Against the Odds
There is a lot of power in what we speak over others and ourselves. Often, we hear negative statistics about communities of color. However, it is from the perspective of mainstream society. I am here to dispel the myths about communities of color. When I was growing up, I do not think I heard anyone say, “I want to be the recipient of government assistance I want to be a drug dealer, a prostitute, or a homeless person. However, what I do recall hearing are these phrases “I’m just making it” or “I’m getting by”. So how did these communities of color get here? In addition, why have the words “I’m just making it” or “I’m getting by “has become the norm? Partly, because statistics paints a picture of problems, not one with provides a solution nor explains human experiences. Personally, I know systemic barriers continue to perpetuate oppression and hopelessness in communities of color. Just about every form of communication, social media, television, books, newspapers talk about the plight of communities of color, especially African Americans and Latino Americans. Oftentimes, what is not mention are the hidden treasures within these communities. There are invisible leaders (teachers, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and mentors, etcetera) who continue to hold their communities together on a thread.
Two year ago, I wrote a dissertation about Self-Perceptions of Senior African Americans Who Participate in Formal Volunteering. The results of my research show that social and cultural capitals are the most significant resources for recruitment and retention of high-low socioeconomic status African American volunteers. Also, found are cultural tendencies of Americans that are primarily focused on activities for the family and kinship network, even if participants are less fortunate themselves.
How this relates to WoLove is I will pay if forward by educating Haitian children how to become self sufficient and productive citizens. I believe many are need a hand up not a hand out. However, Haitians are given handouts as solutions to their problem. Moreover, we know quick fixes are temporary. Bottom line, we have a generations of families who have grown up and grown old depending on the government. It has become their way of life. Really? Think about it. If your environment or community encourages you to depend on handouts from the government, then why would anyone strive for something better? There was a time when a stigma was associated with government assistance. To the point, Individuals were willing to work several jobs to avoid the stigma attached to receiving government help. Since the shift from manufacturing jobs to the service sector, many individuals are relying more and more on government programs. No matter how many jobs, people work; it is not enough to meet their basic needs. This constant struggle to make ends meet eventually convinces them to accept the government as their only option to survive. Until now, no one has entertained the idea of teaching Haitians or other poverty stricken communities how to break the cycle of poverty. Although, the goal of many government programs are to provide temporary assistance; However, if individuals are not educated at a young age how to become self-sufficient and productive citizens then the tendency is to fall prey to their circumstance. Let me make it clear, I am not saying government programs should not provide assistance, if needed however; it should not become a retirement plan.
Everyone, even successful people have experienced needing help in his or her life. The difference is successful people are able to rise above their circumstance because of their social capital (connections) who they know, which tends to be more extensive and heterogeneous. Wilson and Musick (1997) asserted that social capital is supported by the idea that “individuals and groups can gain resources from their connections to one another and from the type of these connections” (p. 698). According to Putnam (2000) although, many communities of color have social capital (connections) it is homogenous (with people who have similar problems) unfortunately, these connections seldom help them find access to the resources he or she needs to escape their current socio-economic position. In my opinion, I dispel the myths that communities of color are lazy and looking for handouts, think about this. How can a drug dealer be lazy, many sell drugs 24/7, and if you they are only looking for handouts why would those who are not dealing dealers work several jobs or provide caregivng to help make ends meet? These are things to ponder about.
In closing, it is imperative we begin to look deeper to see the root causes to a problem. Many times, it is not what it appears. Over the year’s implementation of Federal and State, policies have benefited some and hurt those on the margins of society.
My desire as an education consultant of Wolove is to help children look beyond their circumstance and see that if they work hard, obey the laws and love their country that it is possible to achieve not the American dream, (married, with a house in the suburbs, with 2.5 kids) but their dream. One that is uniquely their own and filled with love, hope, and promise that not only prepares them for a future, but leaves a legacy for many generations to come .
Dr, Monique C. Adams
Education Consultant at Ifriendnet Organization, Inc.