THE ARTFUL DILETTANTE
This essay is specifically written for young black Americans who believe or have absorbed the incessant message that the ghetto and life on the margin are their destiny, that success is unattainable, and that dreams are only for white people.
Before you are halfway through the essay, many of you will be condemning and ridiculing me as simplistic, unrealistic, idealistic, and naive. But you ignore my message at your own peril. It is very demanding. Anything worth having is very demanding. Your friends may ostracize you and ridicule you as “trying to be white.” If that’s the case, are they really friends worth having? And so I begin.
You can’t change history. Government-enforced slavery happened, government-enforced Jim Crow happened, government-enforced segregation happened. I don’t mean to minimize it or make light of it. It is a tragic, three-hundred-year long chapter in our history. But you can change the future. I’m not suggesting you ignore the past, but that you make the future the primary focus of your life.
What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to become ? Take stock of yourself. List your assets and your shortcomings. Chart a course.
When’s the last time you asked yourself, “What am I gonna do when I grow up?” Perhaps it’s time.
Focus on yourself. Avoid group identity in your search for meaning. We are all islands of consciousness. We are defined by the virtues and values we embrace, not our race, nor our gender, nor any other unearned qualities. Black leaders and community organizers are quick to urge, “Organize, organize, organize !” Organizing via the political process is what people do who lack marketable skills in the productive sector.
What they should be encouraging us to do is “Learn, learn, learn, read, read, read, work, work, work.” Remember—community organizers and social justice warriors are just nice terms for people who aren’t gainfully employed. Few have any meaningful private sector accomplishments. Remember—anybody can work for the government. All you have to do is show up and have a pulse.
Pulling down Confederate statues may assuage your anger and impress your friends. But it also betrays a shallow understanding of American History and the Civil War. The Civil War, like most major events in history, was a very complex event. Abraham Lincoln was no saint, and Robert E. Lee was hardly the monstrous ogre his detractors would have us believe. Before you embrace the lopsided, simplistic, politically motivated “It was all about slavery and racism” mantra about the Civil War, do your homework. Get the facts, peel away the layers of the onion, ask probing questions of those who pretend with absolute certainty to know everything about American history.
We are all products of our times. Earlier generations of Americans, including the Founders, viewed the world and human nature much differently than our own. Feudalism was still the dominant socio-economic system in Europe. Much of Great Britain still consisted of large manorial estates staffed by indentured laborers. Titles of nobility were still prevalent in rigidly stratified societies. Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” the epic of evolutionary biology proving scientifically that all men WERE indeed created equal, would not be published until 1859, years after our Founding and almost as if by Providence, only three years before the beginning of The War Between the States.
The first Anglo-American settlers brought these values and assumptions, however warped they may seem to modern Americans, to our shores. The American Revolution could correctly be called both the Last Act of Feudalism and the First Act of the Enlightenment. Before we blindly assail our forebears, we would be well advised to attempt to understand the world as they saw it. By the way, library cards are free.
Unless you’re caring for your aging parents or are fortunate enough to have found a decent job, get out of the ghetto. Immediately. Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200. It’s a cesspool, a dead end. As long as you stay there, you’re probably going nowhere, except maybe prison. Risk is essential to success, and mobility is a form of risk. Successful people embrace mobility. They are willing to leave safe harbors to pursue opportunity and seek a better and brighter future. Think the Pilgrims. They had no government assistance—no food stamps, no rent subsidies, no nothing. The Pilgrims were not into immediate gratification, nor dependency. They survived with relentless hard work, unbridled persistence, and their Faith.
Two centuries ago, a popular piece of advice was, “Go west, young man.” In other words, go where the jobs and opportunities lie. Take the Bakken oil boom centered in Williston, North Dakota. African Americans from all walks of life and geographical areas are finding jobs in North Dakota. Blacks now hold ten percent of all jobs in the shale petrochemical industries. But industry experts predict that blacks will soon hold one-third of all jobs in the industry. Bottom line—don’t be afraid to leave home. You have nothing to lose but your despair.
One of the persons I most admire is Dr. Ben Carson. Born and raised in a Detroit ghetto he went on to become the world’s premier pediatric neurosurgeon. His mother imposed strict discipline in the household and made him read, read, read. The black establishment has rewarded him by shunning him and calling him an Uncle Tom, much the same as they treat Justice Clarence Thomas or anyone else who dares to leave the plantation and write their own narrative. Dr. Carson should be addressing inner-city high school students everyday and welcomed with opened arms. Urge your school to invite him to speak.
Stay off the junk. Drugs and alcohol are but a temporary escape from a life bereft of hope and meaning. It won’t shorten your sentence in the ghetto or improve your situation in any meaningful way. Why do you think they call it junk ?
If you can’t afford to go to college, learn a trade. Despite all of the advances in technology, the world will still need plumbers, carpenters, landscapers, welders, machinists, hair stylists, and electricians for the foreseeable future. As my plumber friend likes to say, “As long as people have to use the toilet, I’ll always have a job.” (He used more colorful language.)
If you can’t afford to go to college, get a job, any legal job. Dealing junk doesn’t count. I used to patronize a popular fast-food franchise near my old neighborhood, not because I liked fast food, but because my adolescent son and his baseball teammates did. They hired a black guy likely right out of high school who was clearly on the ball, very fast, courteous, and diligent. After a while, he became a team leader, after that a shift leader. Before you knew it, he was an Assistant Manager. Just before we moved out of the neighborhood, his name tag read, “MANAGER.” This progression of promotions happened over a period of about three years. If he’s still with the company, he’s probably a District Manager or better. If not, he’s probably fishing off the Keys with a cool babe.
Almost all minimum wage jobs are temporary. Most minimum wage employees either find better-paying opportunities, or like our fast-food guy, stay with the company and move up the ranks through good old-fashioned hardwork and diligence.
Stop making babies you have no intention nor means of taking care of. Proper parenting is a lifetime, and yes, somewhat costly adventure. Unless you have a nanny, it tends to cramp your style. Unless you’re prepared to make this most serious of commitments, just drop the whole thing. Why any woman, of any color, would want to shack up with some guy without any visible means of support, is beyond me. Have you no self-respect? Have you given a smidgen of thought to bringing another child into the world without a live-in, loving father with a steady job. Just tell these losers, “Unless you’re prepared to put a ring on my finger, take a long walk off a short pier.”
Stop the blame game and stop embracing victimhood. Blame is the refuge of cowards, the ignorant, and those who would refuse to accept personal responsibility. Blaming others for your situation in life might make you feel better, but will accomplish little else. It’s not going to fatten your wallet by a farthing, that’s for sure. Even if everything you say about racism, the police, and the legacy of slavery were true, how is that going to improve your life? Demand that you be held accountable to the same standards as everyone else. Would you rather get ahead because of your race or because you’re the most qualified ? Those who push this rubbish are trying to use you like a cheap condom to advance an obsolete, self-aggrandizing ideology where they win and you lose. They are part of an ossified, parasitic, predatory political order which preys upon your misery and despair to maintain and advance their political power at your expense.
If blame you must, then blame the criminally negligent and woefully ignorant public-school system for much of what ails the black community. Those who run this system should be strung from a lamppost. Our schools are not supposed to teach us WHAT to think, but HOW to think. They are supposed to impart critical thinking skills like logic, rhetoric, and deductive reasoning. These skills will carry you much further than a daily dose of climate studies, gender-bender philosophy, and that whites are the root of all evil. If you teach kids how to think, they can learn anything and they’ll be able to separate fact from fiction. If possible, take your kids out of public school. Public schools are only the mouthpiece of our corrupt, ossified establishment.
Every high school student should be able to understand this essay and discuss the concepts therein. If you don’t understand the essay, that’s just more evidence of the failure of our public education system.
Speak English. I was born and raised in a quasi-civilized place called Pittsburgh. I managed to survive. Pittsburghers have a very thick and easily identifiable accent called “Yinzer.” But with practice I have taught myself how to turn it on and off like a lightswitch. If I’m around my Yinzer friends, I speak Yinzer n’at. If I’m with normal people, I speak the King’s English. Again, if you can’t switch from street lingo to the King’s English, it’s time to flunk the public education system.
Stop baring your ass in public. It’s rude, disrespectful, and completely undignified. It speaks volumes of your character and yes, your upbringing. If I had walked around like that in my youth, my mother and father would have slapped me senseless. My mother had strict standards when it came to the clothes I wore in public. How ’bout yours ?
Again, I can already hear the howls of protest in reaction to this essay for reasons already specified. But I speak from the heart, however critically. Don’t tell me you can’t do it because you must. Failure is not an option if you are ever to break the cycle of poverty and despair.
Reality is a harsh mistress. The universe doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your feelings and sensitivities, let alone the amount of melanin in your skin. It operates blindly according to fixed, immutable laws. There are no safe spaces and no one is coming to your rescue.
The Artful Dilettante