by Jeff Yang, WNYC
I am not a rich white dude. I am a young black kid who comes from a lower class black background. So life is harder for me. But that doesn’t mean that understanding what my world is like is impossible for dudes from the outer suburbs. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them to learn. Or that the elite few who’ve made out like bandits in a disastrous global economy have no eyes to see, ears to hear or hands to help the 99% of Americans who are facing the loss of their jobs, homes and retirements. I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has the ability to empathize with those in need. Still. In 2011. Even a rich white dude in suburban Philadelphia.
It takes heart. It takes effort. It takes a little thoughtfulness. And a little help from others — maybe a poor black kid like me. It takes the cultural openness and humility to recognize that “simple solutions” may not be as simple as you rich white dudes think. Like technology. As a person whose parents have no job security, no health insurance and wages that barely cover our rent and food, I can tell you that a computer and Internet access aren’t our family’s top priority. But maybe that’s not so obvious.
If I was a rich white dude I would first and most importantly work to make sure I actually saw what it’s like to live as a poor black kid myself before I wrote a condescending column about how we should solve “our” problems. I would make it my #1 priority to spend some actual time with a working-class black family. Obviously, I wouldn’t know any personally, but I’d outreach to a social services program or an inner city school for help finding one willing to let me talk to them. Even the most privileged and obtuse person can look up the name of a charitable nonprofit in the phone book. And if you’re a technology columnist and business consultant, you’ll have even more resources: You can use Google!