Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Originally posted at Brown Mommy’s
My oldest son is 11-years-old. He is an avid reader. Makes good grades in school and has currently taken on the hobby of aqua-scaping (basically he designs fish tanks). He says his greatest asset is his curiosity. He always wants to learn. Naturally, seeing his book smarts when he was a kid we pressed on him that he would be expected to go to college. So much so that when he would misbehave as a little kid and we asked him why he was misbehaving he would respond with “I’m just trying to go to college.” It was hilarious, but we were committed.
We were committed that is until we took a look around our own community. We are currently in the process of purchasing the home we live in, and one of the things my husband and I have noticed is the lack of basic general contractors in our neighborhood. When we want to hire an electrician, plummer or carpenter we very rarely can someone from our own community to hire. It’s long been a fact in the Black community that less than 3 cents on every Black dollar goes back into the community. In my culture, cooperative economics and supporting Black businesses is very important. We try our best to not only support local businesses, but to support brown businesses. Not to mention, that the current high rates of unemployment are not so much due to a lack of jobs, but due to a lack of skilled workers. It’s estimated that some 3 million jobs currently sit vacant because Americans are too busy getting liberal arts degrees like communications, marketing, business and sports management. When most students get done with those degrees they get over $30K in debt and a $30,000 job. So, where there is a need…there is an opportunity. For my son, that is.
A long time ago, African-Americans stopped raising their children to solve their problems for some odd reason. Our community has been long overdue for Black corner store owners, Black-owned laundromats, Black general contractors and Black-owned grocery stores, yet and still we continue to send our kids to college where they leave our community and work for a corporation that does very little for our communities.
When I moved to New York 6 years ago I was very naive. My husband and I moved into a house in Queens N.Y. that we could barely afford. One of the things I remember is this Asian couple who moved in about a week after we did. They seemed nice, but stayed to themselves — it was a predominately Caribbean neighborhood. About a month after they moved in, I noticed four other people were also living in their home. They continued to be quiet, but nice.
By the end of that year, my husband and I were looking for another place to live. We could no longer afford our over $2000 rent. But, at the end of the year the Asian couple across the street had rented a vacant storefront at the end of the block and were bringing in inventory for their new “One Dolla Store.” And the four people who had mysteriously invaded their home were gone. That’s when I decided I wasn’t sending my son to college and that it would probably be a good idea to move back home.
As much as I hate to crush a brown mommy dream, I’m afraid we don’t need more politicians, engineers or biologist in our community. If you are the type of mother who is only looking at how to make your child succeed and nothing more, than more power to you. I hope that works out. But, like Jay-Z said I’m trying to hold down like three generations. I want all three of my boys to have a skill that they and only they can pass down to their kids. A skill they don’t need a $50,000 college-degree to learn. A skill they can sale in the workplace without begging someone for a job. I want them to have a skill that builds legacy and financial stability for themselves and their community.
What that Asian family did blew my mind. They worked together to reach a common goal. Now, their daughter doesn’t need to wait for the government to give out summer jobs for her to get one, and she’ll have better work ethic than any Penn State student will ever have. Further, they can use that income to help other family members so that that when their great daughter becomes an engineer she will be able to work for an Asian architecture firm that solidifies and builds on Asian culture.
So, about 10 years from now, when that pipe in the basement burst, your living room light gets short circuited and you don’t know why, or your roof needs to be prepared, be sure to get in touch with me. My son will take the job and the check.
So what’s my view? I’ve long said that college/university will be an option (not a requirement) for my children. I’m very clear on my reasons. I certainly wouldn’t trade my college and university experiences for the world. I learned LOTS. They broadened my perspective and sharpened my critical thinking skills. That is by no means the best route for everyone though.