When Rancher Cliven Bundy questioned whether or not blacks were better off as slaves “picking cotton” because we’re “basically on government subsid[ies]” aborting our children and shipping our young men to jail, I’m sure he wasn’t aware of the 2012 study that showed that African-Americans are more charitable than any other racial group in America. In fact, blacks donate 25 percent more of their income per year than whites to charity.
So take that Bundy and any other white conservative who only sees African-Americans as “takers” living off the government’s housing and food. Actually, we’re the opposite. Each year nearly two-thirds of black households make charitable donations, worth a total of about $11 billion a year. But you would never hear these statistics from some conservatives when discussing the black community.
I hate when black people are grouped as if we are all the same, think the same, eat the same, share the same religious beliefs, have the same type of income, share the same political affiliations, grow up in the same type of communities, attend the same type of schools, all don’t have a father around…you get the idea. We’re not all the same; we’re a diverse group of people.
I grew up in a working class family and moved to a middle class black neighborhood when I was 13. My dad was a truck driver. My mother worked for Memphis City Schools. My parents bought their first house while my mother was pregnant with me. Times got difficult growing up, sometimes there wasn’t enough food, but we always had our house. Our electricity always stayed on. Despite my parents both working full-time, my siblings and I were on reduced lunch at school. But thankfully, it never got bad enough were we needed government assistance. My father always lived with my family. Even though some of my close friends’ parents were divorced, most of them knew who their fathers were. Some spent the summer or the weekend with him. My brother never got in trouble with the law. He made good grades, worked a job while in high school and always respected his elders (even today). I went to a majority black school in the city, but we were far from “disadvantaged.” It may not have been the best education kids in the rich suburbs got, but we were not dropping out like flies. In fact every student from my senior class walked down the aisle to receive their diploma. My school, Whitehaven High, was one of the three “bougie” predominately black schools in the city. The jocks were smart, so much so that many of them took AP classes and graduated at the top 10 percent of the class. Yes, there were some bad apples at the school, but for the most part we were good kids.
As adults, many of my classmates are doing great things around the country. It makes me proud, especially despite the fact that many people in society didn’t expect much of kids who grew up in the 90s. Teen pregnancy was higher. Gang-related murders were crippling urban communities at a much greater rate. Kids dropping out of high school were on a much larger scale then than it is today. The remnants from the crack cocaine epidemic spilled over into the 90s causing all sorts of problems in many urban cities. But despite all of that, we made it and we’re thriving.
No matter how far African-Americans achieve in this country despite the bondage that our ancestors endured for hundreds of years and the Jim Crow laws thereafter that kept us decades behind our white counterparts in education, health care, wealth and in life, there are people out there who spit on our success but labeling the entire race as poor people taking from the government. Statistically, about 39 percent of African-Americans are on welfare compared to 38.8 percent of whites, which means about 60 percent of us do not receive government assistance.
Would Neil deGrasse Tyson be better off as a slave. How about Colin Powell? Would Oprah Winfrey be better off if she learned how to pick cotton? What about Ursula Burns, the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company. Would her life be better in the cotton field? Or, what about the young black male who was raised by his low-income grandmother who is headed to an HBCU on a full scholarship? Would he fare better being someone’s property than getting a college degree? We all know the answers to these questions.
I would advise Bundy and others to take a look at Dr. Ivory Toldson’s brilliant research, which debunks many of the statistical stereotypes that even some black leaders use from time to time.
We’re not the destitute single mother on welfare or the juvenile delinquent black male in and out of jail. We’re productive members of this society creating new technologies, founding new business ventures, discovering new scientific breakthroughs and launching non-profits and foundations to better our communities. And to top it off we’re the biggest damn charitable givers in this country. So stop looking down on us as if we’re poverty-stricken, “takers.” Instead, thank us for being the givers who help keep this country great.
I originally wrote this article for my magazine, emPowermagazine.com.