I remember back when I was in college at Miami University there was an unspoken understanding among the Black students between those of us that knew struggle (Have-Nots) regarding our opinions of those who didn’t (the Haves). We believed that the ones who knew no economic struggle were privileged, spoiled and born with silver spoons in their mouths. Those Haves that chose to reject their status and attempt to “fit in” via fake, thugged out persona’s were privately ridiculed and oftentimes shown minimal respect by the Have Nots. Those Haves who chose to embrace their status were also privately ridiculed. Either way, the Haves couldn’t win.
This unspoken dynamic between the two groups is quite unfortunate because I don’t recall the Haves being snobby or carrying a “better than” attitude when interacting with the Have Nots-they were agreeable and despite our economic differences, we were all united under various other aspects of our lives whether it be academic goals, social organizations, race relations, etc. At the end of the day, we were/are people.
So why do we in the Black community dog the ones who had an easier time at life? Is it not good that we all haven’t had to fight tooth and nail for assets we have in life?
One particular friend (and probably my nicest friend, seriously lol) that comes to mind and perfectly illustrates my point is Camille. Camille was the first Black student I met at Miami University during summer orientation. She is Jamaican and defied all of the stereotypes I had learned regarding my ignorant education of “island” people. She didn’t have natural hair, didn’t look “down” upon African-Americans, had a flyer wardrobe than I, and had a clear cut goal of where she was headed in life (she’s currently a 3L at American University in D.C.). Throughout that first year, it became apparent that Camille’s background was much more stable and solid than mine-I visited her Solon, Ohio home and environment and was so impressed. She never shied away from her reality; Camille accepted it, made no apologies and lived her life. Kudo’s.
I resented that. I resented that Camille didn’t know economic struggle, seemed to have it all and as a result, I created a wall in our friendship that separated us because I felt like she couldn’t relate to me. I frowned upon her material wealth and passed her off as slightly spoiled, not relatable and not quite “in touch” with Black people’s reality (understand that Camille was/is incredibly diplomatic and nice-she didn’t deserve that). I would hear her stories of how she would travel into the rougher parts of Cleveland to kick it and think, “You’ve never had to LIVE there so what do you really know?”
Now that I’m older and wiser, I understand how wrong I was! How blessed is Camille that she hasn’t shared those same experiences I have! It is nothing short of phenomenal that there are still many Blacks who have had the experience of growing up in stable, two-parent family homes. And while I was so quick to assume Camille has not known struggle as I have, perhaps she has and has not discussed it. I was so quick to judge-all I saw was where she and her family were at that moment and understood that it was MUCH better than anything I had currently had.
Recently I was in the office and was talking with Dawn, a coworker-she was shocked to learn that I am younger than she thought.
“You’re not 27 or 28 Ashley!? Wow! I figured you were older.”
“Dawn, I better not be that old moving back home with my mom and struggling to find my career! Ugh, I’d be a failure at life. I am 24!”
“Why would that be a failure though Ashley? If anything, you’d just be a spoiled brat, living at home with your mom, no bills except for your car insurance and phone bill. You’d just be hanging out, not being serious about life. I’ve pretty much been on my own since I was 15 and had to make my way. And you’ve got no kids…I’ve got two.”
“That mentality right there is an issue Dawn. Because after graduating college I lived in a NICE apartment for nearly 2 years, working a full-time job I despised and I was overall miserable. My mother has given me the opportunity to move back home, start over and figure this out-I’ve been with her for less than a year actually. Why do we look at Blacks who aren’t struggling as bad as we are as a negative thing?” I went on to say, “God intended for the family unit to be headed by a man and wife, for that unit to support each other until everyone is on their way. Being on your own at 15, single-parenting, etc is not what has been intended for us! And now you mean to tell me, when we are living the way that God intended, having supportive parents, we’re ‘spoiled?!’”
Dawn recognized what I was saying and she wound up agreeing with me-she herself is saving money now so that neither one of her daughters has to take out a single loan for college. Even she has to admit that struggling is never ideal and she wants better for her own. Long story short, we have to quit dogging those in our community who have had seemingly fewer obstacles. While you may be viewing one person as a Have and yourself as a Have-Not, the next person has viewed you as a Have and themselves as a Have-Not. No one is winning currently. We have to be the tide to change this.
Speak on it.