Black women finding success

April 09, 2003|By GREGORY KANE

THE SECRET'S out now, thanks to the March 3 edition of Newsweek magazine.

Black folks tried to keep it on the down-low, but it seems we've been outted by a national periodical, which aired the linen - whether it's dirty or clean depends on your perspective - we've known for some time.

You don't hear blacks in the reparations for slavery movement talk about this news. They're too busy trying to portray black Americans as ridden with poverty and oppression. You didn't hear it mentioned during any of the recent marches, rallies and demonstrations for affirmative action either.

The headline on the Newsweek cover - which features singer Beyonce Knowles, television talk show host Star Jones and Mellody Hobson, the president of Ariel Capital Management - says it best:

"From schools to jobs, black women are rising much faster than black men."

A story capsule in the table of contents breaks it down further: "Long confined to menial jobs, black women are advancing faster than black men - and many whites - in education, income and careers."

You'll forgive me for taking the liberty of adding those italics, but I did it to get the attention of those African-Americans who spend way too much time holding pity parties.

This revelation should hardly be surprising. Black women's success has been well-known for years.

Almost 38 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson referred to it in his now famous Howard University commencement address.

"The median income of Negro college women tonight [June 4, 1965] exceeds that of white college women," Johnson told those assembled.

Ellis Cose, the Newsweek reporter who wrote the March 3 article, provided the statistics to show the trend has continued. About 24 percent of black women are professionals or managers. The figure is 17 percent for black men.

"Twenty-five percent of young black males go to college," Cose wrote. "Thirty-five percent of women do. Only 13.5 percent of young black females are high-school dropouts; more than 17 percent of young black men are."

"Brothers are not in college like sisters are," said Burnetta Ajide, a black woman who works in the accounting department of the Baltimore Teachers Union.

Ajide seemed to echo Cose's statistics, while adding that in her family attending college was expected of boys and girls.

Might the lack of black men hankering for a college education be a generational thing? Should we really expect, Ajide was asked, that those young black men running around today with their pants hanging down on their butts will be serious about getting a college education?

Her response was quick, brief and emphatic.

"No."

There's a culture among some young black men today, one that says dressing in the latest hip-hop gear, speaking the coolest hip-hop lingo and "keepin' it real" - whatever that idiotic phrase means - are all the rage. Staying in school, making straight A's and getting into college are regarded as selling out or acting white.

Such an attitude is surely not the sole reason that many young black men drop out of school and end up in prison. But the situation is not one that can be blamed on white racism, or President Bush, or the "Uncle Tomism" of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

In short, the problem is one black folks will have to address and solve ourselves, without using white racists and their perceived black toadies as scapegoats.

That's why you didn't hear traditional liberal black leadership crowing about Cose's Newsweek article: If black women are doing well in spite of white racism, what's the problem with black men?

Ajide thinks today's young black men are way too materialistic.

"It's these ads that make young black men think they have to wear expensive pants that hang off their butts," she said.

Black women, according to Ajide, are more pragmatic and independent. They go to college because they know "they've got to fend for themselves."

Only one part of Cose's article bothered her.

At one point Cose posed the question, "Will black women, out of compassion or racial loyalty, `settle' for men several steps beneath them?"

"That was a poor choice of words," Ajide said, referring to the "several steps beneath" quote.

Indeed it is. Just because folks make less money doesn't mean they're "beneath" anyone. Abandoning such thinking may keep one's teeth in one's mouth, and avoid those rhinoplasties of a knuckular nature.

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