Gene Marks's column got me thinking. I'm no smarter than your average rich white motivational speaker. I have it much easier than them, too - no traveling, no memorization, no having to constantly be "on". The world is not fair to them mainly because they had the misfortune of being able to package trite aphorisms into outline form. This is a fact. In 2011.
I am not a motivational speaker. I am a young black man who grew up a poor black kid. So life was easier for me. But that doesn't mean that the prospects are impossible for motivational speakers on their grind. Or that the 99% somehow can determine for themselves how to face the day and imagine that around every corner lies another opportunity. I don't believe that. Every rich white motivational speaker can succeed. Still. In 2011.
It takes brains. It takes hard work. And a little national publication believing in you and your largely unfounded advice to a group of people you have no contact with except through reruns of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It takes the ability to churn out a thousand words that seem right to your audience, which is a group that is exactly the opposite of the people you're supposedly advising. And technology. I have a Kindle.
If I were a rich white motivational speaker, I would first and most importantly make sure that I ignored all historical and social facts about the group of people I was addressing. I would make it my #1 priority to not know anything about them. I wouldn't care if I had a degree in African-American Studies. Even the most knowledgeable among us can think that Harriet Tubman is the mascot of a bath remodeling service. Not knowing things is the key to having options when you motivate. By not being constrained, you can choose different, nonsensical paths. If you know things about people, you often can't tell them what just occurred to you in the shower, or on the bus, or from someone's Facebook status.
And use the technology that's available to you as a rich white person. Use your Cisco telecommunications suite to talk to other rich white people about your target audience. You can set up optional 3G services on many devices using your American Express card. It's not difficult.
If I were a rich white motivational speaker, I would watch Netflix on Demand through my Roku and learn about poor black children watching such films as The Blind Side and The Help, or even by upgrading to the disc delivery service so that I could watch the DVD extras.
Is this easy? Fuck no, it's not. You've already succeeded at motivating middle and upper-middle class people who look a lot like you and want to find the inspiration to write bad poetry or figure out how to get women to like them. But you haven't succeeded at convincing those people that you're sensitive and smart enough to talk to minorities. But it's not impossible. Forbes is there. Your new laptop is there. Sixteen-point font is there.
And if you think this is hard, and that you can't do it yourself, then the first person you should introduce yourself to is John Dickerson or Shelby Steele. These men, and others like them, are your key to telling minorities things you're about 75% sure they should be hearing.
Yes, it's hard to pull things out of your ass, and even harder to shape those things into advice that makes cripping, systemic, race-based poverty into a problem that can be solved via Wikipedia and Google Books. But there is still opportunity in this country for those rich and white and motivated enough to do it.