Thursday, November 17, 2005

snob: ok, i'll take it.

(this has nothing to do with religion or churchiness.)

about a month ago, i read an article in the paper about two korean sisters who wrote a book about how american families can learn something from korean high achievers. after the piece ran, most of the letters sent in response protested the sisters were playing to asian stereotype. most of the other letters sent in faintly protested that it was creepy and weird to ask american kids to actually be disciplined. (i paraphrase.) only a scant few letters said, hey, good idea!

personally, i thought it was a good idea.
in fact, i think achievement is a good idea.
i think making sure one achieves *something* is a good idea.

i think not to achieve makes one tacky. (ooh, value judgment.)

this brings me to a commenter down in the Amen post, who ripped me a new one for my not-so-well-hidden class bias. thank goodness she did; it was the slap i needed to face my own class issues and class anger (not to mention anger at people at my childhood church who were vastly irresponsible in their leadership.) but i'll say it: i think going to college is better than not going to college; i think having a job is better than not having a job. i don't care if it's an ivy, a HBC or a community college - just go and get some education so at least you have options. (which is also better than having no options.)

do i sound like a snob? i guess i'll have to own that.

and because i'm black i will own it until the day i die. the black men and women who believed the duty of the black person was to 'lift as we climb' do not deserve descendents who don't take that kind of pride seriously. did harriet tubman sacrifice so my community could suddenly be the poster population for underachievement? did ida b. wells risk her life to save black folk so that my black and brown sisters could get pregnant when they were in high school?

i am not saying that i don't understand how the real world works; i am not saying that i think i'm better than those girls who didn't make the same decisions i made. i'm just saying i made better decisions. i know about racist institutions and social forces that create ghettos; i know about the bad educational systems that fail to educate; i know what happens when more than half the male population ends up in prison; i know about the burden created when commerce moves out of a community and kills it in the process, dooming people to perpetual poverty. i know that and i still say that we owe somebody our achievement.

the sisters who wrote the book make the point that in the traditional asian family a child owes her family success and achievement; this is her debt. unlike bill cosby, who rails on poor black folk for being poor, i think we black people have a debt to pay. we owe it to our past, our history, to fulfill the promise we had. we don't owe this debt to white people. we don't owe this debt to our government. we owe it to our past - our wonderful, glorious, heartbreaking history.

so to that commenter: you misunderstand. i didn't make the choices i made when i was a girl because i didn't want to be like the other girls; i didn't want to end up like them. i made those decisions because that future wasn't good enough to pay my debt.


jesus chick said...

hooray! i agree!! and while i am so-white-you-can-see-through-me, i too look back at my heritage and feel the same stirrings whithin. i want to be an achiever, a person who lives life on purpose so that i can point back to my parents and grandparents (whom i never met) and say, because of their sacrifice and hard work i am who i am. and of course, beyond that - i want to be able to point to jesus and say because of HIS sacrifice, i am who i am.

ding said...

(my roommate says she is so white she's translucent.)

well, of course. i totally realize that the progress my family has made is miraculous. there's no way a boy from the projects and a girl from an abusive family back in an island village were supposed to raise two women who are strong, healthy, educated and relatively well-balanced.

i shudder to think where we'd be without that (even though my sister's catholic still counts.)

ding said...

oh, and the guy in the photo?

totally looks like my dad. weird.