Why minorities should strive to be wealthy?

If Blacks were the wealthiest community in the US, do you think we would be shot by the police?

Obviously, nobody is trying to be poor.  But the reality is that white men account for the majority of the wealth. Only 3 out of 536 billionaires in the USA are Black.  And only 8% of the millionaires are Black.
There are loads of systematic reasons why minorities are poorer and it will take some time for that to change.  However, regardless of how tough the situation is, there are always some actions that can be taken.  Not saying it is easy, but it is worth trying, if not for you, for your children.
Where to start? let’s begin with a comment I have been hearing for the past 10 years: “I do not want to be the wealthiest of the cemetery”.  This is a French saying translated into English. So let me unpack it for you.  It means that when you die, you are not taking your wealth with you, so you should spend it all while you are alive.  For a long time, I agreed with that principle.  The result? I would make it rain in the club, and enjoy everything money can buy.  Now I am thinking about it differently.  I want to be wealthy (not rich), and I want other Black people to be as well.
Why?  It is not because I am greedy or anything of the sort.  It is because I believe that our community needs a lot more wealthy members to positively influence the lives of the entire community at the local, state and federal level.  I am not talking about a Beyonce or a Jesse Jackson that are figures people will loop up to.  I am talking about your uncle being wealthy, I am talking about your childhood friend being wealthy.  I am talking about people who know the community, are still connected through the community building their wealth and spreading it.  They are the people who would influence the community daily life. And when I say life, I literally mean life.  Let me put it in perspective to truly understand what is at stake.  If Blacks were the wealthiest community in the US, do you think we would be shot by the police?  My guess is that it would have stopped real fast. Or actually, it would not have even started in the first place.

So yes, I am stacking my money now. I am encouraging others to as well. I am trying to build businesses with friends. I am investing in real estate in a nice neighborhood, where I expect my investment to grow.  I am not driving a fancy car, actually, I am riding a bike. And it is not because I have changed, It is not because I forgot where I came from. It is because I want to play my part in lifting up the community. I believe, like Tony Montana, “first you get the money, then you get the power”.

Photo by Javier Reyes on Unsplash

I SHOULD NOT BE HERE…

But here is why I am

I should not be here. It is not me saying it, it is the statistics:

  • Single Black mom, hospital nurse working night shifts

I should not be here. It is not me saying it, it is the French education system:

  • The career advisor was pushing me towards a vocational degree with “unclear” prospects, at best

I should not be here. It is not me saying it.

  • It is my neighbourhood friend: “Why are you reading this magazine for managers, you can’t become one”
  • It is my family: “You should prioritize job stability, the private sector is too rough”

PEOPLE WHO HAD GREAT INTENTIONS FOR ME. PEOPLE WHO WOULD FIGHT FOR ME DID NOT THINK I SHOULD BE WHERE I AM TODAY.

This is what I heard growing up. And it may be easy to dismiss this in hindsight but when you hear it every day, you see it every day, it gets in your head.

So why am I here? I could not have made it alone. Among the 1000’s of people who expected me to fail, I was lucky to meet a handful of people to guide me in France. Most of them looked like me, but not all. They encouraged me to aim higher, they showed me paths I did not even know existed.

Fast forward 10 years later and I experience a whole new level of support in the US. Instead of a handful of people, I meet 100’s of people like me through Black networks and we all support each other. I realize how much can be done together. And it all started with an idea. “Let’s have a Gala” said the President of the Black Ivy Alumni League.  What I saw next was a pure surprise.  People raising their hands, saying they have a mailing list with thousands, another one saying that they have access to several VIP as they work in PR, other having access to liquor sponsors, and so on. Suddenly we went from an idea to a plan with clear steps to make it real.  This is how many members got inspired by the GM of the Knicks doing a keynote, and many more.

Some parts may seem superficial… but when you heard for the majority of your life that you should not expect to amount to much, and suddenly you see this wave of successful people, who look like you, you get inspired. And I am convinced that inspiration is the key to achieving purpose in life.

PRIVILEGES

The good, the bad and the ugly

I’ve been thinking more about privileges since I got my first child, 4 years ago.  It has been a real journey:

  • THE GOOD: I want my kids to benefit from what I have worked so hard to build.  This is giving him a head start.
  • THE BAD: My kids having a head start means some others will be at a disadvantage compared to them.
  • THE UGLY: I am quick to argue that some people with privileges should let them go, while I am working hard to create privileges for my family.  It feels like I do not walk the talk. Not a nice feeling for something who strive to be authentic, 100%.

Let’s rewind this.  First the definition of privilege.  The best way is this video that went viral: 

It is all about the head start you get based on your life situation.  On top, consider this comment that someone wrote on the video.  That is the sharp point for me:

Okay now do the race with blindfolds! Let’s tell all the black kids that there are obstacles in front of them, at every step of the race encourage them to go slow or that it is too hard and dangerous to proceed. Now tell all the white kids that the way is clear and you can go as fast as you like, encourage them the whole way and tell them to run as fast as they can and reach their full potential.” 

Other people having some form of a head start is part of life – unfortunately – and it won’t go away.  What should not be a fact of life, is the people starting already behind being held back by school counsellors telling them to aim low, or by the world showing them that it is not worth trying.

This is how I am planning to avoid the ugly part of my kids having privileges.  Through this blog, and organizations I am involved in, I want to have a positive impact on my community. I want to encourage everybody to reach their full potential. I want to show that does not matter how many 1000’s of people are expecting you to fail, it only takes a handful for you to be successful.

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

What is the first thing people would ask if you tell them you got a better job?

Check out what my auntie told me

Now I am back in Europe I see my family more.  During my first trip back home, about 10 family members visited. Among them, was my closest aunt.  I am very close to her in many ways. We lived together for probably 10 years, she looked after me and we are also connected in the sense that we are the 2 most educated people in the family.  This is an important point in this story. We both were lucky to have the opportunity to study.  When I met her face to face, I was thrilled to tell her about my new job! It was opening a world of new opportunities to me.  But to my surprise, when I told her “my new job is much better than my previous one” her response was “Is it more relaxed?”. I was stunned.  It took me a sec to process.

My worldview is “better” = learning+new opportunities. It seemed that in her mind “better” = work less+less stress.  I can explain why. She is actually working a lot, she is stressed and probably making more money than her humble religious lifestyle requires.  She is also closer to retirement age.  All that combined, I can understand her worldview.  The part that bothered me was the impact it can have on people around and in the community.  I have a basic issue with “something” being enough. In my mind there is only one way, and it is up.  Not because I am greedy or because I want to be the richest person in the cemetery.  Rather because this is what I believe it takes for my kids and their kids to be well-off.  I also believe it contributes to giving Blacks a voice. Let me put it simply. If Blacks, as a whole, was the wealthiest community in the US, the killing of Blacks would stop, or would not even have started in the first place.  Maybe it is pure utopia to imagine that Blacks could go from the poorest to the wealthiest community.  Maybe it will take 500 years for it to happen.  Still, it is 10x more energizing to me than thinking of spending 5 stacks on bottle service in Miami every week…

I got carried away here.  My main message is we should all aspire to build wealth.  Using a Chris Rock quote to explain the difference between being rich and wealthy: “Shaquille O’Neal is rich, the guy who is writing Shaq’s paycheck (when he was still playing basketball) is wealthy.

Having the mindset of building wealth, even without being wealthy, is a major step to building the community’s influence and levelling the playing field.  So when you see someone excited about his/her life prospects, encourage them, even if you do not understand it.  You need to fuel the wealth mindset.  Even if that person that person does not become wealthy, that person will be fulfilled and may fuel the mindset of someone else.

Why I do, what I do

Simple question, simple answer

I created this blog a few years ago. I post weekly. I spend 3 hours per week on the blog. I would love to spend a lot more time. I would love to write my book “Negotiating While Black” I would love to impact the lives of so many more people and have my life impacted as well in the process.  But I can not. I have my day job, which I love – in case my colleagues are reading this blog :).  I write about topics relevant to young urban black kids living in major cities and aspiring to better themselves. Everything is based on my personal and professional experiences. It is all about my point of view. No claims are made to be right. I am often wrong. Most importantly, when I write and I am wrong, people call me out on it. It allows me to reflect and maybe still not be right, but at least less wrong.

So why? Why am I dedicating that time? I love seeing happy people. All people. Regardless of sex, age, culture or anything else. Pretty sure I would enjoy seeing happy aliens.  No need to overthink why. Try to be around happy and unhappy people. What do you enjoy most? Mike drop.

Again, why am I writing for Blacks? I feel this is the group I can impact the most through my writing. Because my blog will feel authentic to most other Blacks.  If I talk about not standing next to a store entrance while wearing a black suit, my peeps know why, as it is usually not long before someone mistake you for a security guard. If I talk about crossing the road late at night because a white woman is walking by herself on the pavement I was walking on, again my people will understand that I did that as a preventive move. It hurts less for me to cross than seeing that woman cross or switch her handbag to the side opposite me.  Let’s be super clear! I will support everyone being happy. I will listen and ask questions when I do not understand their situations, or what could be done, just like I did not understand the situation of black women in a previous post.  Because I know how it feels to have other people not understanding you. I just can’t tell that authentic story, the way I can for Blacks.  Still don’t get it twisted.  The more people appreciate diversity the more Blacks or any other minority.  If someone supports gay marriage or women, he is more likely to respect Blacks.  It is as simple as that.

Childish Gambino woke or not…

…because he has a white wife?

Childish Gambino hit the internet hard with his video “this is America“. The video went viral right away! And within hours there were countless interpretations of what every single sign in the video could mean. I mean there were a lot of opinions. Even the time.com gave a detailed analysis of all the race and gun violence references. I do not know if everything was planned but for sure I admire the effort, the intent and the impact that this video had. It got the conversation started.

While a lot of people praised Glover for his work, haters did what they do best. They hated. They hated hard. I am not talking about white haters, racists haters or rap haters, etc… I am talking about African Americans haters. Why did they hate? Because Glover is married to a white woman and he has mixed race kids.  The haters’ argument is that Childish Gambino does not have the right to speak of the African American experience because he is not experiencing the full African American experience. Because he is married to a white woman.  Who is he to take the stage an include dozens of race references when he most likely has not experienced them thanks/because of his Caucasian wife?

I may surprise you on this topic. I partially agree with the haters.  Because his partner is a white woman, Glover is not getting the full African American experience.  I repeat. I agree with the haters on that point.

I am also married to a white woman.  We have 2 lovely mixed-race kids 4 and 1 year old.  I have multiple examples of when I “benefited” from the situation.  Once we had a road trip into deep Oregon. When I say deep, I mean giant Trump billboards by the side of the road, rifles for sale between the bbq and the school supplies, a deer’s head on side of the road (I still dont understand why), deserted stores with bars on the windows..  Yup, just like in scenes of scary movies where a Black guy steps out of a car to ask for directions and gets lynched by the KKK.  So yes, when we stopped in that deserted town, my wife stepped out to ask for directions. Ok, this is an extreme example.  But on a day to day, I noticed the difference as well. In our nice neighbourhood, walking with a white wife seems to make people feel more at ease. At the playground, my wife talking to random parents seems effortless.  On the flip side, when my mom walked the street with my son, people asked her if she was the nanny – my son looks racially ambiguous, he could play a latino, tanned white or a light black kid.

I can only imagine that the difference in people’s behaviour is going to increase as the kids get older.  Picture Black parents with a Black teenage boy with a hoodie compared to a mixed family.

So I get it that some people that suffer every day from the harshest discriminations are annoyed at Glover telling a story, that someone else could tell from a more “authentic” viewpoint.  However, all the haters should appreciate the support.  It is not about who gets the benefits here. We are all fighting for the same worthy cause. And whoever supports the cause, should be welcomed, because they are woke too!

Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash

Live my life of a woman…

…For a day and see how you feel

This is the #metoo era. About time!  And unfortunately, it may be the #metoo era for a little while. Because there is so much crap to flush out of the system.  Crap that has been there for so long that people convinced the rest of us that it is a diamond in the rough.  But like I like to say: “if it looks like pooh and smells like pooh, it is 99.9% pooh”.  There is so much to learn about how to come out with hard truth, follow through and make a sustainable change for the community.  But that will be the topic for another blog post. Right now, I want to focus on women situations.

What better way than putting myself in their shoes. At least trying. Because does not matter all my good intentions I will never feel how most women feel. My obligation though is to actively listen to their concern and be at least supportive and of course at best a change agent.

A colleague of mine has been helping, probably without meaning to. But who cares. The important is the result.  It first started a day I met my colleague after she had worked out.  She looked very happy and full of energy that morning. So I said: “working out first thing in the morning suits you well. You have a glee today”. It turned out that she wore make up that morning. Which may or may not be the reason I noticed that glee.  She cheekily answered, “You can not reduce women to the make up she wears”. I know she was joking, still, she was making a good point.  I am a big fan of Alicia Keys not wearing makeup.  Great signal to women in general. And I love what it will convey to my daughter when she is older. “It is ok to not wear makeup if you do not want to. Your body, your rules”.  So how come I made that comment to my colleague? My best guess is unconscious bias.  Not an excuse. More an insight for me to do better.

There is also a second incident where she said, she wanted to make me feel for a few minutes how it feels to be a woman. But I will keep that story for next week.