The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Here, precisely, is the comment the following reader took exception to:

And too damned many black Americans are running crappy software.  Then again, they didn't write it, did they?  Then again, that's irrelevant: it is their responsibility to upgrade."
That's the comment.  Let's take a look at the comment it elicited, and I'll give my reactions.  Before I do, I'd like to thank the gentleman for expressing himself.  Here we go...

He says:  "How can a device with faulty software upgrade itself??? Particularly when the current software package was coded to limit upgrade opportunities, the network in which the device is located is set off in a workgroup with a firewall...."
Because we're not just machines, and we're not just our skin color, even if bigots in the majority culture would like to define us as such.  We can change, and the only way we can change is by taking responsibility.  The exact same argument could be made if we were  sexually abused by parents, or physically beaten and jailed by oppressors.  The responsiblity is still with the spirit of the individual to find a way.  Countless others have risen from any given level of oppression.  I do not deny the oppression is there.  I just know that, from time immemorial, the individuals who have escaped, risen above and conquered are those who said "enough!  I'm taking responsibility for my life."  That may seem cold and cruel, but it is a reality across race, gender, or political lines.  I REALLY believe in helping my fellow man, but the best advice I can ever give, or I ever got, is to face life as if no one will help me at all.  Mysteriously, when you do this, help comes to you.  This principle has nothing to do with American racial politics.  It is far older than any European culture.  It is, I believe, simply a truth of our existence.

he said:  "The software packages throughout American culture are faulty."  Yeah, but I think that, far more often than whites,  Black Americans are programmed to play a game they cannot win.  Unfair as it may be, they have to dig deeper.  I don't like it, I never have, but that's just the way it is.  It used to be phrased as "you have to work twice as hard to get half as far."  I'd say that at this point in history it's "Work twice as hard to get as far."  Talking to my father and my grandfather about their experiences, that seems about right.

He said:  "I work with (Black, White, Asian) folks who make good money, have families and have 'bad' software." 
Yeah, but Whites and Asians have vastly more role models of success available in every medium (Asians have Asian television, even if underrepresented on American television), and role modeling is incredibly important to learning on all levels.  "Bad" software for them is not as catastrophic.  They have their names, language, culture, religions--going back a thousand generations.  In general, Black Americans have about six generations of history before they are mired in a swamp called slavery.   I am astounded with how much we have accomplished, given that handicap.

he said:  "Steve, I take exception to the whole 'Ghetto Black Culture' paintbrush you are using..."
Gee, did he read what I said?  "
too damned many black Americans are running crappy software."  Did I say "whole Ghetto Black Culture"?  No, I didn't, nor is that what I meant.  Please criticize me for what I say, not an exaggeration thereof.
He said:  "there people struggling within these communities to raise children and build a better standard of living with little access to the resources
that many Americans enjoy. It is EXPENSIVE TO BE POOR. One must work longer hours just to maintain,"
Yep, and the way out of that poverty is to take responsibility for GETTING your family out.  This is, obviously, above and beyond the call of duty for most people, black, white, or Asian.  I never said it was easy.  I never said it was fair.  Life isn't fair and easy.  It is what it is, and either we find the strength to rise above, or we will drown.  The average white person, born black, would perform like the average black person.  It has ( in my mind) nothing to do with genetics.  I speak to the power of individuals.  Born with a slow metabolism?  You can either bitch and moan and talk about how "unfair" it is (and many do) or you can make your peace with the fact that you will always have to work harder than a "naturally skinny" person if you want to  have the advantages of fitting the cultural model.  All adults get to make those choices.  When I saw the pretty girls going after the athletic, powerful guys, I could have pitched a bitch and said "its not fair!"  Instead, I chose to spend the next twenty years healing myself, creating a career and a body I could be proud of, and actually having a woman that was everything I wanted--body, mind, and emotions--because a woman like that needs a man who pushes himself as hard as she pushes HERself.  Nothing less will make the grade.  Say this five times;  LIFE ISN'T FAIR.  I've known hundreds of people born in bitter poverty, many under oppression far greater than exists in 21st Century America.  Those who created lives of grace and power and fullfillment took responsibility for getting the hell out.  Every one of them.  Not one of them waited for someone to rescue them.  And many, many, many of them--myself included, do as much lecturing, contribution, mentoring, and teaching as we can.

He said:  "and despite what you and your cheerleaders think, most folks in the 'Ghetto' are maintaining...legally and without the garbage you see marketed on TV."  Hah!  You obviously have absolutely no idea what I do or don't think about Black Americans.  Where I grew up, what I went through.  Again, none of my statements, or to my knowledge statements of people on this blog, could be taken to imply that "most folks in the `Ghetto'" make an extra-legal living, or are not maintaining, or that I get most of my information from television.  You do not read well, sir.  Oh, and thanks for the chuckle about my "cheerleaders."  I invite criticism from any and all, and demand courtesy toward all who visit my blog.  I will ask you please to attack or comment on what is actually said, and not your best guess as to my intent or political position.  Just ask a question, and I'll be happy to ask it, as long as the question is courteous.


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