Struggles of a young Black Man & the Great Recession

Today’s post is actually an email that my brother who is a tad younger than me sent. Unemployment rates are high as hell and if you are Black its even worse. I thought what he wrote reflected the struggles that many are facing and in some ways captures the angst of many who were sold a bill of goods that their education would move them up the socio -economic ladder. Instead we have a growing group of indentured servants who are enslaved to student loans that won’t be paid off till they retire or worse yet are canceled upon their death. The Great Recession is restructuring America in ways that we won’t fully understand for years to come, as the middle class shrinks and we have a growing number of poor folks in this country.

Anyway here are my brother’s words:

What do you do when you do everything you were told to do
and get no result?
What happens when you have a back up of a back up and yet still struggle?

No one can plan for the likes of the recession, especially the one we have had
but as a person that is a hair under 30, I have been working since 16, I expected more.
Much more!

Education? Check! I have been blessed to have a Bachelors in Architecture, and a Masters
in Real Estate. How ironic I have education in two areas that are severely affected by this
nasty recession.

Networking? Check! I have been working in trade association and organizations for over 10 years
to better enhance myself, knowing that just a degree is not enough to be armed with in this
war for success and financial security

Job hunting? Check! I have sent out hundreds of resumes! I have followed up. I have worked with
these fly-by-night companies that say they can enhance your resume, and no call backs.
Knowing ones self worth, its quite depressing to ask for a calculated living wage from potential employers, and have people and employers
say that’s too much? At what point does it become common sense that people need to live amongst HR managers, upper
management, and C-suite executives?
What is also sad is having a masters, and incurring all this debt for the sake of the financial prosperity
has gotten me nothing but harassing calls from Sallie Mae, and the frustrating of not being able to pay
but only defer, defer defer.

What is one to do? Everyday I dedicate hours to calling firms back, sending resumes, tapping my network but
to no avail. Nothing is more frustrating then to find out that your education has made you “overqualified” which
a lot of times now translates to, “Yeah you are probably good, but you cost too much and the C-level execs dont want
you cutting into their 6-7 figure bonuses for you”
Lack of faith in corporate America makes one quite hesitant in believing in any form of job security these days.  However
try explaining that to people who don’t have degrees or family members who assume that since you have multiple degrees
you must be not applying yourself.

Tried entrepreneurship? Check.. By necessity of survival, and trying to keep a roof over my head, I have been pushing to get
my company off the ground. Spending countless hours doing research on business related matters, as well as pumping out
product for the clients I scramble to get, but its not enough! To be in the arts right now is to be a stranded in the middle of the
ocean, during a hurricane with no raft! Any and everything one can do to improve themselves, i have tried and retried again and again.
Left feeling like Peter in the boat with Jesus, proverbially speaking, I have been fishing all night! Praying without cease, I am
wondering, when and where will I find my other side of the boat, to find my abundance?

Even now, I could go on and further elaborate, but I wont.. because I want this story to be heard, as well as continue to job hunt as my rent
is already past due, so I have to get back to fishing!

Yikes! We are only worth $5.

A friend linked to this piece on Facebook and after reading it I knew I had to write about it, since some on my Twitterfeed were talking about this as well. Turns out that single Black women have a median net worth of $5 compared to single white women in the prime of their work life who have a median net worth of $42,600.00.  Among the married and co-habitating ladies Black women have a median net worth of $31,500.00 compared to married and co-habitating white women who have a median net worth of $167,500.00.

Yikes! No wonder more of my white friends can afford to be stay at home Mamas and the sistas are working, hell…it comes down to dollars and cents. Seriously, while that figure of $5 may be shocking, I have to be honest and say I am not surprised. Among my Black girlfriends most of us are first and maybe second generation college graduates, many of us are carrying heavy debt loads, and its not always because we have no common sense as far as money. In many cases the only options out of the working class we saw our folks live with was by heading to college, yet many of our families had no cash to contribute to the process. So guess what? You end you end like me with 6 figure college debt with a job that will never allow you to pay it off.

Which brings me to another point, I think professional Black women are disproportionately in low paying fields such as teaching, social work, low-end healthcare…jobs where the top salary may only hit 50-60G’s with a graduate degree maybe a tad more if you are in a high cost of living area. I have always been drawn to social work and at many of the agencies I worked at in Chicago, the low and mid level staff was Black but the folks in charge were white. I’m not making a statement just making an observation.

Sadly and I was guilty of this, too many of us do not gravitate to fields with high paying salaries and while white women are just as guilty of this, a lower paying career is less of a detriment if you have either a mate or some family money to prop you up. I recall many of my white coworkers were partnered to partners who were high wage earners so earning less was not an issue if one partner can carry the weight.

On the other hand and I am ducking while I say this and I admit it’s a generalization but one was born of my personal experiences, too many of my sistas spend what coins they have rocking the latest and greatest styles. Or having a fly car…last year a dear friend of mine fresh out of divorce court with no settlement went and bought a huge ass SUV fully loaded and oh…she had no job. I love her but come on, that’s just not a good decision. We can’t drive a hoopty as I used to call em, we got to have a nice car, fly hair, fly furniture and then wonder why we don’t have two nickels to rub together.

By the same token I know some sistas who have it going on financially but lets face it too many of us don’t and I am a card-carrying member of that club so I can talk shit about it. I have told my story before, basically my parents taught me jack about money and I have learned the hard way after I jacked up my credit, now I am rebuilding my financial life. I think in lower class families its pretty common for folks not to talk about financial management, instead telling a bright kid go to college and you will do alright financially. Well I technically am better off than my Pops thanks to my education but when you factor in my debt, I am best we are even.

In order for sistas to build some wealth, we need to truly explore careers that pay well. If I could go back, I probably would not have gone into human services. Following one’s bliss is cool but at a certain point financial stability is even better. I also think we need some serious financial management taught through schools and community groups and frankly I think this needs to be across the board to everyone not just Black women. I also think sistas we need to stop putting so much into material objects. Getting your hair done at the shop every week for $50-60 is insane, again…I have been there, I know how it is

I am not Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey but I suggest we pick up some of their books and get to studying because sistas a net worth of $5 is just not cool.

ETA: I wrote this piece last night in a rush but there are some other reasons why I think Black women tend to have less wealth. Too many times we take on the responsibility of caring and providing for family members at a level that I have rarely seen among my non Black friends. I will be honest and say that some of my debt is because I made the decision to help my parents out when my Mom was dying, 6 years later that money I owed the IRS has grown. Granted most of us are not faced with ailing parents but we will come up off the cheddar to help this one or that one…in many cases being told we can afford because we have that education or that job. All the while knowing deep down we don’t have the cash to spare but we want to save face so we do it. Now you may not do this but I suspect if you are a Black women reading this, you know at least one sista who does this.

Mommy Wars in Black and White

I don’t know what’s going on with me but lately my patience has been pretty non-existant. To be blunt I find people annoying me more and more and that lack of patience has played my role in my decision to actively reduce my time online. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here but I am no longer posting daily at this point the goal is 2-3 posts a week, I still am on Facebook and Twitter but no longer do I find myself spending hours surfing blogs and connecting via social media. Let’s just say the changes have been good not only for me but  for the entire family. I am also redefining my work time so that when work is over, its over…my new joke is unless the joint is burning up, don’t call me.

So what is it that had me in such a tizzy that I have to just unplug? To be honest its Mommy Wars. I used to think that Mommy Wars was an invention of the media to make Moms feel even worse but ladies frankly I think we bring it on ourselves. As a Black woman I find rarely does the issue of parenting and parenting philosophies come up when I am talking or spending time with my Black or minority buddies. To be honest, yes we may talk about how the kids are doing but rarely are hours spent on wondering why Johnny does XYZ…I read a book some years ago that really touched upon the fact that Black Motherhood is approached through a different lens and I do think there is a lot of truth in that.

When I talk to a sista friend never do I feel judged in any way because I choose to work, instead it is what it is. Frankly I enjoy working, truth is I am not SAHM material. I need a lot of space and being at home all the time with the apple dumpling would be bad for both of us. I am very thankful my job is flexible, right now that flexibility is a huge deal, enough that I put up with the fact I am woefully underpaid. I never look at another sista and judge the choices that she makes be it a SAHM or WOHM…I figure people will do what’s best for them and their families. To be honest I rarely judge anyone else’s parenting unless it borders on abusive.

In the past 15 months of working with low-income at risk families I see a lot of shit that has helped readjust how I view parenting.  I see a lot of shit, that well if you saw it you’d realize there are so many things that are just not worth getting one’s panties in a bunch about.

That said I am a Black woman in a really white state and most of my day-to-day buddies are white and its these relationships that sometimes stress me the fuck out. There are days when I am out with friends and I feel like my name is Jeff Spiccoli and I am a slacker parent. Maybe its the fact that despite starting out pretty fucked up I seem to have successfully raised one kid to adulthood and he is a good kid who despite the fact he is a biracial kid of divorce who has bounced back and forth between his me and his father  is basically a well-adjusted happy kid. Even now as we eagerly await what we hope will be acceptance letters from schools, he is already coming up with his back up plans should he not get into the schools he really wants to get into and I must say that I am in awe of him. Seriously this kid is far more mature than I was 18 and I am not kidding. I should add that when he was born I never went on a website to look up information, of course there were none and I read very few parenting books. Instead I trusted my gut even when I made the painful decision to not keep legally fighting about custody knowing a day would come that my baby would leave me and live with his dad. I trusted that it would all work out, I knew what didn’t work for me a kid and have always treated my son with respect. Granted he knew especially when he was young that I was the boss and I make no apologies for that but he also knew and knows that I am always here, my ear is always available and generally I will listen and think before I speak.

On the other side with the girl child as soon as her presence was confirmed I immediately started the research, joining websites, getting book recommendations, etc…over the past 5 years I have eaten, slept and dreamt parenting issues. Honestly all this focus on parenting and raising her at one point threatened my marriage as there was a 2.5 year period where the Spousal Unit didn’t have a voice since as the chief researcher of all things parent related I felt my voice carried greater weight. You may laugh but on parenting websites too many times a mom will have a post how to get the partner to see her point of view and generally the consensus is if said partner does not do their research they don’t get a voice. Yikes! Who the fuck wants to raise a kid with such a controlling asshole?

By the same token thanks to the never-ending stream of information we women are able to constantly keep raising the bar on our fellow mothers and sadly its my white sisters who really thrive at this. It used to be that if one breastfed their kid a good 6 months or a year well it was a good thing…but now its like oh you weaned at 18 months? You can see the judgement on the poor Mama who did not let little Jenny self wean at 3 or 4. Full disclosure I nursed girl child till she was 3.5 I did not let her wean herself, I just got tired of nursing and felt she was more than old enough to not need to nurse and instead found other ways to connect. So before the lactivist come to string me up lets just say I have solid breastfeeding credentials especially for a woman of color, statistically Black women have lower rates of breastfeeding than white women and to date I have probably only known at best including myself 5 Black women who nursed past 18 months.

But judgement continues in all areas, use disposable diapers and folks look down on you, and work? Why goodness gracious , how can one work and raise kids? Sadly the poor Mama it seems is considered to be less loving, less dedicated if she works. Never mind that not every woman has a partner who earns enough to support the family on one check, hell not every woman even has a partner and last time I checked public assistance is hard to live off of. Unless one lives in a Section 8 apartment and gets every program known to man even then she may still be hitting up food banks at the end of the month. Not a very pretty existence and I’m sorry but as someone who grew up pretty poor at times, poverty sucks. Yet its only my white friends who agonized over these choices, I have only had 1 Black friend who chose to be a SAHM despite no financial resources or partner and she eventually had to take a job.

Even the issue of school is an area where it seems one must tread lightly. Back with my eldest it was automatically assumed that when a kid hit 5-6 they went to school but that is not the way things are anymore. Send your kids to school and you have to make excuses for why you choose that route. Hell, even the school you choose is cause for anxiety, public or private? Of course those who home school also have to deal with issues as well, do you follow a program, do you unschool? Shit the ways in which Mamas beat ourselves up is crazy. I say educate your kid in a manner that works for your family. I admit I love the idea of homeschooling, even unschooling but to be honest I know my limitations and seeing as how I am not SAHM material I doubt homeschooling would work for us. I also have a kid who thrives with structure and I don’t do structure so again I know myself and I accept this.

Please, please do not think I am slamming white mothers, I’m not instead I ask myself why do you guys make what is already a hard job even harder? Parenting a child is one of the most rewarding and joyous experiences you may ever have yet when we add judgement and snark, we make it harder on ourselves. I also wonder though why do my Black sisters not get as stressed about parenting? In some ways I think it’s because on  a whole we have so much shit we deal with it that maybe its self-preservation to not stress over every detail. I can’t help but sadly think its these differences though that at times keep us from connecting as women and mothers. I wonder how many of my readers have true friendships with women across racial and cultural lines? I think its hard because even when we share commonalities even in parenting we rarely are able to see outside our own zone.

I would welcome your thoughts on parenting across racial and cultural lines..what do you see.