Opinion

It’s A Hard Knock Life

Foundation and structure play a large part in shaping our experiences, but in some cases they hold us back. Writer, Ameil breaks down the words of professor, Jane Elliott.

A professor said to her class, “I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society, in general treats our citizens, our black citizens, if you as a white person, would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand. You didn’t understand the directions. If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in society, please stand, nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening. You don’t want it for you. I wanna know why you’re so willing to accept it or allow it to happen for others.”

Don’t take this statement lightly, think about what is being said here.

Once slavery ended, blacks were able to relocate. They were “free” but would never receive the same treatment or have the same resources as whites. During segregation, they were “separate but equal” so to speak. However, it’s not equal if the same resources are not given to both groups of people.

At first I thought where I came from didn’t matter, but I soon learned that it did. A person’s foundation is critical. When I began college, I noticed I was black but yet an outsider to my own race. Meaning, you really are a product of your environment. I’m from Dardanelle, AR, a particularly white town. I come from grammatically correct English, schools with high based income, housing in the suburbs, teens with brand new cars, and neighbors that are wealthy. Since I didn’t act the same, present myself the same, or speak the same, I didn’t fit in.

It is said that people from poor communities or ghettos are more prone to deviant behavior. Things such as teen pregnancy, joining gangs, or committing more violent crimes. For instance, in “Straight Out of Compton”, one of the main things discussed was how they were products of their environment. They did what they did and lived the way they lived because that’s all they knew.

Imagine this: You’re a single parent. You come home and discover that the electricity is off. You stop. Then think. (What can I do? I don’t have any money left!) You have a four month old child who is hungry. You have no food left in the fridge. You decide your only option is to steal. So you go to the nearest store and you take the food needed to feed your child.

This doesn’t necessarily make you some type of criminal. You’re simply doing what you know you can to provide for your child at all costs. This visual also pertains to gangs. The people in gangs normally join them to receive protection. Some of them even receive comfort and develop friendships. All members aren’t bad people. Some sell drugs because that’s all they can do. If you commit a crime and go to jail the chances of you getting hired somewhere are slim. It’s almost like you are set up to fail. What’s crazy is that the people who are targeted in these situations are black.

Living in poor areas typically come along with not having a good education. Poor areas mean little income. In order for small businesses to thrive, you need a population. Parents have to have jobs to support their children. Little jobs means little income which means moving. The smaller the school gets, the more careless the school system becomes, the more vulnerable students become to other things.

The structure of one’s home also plays a key role in one’s life.

Imagine this: Your mom was an amazing basketball player. She went on to play ball in college and overseas. You were left in the hands of your drunken dad. One day your younger brother misspelled a word on his spelling test so your dad attacked you. He hung you by a rope and beat you like you were a slave. Your parents later split and you and your brothers were left in the care of your grandmother.

Psychologists say that traumatic incidents can affect a person’s personality. Maybe some things are just way too “deep”. The child in this visual probably later had a rough life. They probably joined a gang. Had a couple of kids they never took care of. Or maybe they turned to drugs and alcohol like their father. In most cases the average black person goes through a struggle that isn’t as easy as it’d be for the next individual to get out of. Most are banking on their God given talents.

Along with the weak foundation and jagged structure comes the world. A world that doesn’t see the good in you, but only the bad. A world that sees you as a threat even if you’re a young boy, 12, outside holding a toy gun. Or even if you’re a father, outside a convenient store selling CDs for your family, but shot close range, in the chest, while fighting for your life.

But as the professor said, “If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in society, please stand, nobody’s standing here. That says very plainly that you know what’s happening. You don’t want it for you. I wanna know why you’re so willing to accept it or allow it to happen for others.”

I guess it really is “A Hard Knock Life”.

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