Tuesday, June 17, 2008

They Don’t Know Any Better

EE A+mess They Dont Know Any Better

You know, after running hotghettomess.com for almost four years now, I have been cussed out, yelled at, condemned to hell, and rebuked in the name of Jesus by a variety of Mandarin-minded folk. Generally the feedback I get is overwhelmingly positive so I don’t stress too much about the folks who call me a race-traitor, an elitist, a self-righteous bitch or a (gasp) a Republican. But one conversation I had today, although I had heard it a million times before, really got me thinking.

A gentlemen called me after finding out that one of his friends (I suspect it was his girlfriend) had the dubious distinction of being called a hot ghetto mess by my website. So I speak to him and listen to him tell me what a horrible person I am. As I try to divide my attention between his tirade and cleaning the little hard doo-doo balls out of my dog’s ass, something he said struck me as it never had before. He said, black people just “don’t know any better.” Now, granted, I’ve heard this a million times before and that sentiment has become so cliché and that I never really paid any attention to it, but for some reason those words on that day stood out to me like a virgin at a prison rodeo. And it caused me to wonder….

In 2008, do people really “not know any better”?

I feel like the only people who really have a claim to “not knowing any better” are children or feral people like Nell in that movie. To make the assertion that somehow today in 2008, grown ass people don’t know any better is ludicrous. And it’s not only ludicrous, it’s a dangerous, dismissive and paternalistic way to regard members of our community. It immediately removes from people all responsibility for their actions.

With unparalled access to information, with 10,000 channels on television, movies and magazines can one really argue that someone can go through life in America and not know any better? As uninspiring as most of American media is, you still are shown examples of functional families, people overcoming odds, the value of education, families living in peace, people with jobs, philanthropy, activism, history and the power of your dreams. With regard to residents in urban environments, to whom I hear this term applied most often, there is a usually a very present Black professional class, colleges and universities abound, there are social programs aimed at self-improvement up the wazoo and plenty of examples of young people overcoming odds and excelling. The concepts of education, work and family are pretty standard concepts—So how can one seriously make an argument that people don’t know better?

NOW, I certainly believe that many people may not believe they CAN do better or they may not be certain of exactly HOW to do better, but to imply they don’t know there IS a better is a destructive theory. And sure, there is a “fuck effort” contingent but they’re a different story as well (See: Are you waiting for a check?).

We had an entire generation of African Americans who weren’t even allowed to read, yet those were the ones who pushed most strongly for the education of their children. We had a generation of slaves who weren’t allowed to marry, yet marriages and families were the foundation of the generation to follow. All it takes is the desire to improve your condition. At some point, many of us have abandoned the pursuit of improving our condition in favor of what’s easy or what’s fun or what’s convenient or what feels good at the time. Do we know better? Of course we do. We just don’t always do better. So let’s call a spade a spade.

Come on, I don’t care what your socio-economic status is, you generally know how life fucking works. Instead of making this “people don’t know any better” excuse, we should be talking about what it would take to re-instill a broad commitment to improving our economic and social condition in this world.

Generations before got it right, they understood opportunity was valuable and took advantage of it no matter what meager circumstances they came from. Are we now saying that back then they knew better and suddenly now we don’t? Generations who never had the opportunities we have now knew better and suddenly we don’t? I just don’t buy it.

And I think this is important, not just because I like typing long essays for free, but because I think social programs and philosophical frameworks that embrace the “they don’t know any better” mentality, no matter how well-meaning, are harmful to us as a community.

For example, when I worked as a lawyer in legal services, I felt that, the well-meaning white liberals that worked there basically saw black people as children that shouldn’t be expected to do anything with any level of competency. But it was OK, because we didn’t know any better and were just hapless victims of an oppressive society and needed help.

Now, Don’t get me wrong, those were some of the best people I had ever met and they all really wanted to help less-fortunate members of society, I just don’t know if spoon feeding someone their life is helping. What was so clear to the African-American lawyers there (none of whom ever stayed very long) seemed lost on the limo liberal population. If you treat folks like victims and tell them they have no control over the big bad world, they eventually begin to believe it. They lose the capacity to problem solve which is essential for survival. They begin to become dependent on others even when they are perfectly capable themselves.

I know this is getting long and your ADD is kicking in, so I’ll wrap this up soon…..but real quick example: I had a male client who was getting evicted and I was able to negotiate some favorable terms to get his ass out of the apartment. So, thirty days later, on the day he had agreed to leave the unit, he called me and asked what he was supposed to do with his furniture. I’m like, what are you asking me for? And mind you, this wasn’t an old man, he was in his twenties and was actually kind of fine. If he hadn’t been on welfare with some fake ass disability, I may have taken him out. But I digress.

So I’m thinking to myself, whenever one moves, the first thing you figure out is how you’re gonna move your stuff. He says, well I don’t have a way to move my stuff, don’t yall have some funds that will help me hire a mover? I’m like, RUFKM? (r u fucking kidding me)? When I move, I have to figure it out. When my mom moves, she has to figure it out. When my friend moves, she has to figure it out. You’ve already had a free lawyer, now you want Uhaul service too. Negro, figure that shit out and get off my phone.

But it was this sense of having no capacity to solve his problems, this expectation that the world owed him a solution and this sense of entitlement that he should get what he wants without any effort on his part, that was so shocking. And seeing this type of thing over and over made me question the “they don’t know better” approach and the long-term effectiveness of the liberal social program models.

Whew! OK I’m done. There, I said it. So I hope that guy who called and told me that “most black folks just don’t know any better” is reading this. “They don’t know better” should be reserved for dogs, children, the mentally challenged, and people like Nell in that movie. People will only rise to the level of your expectations and as long as we dismiss dysfunctional or destructive behavi
or as “not knowing better” we severely undercut the ability of our community to be self-sufficient, to look within to solve problems and improve conditions and grow and prosper.

Now back to my dog’s ass. I really need a job. As u were….

Peace people.

110 Responses to “They Don’t Know Any Better”

  1. Anonymous on 17 Jun 2008 at 7:26 pm #

    I Love You !!!

  2. Anonymous on 17 Jun 2008 at 11:46 pm #

    I volunteer at a charter school here in DC (read: low income black and latino kids and well meaning mostly young white liberal middle class teachers). In helping them to prepare for a presentation I was told by their class advisor that: “our students have trouble with public speaking.” Having met with the students weekly, this shocked me. And, until the day of the group presentations I didn’t really understand the significance of the teacher’s statement. I have never been so disappointed and angry (i was too mad to be embarrased FOR the students) in my life. I sat through at least ten presentations that bore no resemblance to the class presentations of my youth. What I saw was, in your words, a “hot ghetto mess.” People cracking jokes (during the presentaton),leaning on the podium, no eye contact, rapping, laughing, and “slangin” words that I did not even know had slang. In truth it was like a bad rap concert–the new stuff…not the stuff that actually made sense. My students, who I had worked with and gone off on–because I know they are both smarter and more articulate than the teachers give them credit for–got up there and did a reasonably good presentation. This is not a credit to me….All of the students up there were capable of giving a good presentation.They just weren’t expected to do a good presentation. They were expected to act like porch monkeys–which they did. I don’t buy the “they don’t know any better” either…I think we have allowed ourselves not to expect or want any better.
    I shared my opinion with their teacher. Needless to say, I have not been asked to voluneteer again.

  3. jif on 18 Jun 2008 at 2:04 am #

    I am new to your blog. I have read some of your recent postings and have genuinely enjoyed what you have said. This treatise on the apologist attitudes that some have for ghetto behavior was fantastic. Your blog should be required reading for the Oakland, Ca public schools starting with the administration and teachers and ending with the students and their parents!

  4. jazzyphile on 18 Jun 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    Abount a month ago I read smipets of an inteview of DMX who boldly and flatly stated that he (DMX) was not aware that a blackman was running for president. The inteviewer kept asking DMX questions in disbelive, yet DMX had no clue.

    Either DMX didn’t know beter–or it was drugs.

  5. Penni Brown on 18 Jun 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    Jam – I’m torn. While I rail regularly against stupidity in our community. I have met some people that really don’t know any better. I was shocked, b/c I believe that they SHOULD’ve known better. But, then I thought about why I know better. The influences in my life, people, tv shows I watch, music that I listen to, books and magazines that I read, have all shown me other options. How is someone that sits at home all day, watching the ‘judge shows’ and the ‘stories’, thinks weezy is an ‘artist’, considers sister to sister a quality new magazine, considers the play ‘my arms are too short to box with my man God!’, theater, going to know that there are any other options. I’m not trying to come across as bougie, b/c I do enjoy a chicken box with a medium half and half every now and then, but, I also know that’s not fine dining. But, it goes back to my influences and maybe their lack thereof.

  6. Ninjagirrl on 18 Jun 2008 at 4:41 pm #

    But as far as Black people as a whole not knowing any better, well thats pretty broad isn’t it? The problem with PEOPLE regardless of race, is that they EXPECT things to be handed to them, done for them, or at least the “easy path” to be well-lit! There isn’t any do-it-yourself ingenuity anymore. Unfortunately it spills over into the education of our children, so like anonymous’s students, when much isn’t expected from one, one lives up to that expectation.I believe CHILDREN don’t know any better, and it takes an adult to teach them

    Sad but true, and I really wish it wasn’t.

    Btw: was dude’s friend/girlfriend a hot ghetto mess?

  7. tb on 18 Jun 2008 at 7:10 pm #

    Okay…JD, I love you. Do you need a new gay best friend? :) We think so much alike. I cannot agree with your post more. My philosophy at work when dealing with clueless interns and staff assistants is that you cannot lower the expectations because they have not done a good job. My coworkers wants to make excuses and start to remove some responsibilities from their plate but I always say “No”…keep the expectation high and make them perform. They’ll respect you more in the long run.

    IMHO, the reason the school system is so messed up and the students appear to the bordering on stupid is because the expecations were lowered. When you lower expectations you are pretty much saying that you no long care.

  8. jamdonaldson on 18 Jun 2008 at 7:21 pm #

    Penni, I understand what your saying and I certainly don’t mean to imply that everyone is equally well-versed in all the world has to offer. But I meant to discount the “they don’t know better” as a catch-all excuse for generally dysfunctional lives and behavior, not so much for knowledge of specific events, people and places.

    However DMX not knowing that Barack was president. I stand by that there is no excuse for that. Even if he genuinely didnt know, he should have.

    And TB, I could always use a new gay friend!

  9. TeeliGirl on 18 Jun 2008 at 7:23 pm #

    Ahhh Jam, once again you’ve hit a couple of nails on the head as only you can do! (and so very eloquently I might add) However, I do want to add one more tidbit. My position is that people do what they are motivated to do. Motivation is key to a lot in life. True, knowing and doing better are somewhat related but MOTIVATION, is scientifically key in life. As a collge student I was motivated to finish college because I didn’t want to work in the mall the rest of my life. Not so much that I knew better or wanted to do better…I was motivated to want to do something different because of the dire circumstances I was in. If the government stopped giving out “disability” checks, section 8, and food stamps TRUST those receiving the benefits would not go hungry, or without shelter…they would be MOTIVATED to do better, regardless of if they knew better or not.

  10. Anonymous on 18 Jun 2008 at 8:21 pm #

    I was all with you until you said “your” in your response to Penny when you should have said “you’re” as in the conjunction for “you are.”

  11. Quesha on 18 Jun 2008 at 8:41 pm #

    When I was in the second or third grade, I was taken out of regular elementary school classes and put into “promise” classes, (for smart kids.) I was in advanced classes through high school and graduated validictorian of my high school.

    A few months ago, me and my friend were wondering aloud, “were we successful because we were ‘choosen’ or did we really have some special ability?” I cannot honestly say that I am ridiculously smart. But people did expect way more from me. I was expected to bring in good grades. I was expected to go to college. I was not supposed to have a bunch of kids out of wed lock. And I guess what, I did what was expected.

    It is kinda crazy. I look at some of my cousins, same family, same up-bringing, but completely different results. They are not doing a whole lot, not saying that they are bad off, just saying not exceeding expectations. But we all came from the same place. But at the same time, they didn’t have as much pressure put on them as I did.

    So I really do think that if people were challenged, if they had some goals, if they had some self-motivation, or even just some expectations, they would do better. Holding their hands and giving them hand-out make them not strive to do better. Take some of that $hit away, and I bet they will get their grind on!

  12. caratime2 on 18 Jun 2008 at 9:34 pm #

    Sometimes I think we supposedly don’t know better because we (subconsciously?) don’t want to do better. It’s easier to have low expectations – and not even meet those – while passively waiting for someone else to fix things for us.

    And there are too many people (from the government to the church to drug dealers and seemingly well-meaning white liberals) who profit from keeping us in the role of dependent, slightly backward children. ad infinitum.

    Of course, some individuals will never live up to expectations, and that’s true of all races. But at the beginning of the 21st century there is NO REASON WHATSOEVER that black Americans as a group aren’t doing better.

    No reason, that is, other than our unwillingness to practice ‘tough love’ on our own communities and (finally) take responsibility for our own well-being.

  13. Anonymous on 19 Jun 2008 at 2:21 am #

    First, “you are” isn’t a conjunction, it’s a contraction.

    I am a white male that works in a college prep program in southern middle schools. This program targets disadvantaged youth, and in America, disadvantaged youth is usually young black children. I see the people I’m working with catering to the ghetto-ness of the students instead of trying to culture them. It might be the difference in definitions. They believe they are, in fact, culturing the students by telling them to not say “nigga” and “hoe,” but I think culturing a student goes far and beyond this lackey definition. I usually feel helpless because of my race, because I feel like if I speak my mind about the lack of real interest in the future of these children, they will think I’m a racist. I want these young black students to grow up and become excellent at everything and not just wear shirts that say “excellence” while they sag their pants and emulate gang activity. I come from a very poor family where the hope for me was to simply finish high school and I was able to transcend that and become the best at everything I do. The site shows one of the biggest problems that America faces, and that is the double standard that exists within the black community. Just becuase someone has black skin doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as able to be articulate, to be critically engaged, or to be open to everything in the world. The people I work with only culture these students with other parts of black culture instead of culture in general. The Chinese dynasties were crushed because of this. The beginning of the dynasties were great, but without acknowledging other cultures, the people became more and more disillusioned and closed off from change. By only informing black youth of black culture and not culture in general means that they will grow up with a seperatist attitude and an idea that black culture is not part of world culture. It places the black youth back into a cultural ghetto. The same thing is seen with the idea of “best black actress” “best black artist” etc. By replacing the title with a title that includes race places the winner or the representative into a ghetto to the other winners. As human beings, we must not attribute our cultural constructions to our racial genetics.

  14. Miss. Aqua on 19 Jun 2008 at 4:30 am #

    ok, I can’t believe you referenced “Nell”- I love that movie. Wow, I haven’t even thought about that movie in years! Ok I’m done being a cinemaphile- please continue your serious conversation.

  15. Robert Reece on 19 Jun 2008 at 6:38 am #

    Black people shouldn’t and don’t have to assimilate themselves into, let’s face it, white culture because white culture is “general” culture, to be accepted, successful, or articulate. I’m really shocked that this white guy would come here and say something like that. Black people can’t immerse themselves in their culture and live a separatist lifestyle because we are the minority; white culture is the dominant culture in our society and we are forcefed it everyday from everything from billboards to commercials. Black people need their own culture and they should take pride in it and improving it. I’d rather not be successful than to “act white.”

  16. one-derkid on 19 Jun 2008 at 9:57 am #

    i love posts like these..it said most of everything that i was thinking.

  17. ninakens on 19 Jun 2008 at 11:16 am #

    I am a dark chocolate sister who had the opportunity/privilege to obtain 2 degrees. Because my Moma (English teacher) and Daddy (Entrepreneur) had dreams and expectations for me that I tried to live up to, I was often labeled – “talking white”, “acting white”. As I grew up, it was very difficult for me to understand why people used these terms. I was speaking the way I was taught, and trying to live up to the expectations of my parents. I agree with most of what you have to say in your post (I’m not a fan of cussing.) I have conversations like these, a lot. I believe the welfare system and many other “social programs” have led to the sense of entitlement that permeates our community, as well as perpetuates the lack of ambition seen in so many of our youth – not all; I have met some fantastic children. I think as black professionals, we have an obligation to go into the schools, into our community, and into volunteer positions to reach young people, before the self-concept is completely formed. About three years ago, I began working part-time so that I could make $8/hour as a substitute teacher. I did this because I felt it was important to get to know the children in my community – rural, poor. I mostly worked in the middle school, which I loved. Unfortunately, many of the black children in my classes couldn’t get past the fact that I use proper English, do not speak with the dialect of the ‘hood, and use relatively zero slang. It made me very sad that many of the boys said their aspiration was “to go to the NFL” so they didn’t have to speak properly. I used it as an opportunity to “do the math”. It is also appalling that SLPs are not allowed to correct problems with “STR”. Our children are allowed to go through life pronouncing “STREET”, like “SCREET”. The expectations are definitely not where they need to be. Take action; volunteer – big brothers/sisters, the Y, Boys/Girls Club of America. Share your experiences with a young person. It takes a village…

    PS. Anonymous, I appreciate what you said. Unfortunately, you are right when you say you will be labeled a racist for pointing these things out. There are hardly any words that can be said, that won’t be misconstrued, nowadays. It’s sad, but true. Children should not ONLY be exposed to their culture, but many cultures. However, black history is woefully underexposed/misrepresented in our society – as evidenced in the schools, on billboards, and in the MSM. I believe a knowledge of black history is fundamental in framing the self-concept for blacks. Children must be able to integrate knowledge of their ethnic group into the larger societal picture, so that their appreciation for who they are is deepened, as they learn to live with others. That being said, I don’t agree with Miss “Black” America, the Latin Grammys, etc. I believe there is room on the main stage for everyone.

  18. sesimag on 19 Jun 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    Amen!!!! I completely agree with you! It’s sad what is happening in our society…especially among our black people. I’ve been a teacher for three years and all I see is apathy and walking stereotypes! It sickens me. Somehow, as you said, some people started to believe that they were owed something. They became lazy and didn’t value education or hard work…and then, they had kids. The cycle sadly continues.

  19. MissJay on 19 Jun 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    I’d rather not be successful than to “act white.”

    That comment made me sad. Why is it that people are “acting white” when they try to make something of themselves OTHER than a recording artist or pro athlete or video girl? Just because people don’t use slag on a regular basis it’s acting white? Black culture is a part of AMERICAN culture, it’s all mixed together.

  20. A New Millennium Nigga on 19 Jun 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    Great point. We all know what to do. We just don’t always do what we know.

    By the way, “Conversate Is Not A Word” is on the short list for funniest blog title I’ve ever seen. I’ve been fighting the battle against conversate for years.

  21. lcm on 19 Jun 2008 at 4:23 pm #

    Amen to missjay said’s response to robert reece. Sadly, he likely will fulfill his self-expectations. Which will only feed the white racist with, “See, they can’t do any better.” Who does such a stance punish ultimately anyhow?

    Some 40 or so, years ago, Jane Elliott, a teacher, did an exercise in racism in her class. Not only did she enlighten her white students on the evil of racism, another effect was noticed, that was later dubbed the “halo effect”. What teachers saw is that students lived up or down to expectations established during the process of the exercise. Elliott went on to make this (education to eliminate racism), her life’s work. (Google Jane Elliott, it’s an eye opener especially for teachers.)

    Although we are all caught in the effects of determinism, we don’t have to lay down to it.

  22. scholarly mama on 20 Jun 2008 at 3:26 am #

    Jam – once again, you have spoken the Gospel truth. That moron who had the audacity to say that Black people who act a fool do so because they don’t know any better needs to submit his picture to your website so he can be named July’s “Mess of the Month”, or better yet, “Mess of the Year 2008″.

    Toddlers act out because they don’t know any better. People with severe devlopmental impairments may behave in an inappropriate fashion because they genuinely don’t know any better. But for this chucklehead to apply this argument to our community because someone close to him was called out for being a disgrace to themselves and to our culture is almost laughable.

    I truly believe that the people who are featured on “HGM” for the wrong reasons know the difference between right and wrong – they just don’t care. I can only speculate on the root causes of their disgraceful behavior: a need for attention, a desire to fit in with their peers, or emulating what they see on Black Entertainment Television, for starters.

    Regardless of their reasoning, they are making themselves look ridiculous, and are making a mockery of our culture. Shame on them all.

  23. We ALL Need Jesus!! on 21 Jun 2008 at 12:26 pm #

    …and to the republic for which it stands, one nation UNDER GOD,… uuhm oh I forgot, don’t say that part.

  24. Anonymous on 21 Jun 2008 at 10:15 pm #

    This blog was definitely spot on! I am a 20something AfAm woman with 2 degrees under my belt and am currently working on my doctorate. As another blogger stated, I was expected from my youth to achieve big and dream big. As a result I’ve managed to do both! People have access to so much information to really dismiss thier ignorance as “they didn’t know any better.” It is unacceptable for any race/ethnicity to say this about themselves. Go to any ‘hood and you’ll see many young kids & teens using the internet to watch videos, send mindless forwards and talk about any number of inane topics. Go to thier homes and you’ll probably find the low tech equivalent of the same with thier parents. There is a real problem when we lower the bar simply becuase it is hard to reach! There is nothing saying that a person can’t be cultured or educated without getting a college degree; in fact a know some people like this. Our children need to learn that they are responsible for where they go in life. Yeah life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you give up before trying and then wallow in your ignorance! What’s even more unfortuante is that people outside the Black community can see our collective Hot Ghetto Mess; but God forbid they say anything! The first thing Black people want to do is cry racism and then call Al Sharpton. Why does being Black and “keepin it real” need to be synonymous with poor, undeducated and ghetto? The commenter who said he’d rather immerse himself in Blackness (read: poor, uneducated) than assimilate into “White culture” and be successful is an example of how so many think. But the truth of the matter is that the ancient cultures of Africa were great scholars long before Europeans arrived. I for one refuse to force myself to be “Black”,as that commenter would define it, at the expense of educational and financial success. The bottom line is a lot of Blacks who are Hot Ghetto Messes DO know better! In my opinion they know there is an alternative, but have so devalued it as not being “Black enough” that they have closed their eyes to being able to incorporate the positives of cultures outside thier own into an improved view of what being “Black” can and should mean.

  25. Mahogany on 24 Jun 2008 at 7:46 pm #

    @we all need Jesus:

    It does look like somebody “doesn’t know any better”, huh?

  26. Anne on 25 Jun 2008 at 2:52 am #

    For the love of brilliance – you exist! My friend introduced me to your work. It’s not racism to see a people suffer and want them to do better. It’s not racism to call a problem a problem. It’s not racism to desperately want to reach out and boost someone up.

    Reverend Wright was right, but nobody wants to hear it. Why? It’s hard to look at one’s self everyday and find things that need improvement, but that’s what the best and most influential do. Thanks for being one of the best and most influential.


  27. Jess on 25 Jun 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    Jam, thank you so much for this blog. I recently discovered it although I’ve seen your previous works. Just had to tell you how I love reading it and get to say “Amen!” to every post. Keep doin whatcha doin. From one JD to another…

  28. Intiasar F. on 26 Jun 2008 at 5:51 am #

    I love this blog! I’m an army brat and my formative years (0-11) were spent with majority white peers and majority white culture. I was either the only Black student in my classes or one of no more than 3 or 4. My father retired from the army when I was 11and we moved to Atlanta. Actually, I lived in Indiana for my 6th grade school year and was called a nigger more times than I can actually recall. This is so not funny, but I was completely traumatized by the move. Everything I knew about the South had to do with slavery, Gone with the Wind and Roots; I begged my mother not to let my Daddy move us there; I was sure we were gonna get lynched! I almost went into shock on my first day of school, lol! I had never seen that many Black people in my life! It took me a while to adjust, and of course I went to one of the most notorious schools in Decatur; famous for gang violence, rampant teen pregnancies, and the lowest test scores in everything ever! I felt like I had to dumb it down to be accepted; the girls were fast and grown, and the boys were already smoking weed and drinking! Huh? My teachers spent more time disciplining than teaching and God forbid they called someone’s Mama for back up! They’d get cursed out by the Mama!
    Culture is a weird thing to me. I recently saw a post on C&D of a little Indian girl dancing at a wedding and it was all good and cultural until she got her behind on the floor and started hunching like a heated dog! But while she was dancing, the elders were tossing money at her (which is custom), but the comments posted in reference were of outrage! Black accused them of being all kinds of pedophilia, and “making it rain” on the little girl! *Meanwhile R. Kelly was lacing up his skates in preparation to leave court with bells on*
    People do the most outlandish things for attention when they’re feeling insecure, or when they’re full of ego (which is just hidden insecurity) and that’s the only reason I see for HGM! It screams “I’m insecure!” And insecurity and low self-esteem knows no racial, cultural, or financial boundary.

  29. Anonymous on 26 Jun 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    Many of the posted comments begin with, “I am a black woman, and I have this degree and that degree” or, “I am black and my parents taught me…” This kind of elitist thinking is why those who may not “know better” don’t want to know better.

    When many whites sees us, they don’t see those two degrees, and it does not cross their minds that you might be “working on a doctorate.” They don’t know, suspect or care that your momma was an English teacher or your daddy was an entrepreneur. Truth be told, no matter what we do, “they” still see us of through a lens of superiority, and we get the same amount (or less) respect as old boy who does not realize that it is, in fact, his responsibility to move his own shit!

    We need to stop trying to prove and differentiate ourselves from our ghetto-ass people. White folk don’t have these hang-ups, which is why they can exercise the power of nepotism so freely.

    I am so sick of this conversation!!! How many times will engage in this kind of petty discourse? Find out where the real work is being done, and go do it.


  30. T.Allen-Mercado on 26 Jun 2008 at 7:02 pm #

    Anonymous en route to degree no.3 says: But the truth of the matter is that the ancient cultures of Africa were great scholars long before Europeans arrived.

    In a nutshell. Jam thanks for opening up the floodgate on this one, and your use of the word feral in reference to people had me nearly choke on my diet coke. I’m not going to substantiate my claims with my educational accolades since that is unwelcome, but as a parent of a teen, I fervently inspect what I expect and my expecations are high as hell. There is no excuse for stupidity living in the times of technology and transparency. We as a people know what stereotypes and ideologies are surrounding blacks and their capabilities and contributions to society. It isn’t about ‘not knowing any better’ anymore it is about choosing not to know any better. Hello-no one is going to flog you for reading anymore! If you thought you made strides when you were given BET as opposed to fighting for some accurate exposure on The History Channel, it isn’t that you don’t know any better-you just don’t want to know any better and you can’t blame anyone but yourselves for that.

  31. melindalee562 on 28 Jun 2008 at 1:21 am #

    but where does “doesn’t know any better” cross over into opportunist? that fine man that needed a uhaul also needs a lot of other things that he is most likely always keeping an eye out for. and when help comes, in one form or another, don’t you think he runs with it? taking it for all he can get on the pretense of not knowing any better?

  32. caratime2 on 30 Jun 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    @anonymous who said: “Truth be told, no matter what we do, “they” still see us of through a lens of superiority”

    That ‘argument’ is as old – and as lame – as Methusalem!

    Nothing you said is at all important in the way a people should view itself or the goals a people set for itself. I am who I am based on what I am/do/think/feel and not what some ‘other’ might think of me. Certainly, their behavior can impact my life (and all to even – then as now – maybe even end it), but I have a choice when it comes to just how much I allow that impact to hinder me in living up to the morals and standards I’ve set for myself.

    Of course, I’m misguided if I’m getting that 2nd degree (or doing anything else, for that matter) just to please ‘white folks’. But I’m equally as misguided, if I deny myself a decent education, financial (and physical) security, etc., just to spite them…

    you said:” We need to stop trying to prove and differentiate ourselves from our ghetto-ass people.”

    If you are speaking about the ghetto mindset – and not just economics – I totally DISagree. People who know better and choose not to do better are their own worst enemies. They don’t need ‘racist’ white people – or ‘elitist’ black people – to hold them down, because they aren’t even trying to get up.

  33. Anonymous on 01 Jul 2008 at 2:13 pm #


    I’m so glad you’re back; I’ve been reading stuffblackpeoplehate in the interim.

    As for knowing better, I believe it has to do with the lack of fundaments like respect and reverence. That coupled with communities filled with great-grandmothers in their late 40′s in the clubs thinking it’s okay to smoke and drink with their children/grandchildren. So as I gasp at the sight of spaghetti straps or tight pants and short skirts in the pews in front of me I remind myself that they know not what they do. Too often are they absent at PTA meeting/church/water cooler/blogs but let lil junior,jr get suspended or left back. They’re the 1st ones knocking down the school house door. Do examples exist of people who know and do better? Yes. Is it marketed to those that need it? No. I remember the days that you HAD to speak(say goodmorning) to your parent(s) when you got up. There was no walking around and not speaking mess. Too many adults and kids alike aren’t taught manners like please,thank you and MAY I? Remember that game mother May I? Even the cartoons that our children watch, in both the movies and on tv,are seriously inappropriate. Where’s school house rock when ya need it?

    I’m sorry. I’m a little off topic. Glad to see that you’re back.


  34. Anonymous on 01 Jul 2008 at 2:20 pm #

    I in no way am saying that things shouldn’t change or that it’s okay to hide behind them not knowing. What I’m saying is how do you begin to teach someone algebra when they have no idea that they don’t know had to add and subtract? How do you teach them those fundaments without insulting them? How do you get them to the class when they don’t think they need to be there?

    ~JaBe(can’t remember my friggin’ password)

  35. Anonymous on 02 Jul 2008 at 8:46 pm #

    With the exception of a few, everyone under 30 years old in my family “doesn’t know any better.” They don’t want to know, because knowing better comes with the expectations and responsibility of doing better. I have talked and offered to help until I’m blue in the face, and I can honestly say that the whole concept is BULLSHIT!

  36. MerBear on 02 Jul 2008 at 10:55 pm #

    This blog is great! I mean the whole set of blogs you have, but specifically this one is really eye opening and I think even my republican (gross) boyfriend would enjoy this one. Keep up the good work!

  37. quianal on 09 Jul 2008 at 3:45 pm #

    Jam you’re on target as always. To say “black people don’t know any better” is downright insulting when you’re using it to blanket every major, minor, faux pas, mistake, etc. under the sun.

    The post from the anonymous white guy was good. I was sorry to hear how the blogger immediately following him felt. All he was suggesting is the children he works with and many other (black and impoverished…in every way) children should be cultured. What’s wrong with that?

    Sounds like he really cares about their success and is just presenting another way to combat ignorance.

    Ignorance will be their downfall, whether it’s not knowing reading, math, and science, or not being aware of how the WORLD (other cultures)works.

    You can still be proud of your blackness and know how other cultures live.

  38. quianal on 09 Jul 2008 at 4:02 pm #

    I honestly don’t have an answer for the adults or teens who were shafted of an education.

    There are so many levels of problems which caused this, just thinking about it is overwhelming.

    School…extension of the impoverished home…not enough funding for proper materials, teachers who care and work to really teach, students with so many outside problems, they are the behavior/academic problems.

    The list could go on forever.

    I would suggest a start in the schools at the kindergarten level. Regardless of what’s going on at home or anywhere outside of school, school is a place where someone (a teacher and good staff) could really make a difference in a child’s life.

    I am suggesting, be the parent that the child lacks at home. Those eight hours would make a diffence. Be the extended family the child lacks.

    If there is a learning problem, acknowledge it and deal with it at that level. I’m sure in the long run everyone will be thankful you held back a first grader, rather then letting him get passed on/over up to high-school and not know a damned thing.

    It’s unfortunate sooooo much responsibility goes to the schools, but at least they would be doing their part by not passing over, giving up on a child.

  39. Anonymous on 09 Jul 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    I generally agree with your post. As a legal intern at a pro bono clinic, your example of a client who “needs” help with every little thing is right on target. However, a thing that boggles my mind when comparing the past and present in terms of self-help is: are things really different now?

    Let’s face it, these days are all about fucking each other over. If you know how to fuck someone over, you are pretty much guaranteed success. I am not saying this Age of the Fuck Over is new, but it seemes like you can’t even take a look around without being fucked over by someone. It seems as if you gotta fuck someone over before they get a chance to fuck you over. It’s really sad.

    The clients I see tend to be old 99 percent of the time. Occasionally you get the young guy like you had, and you wonder how in the hell did he not figure out how to avoid getting fucked over, but here you are. Now, who do we blame for this? This guy? Everyone else? Both? Neither? Do we owe him and everyone else a responsibility? Do we look him in the eye and say “hey asshole, this is what you get for not reading the fine print!” when do we just roll up our sleeves and just accept that not everyone is going to be on their A-game?

    Do we stop the handouts when they are being taken for granted?

    I think this is where our frustration stems from, at least mine. I would love my job a lot more if people would just appreciate it and learn from their mistakes.

    Not really sure I had a point in this, but it killed some of my work time. Alright thanks :)

    Good post btw.

  40. Anonymous on 01 Aug 2008 at 12:52 am #

    Thank You

  41. jam donaldson on 24 Aug 2008 at 8:22 am #

    not one person, and certainly not me, has ever said that the majority of black people are ignorant, uncultured and unproductive. Thats outrageous. Please dont mischaracterize my words or anyone elses. And frankly the behavior addressed in my posts, is never race-specific. If you want to assume that only black people do the things i talk about, then thats your own personal issue, but the same bad behavior is rampant in all other communities as well.

    And if one more person talks about how “black people are the only people airing our dirty laundry and that no other race does it”, im gonna scream. Why must we judge our behavior and what we do by what every one else does? Have you ever considered that our community is a unique one with a unique history that is incomparable to any other group?

    also, last i checked, asian and jewish communities were not going to hell in a handbasket.

    Its incredible how people are more concerned with looking bad, than addressing real problems.

    if it takes airing our dirty laundry to get it cleaned, so be it.

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