The Real Black Culture Problem That Paul Ryan Ignores

Last week, during an appearance on Bill Bennett’s “Morning in America” show, Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan said:

“[W]e want people to reach their potential and so the dignity of work is very valuable and important and we have to re-emphasize work and reform our welfare programs, like we did in 1996,” Ryan told Bennett. “We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

His comments  were troubling to say the least. But to understand why, allow me to provide some context to what lead up to hearing his comment. On Thursday night, I watched a docuseries on CNN called Chicagoland, and in this episode they were talking about how school closures in at-risk inner-city neighbourhoods directly affected the children. In the southside of Chicago, where every other block represents gang turf, going to a new school meant that kids from rival blocks would now be locker mates which would only increase the violence. Little girls in the first grade were lamenting how scary it is to walk home from school, not just because of the real possibility of catching a stray bullet, but because they are directly targeted and assaulted by older gangs. Let me repeat – little girls in GRADE ONE were scared because they frequently get JUMPED just walking home from school.

After that episode was over, I caught up on previous episodes of Shark Tank, a show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a select panel of businesspersons who’ve made millions and billions of dollars through their own ventures, in the hopes that one or two of “the sharks” will want to invest money into their idea. This particular show was the children’s episode, which featured young people between the ages of 11-17. A freckle-faced, blonde hair boy led the show off by presenting a fresh-fruit, water bottle. Tearing into his idea, the sharks asked him how much money had he invested into the concept, to which he replied, “my parents have loaned me about $300,000.” Instantly, my head started to spin at the idea that this 12 year old boy received north of a quarter-million dollars to pursue a venture that ultimately had never returned a sizeable profit and was deemed “uninvestable” by a group of experienced and successful businessmen and women. And it was after watching those two programs back-to-back that I heard Paul Ryan’s quote on the “laziness” of the poor.

Cue the rage.

The problem with people who think like Paul Ryan is the fact that they believe results are the best qualifier of effort. They believe that it takes a set amount of “hard work” to achieve anything in life, therefore making it fair to say that Barack Obama worked equally as hard as George W. Bush to become president of the United States – because they BOTH became president (even though one had to work his way up in a single-parent home while battling racism, and the other had a father who was formerly president of the United States). But the problem with that logic is that it ignores the vast disparity of access between the privileged and the disadvantaged.

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This Is Your Conscience

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.