great-aunt and great-uncle, who was once successful in real estate but lost everything in the Depression.
Although he came from modest beginnings, Ellison is now a multibillionaire worth $61.8 billion. And Oracle has a market value of almost $183 billion, reports Forbes.
But these two were white.  From 7/7/20 Heavy:

Raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Cain was born to Lenora Davis Cain, a domestic worker and cleaning woman, and Luther Cain, Jr., a farm boy who later chauffeured for Coca-Cola Company President Robert W. Woodruff, the International Business Times reported.

Cain characterized his family as “poor but happy,” the outlet continued.

IBT said Cain’s father worked three jobs in order to achieve his “version of the American dream,” including owning his own home.
“My father never looked for a government program, a government handout. I never heard my father complain about somebody owing him anything,” Cain said in a Parade Magazine interview, International Business Times reported. “All I ever saw was how hard my father worked to get what he wanted out of life.”

And Robert L. Johnson:

He became the first black American billionaire.[1][9] Johnson's companies have counted among the most prominent African-American businesses in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries....

Johnson was born in 1946 in Hickory, Mississippi, the ninth out of ten children to Edna and Archie Johnson.[3][4] His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a farmer.[3] His parents moved the family to Freeport, Illinois when he was a child.[3] He was an honors student in high school.[3][4] Johnson graduated from the University of Illinois in 1968 with a bachelor's degree in social studies.[3][4] While at the University of Illinois, Johnson became a member of the Beta chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.[4] He received a master's degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University in 1972.[3][4]

Values matter.  Telling someone that being poor and black makes them a lifetime victim pretty much guarantees that they will stay that way.  
This is America.  You can go as far and as fast as your wits and ambition will carry you.  Being black, poor, or both will hinder you, but much less than the values with which your parents raise you.

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