We cannot continue telling ourselves, “We’re used to it.” “We can take it.”
It’s time to stand up for ourselves. It’s time to take our rightful place in our community; our proper place in society.
We are entitled to so much more than what we have been getting. And I am not talking about government handouts and other entitlements of that sort. I am referring to that to which we are “entitled to” in direct proportion to our contribution to society.
Because, as a wise man once said, “we get back what we put in.”
I understand that some of us have had a rough few years, and that the suffering for others lasted a few centuries. However, just like some white Americans need to stop trying to take our country back to the 1950s, we, minorities in general, but especially African Americans, need to learn to forgive; they need to learn to move forward.
I’m certainly not asking you to forget.
We shall never forget.
However, we gain nothing by holding on to resentment for all the suffering that was, and continues to be, inflicted upon your race. What’s more, most times, hate and resentment cause less harm to its object than to the person who harbors it.
All those centuries of slavery and segregation are from a time past; they should be behind you.
Shed the hate.
Shed the fear.
Take control of your destiny.
There are some souls out there who can get something for nothing. But most of us can’t.
Remember what I just said? That we get back what we put in? What this means is that we need to put in a modicum of effort. At least, we must put in effort in direct proportion to what we want to get.
Because apathy will get us nowhere; neither will our complaining about the state of play—the status quo—if we are not willing to get off our behind and take meaningful action. By meaningful action, I mean specific action; that is, action meant to solve a specific problem.
Of course, we must use the cards we have been dealt. There is no denying that. But guess what. Since we are the ones who control how those cards are played, we still have a shot at success.
And success comes in many forms; it means different things to different people.
Not everyone needs to have a billion dollars sitting in a bank vault to be considered successful. As a matter of fact, to millions out there, a million would be too much.
I, for one, could be working for the federal government, or for a private contractor. Using the training I got in the Navy, I could be making upwards of $100,000 dollars a year. Which is not that much money, you might say; however, that figure is enough to pay for a mortgage and feed a small family.
The thing is, I had decided, even before I retired, that I didn’t need to make $100,000 dollars, or even close to that amount, to be “happy.” I know: for some, money equates to happiness—nothing wrong with that. I, myself, can thrive on much less.
Guess who made that decision for me.
I did. I control my life. I control my future. I control my destiny.
I have received no handouts from the US Government—ever. And my dad did not have an old car to pass down to me when he was ready to “trade up,” as is customary to do here in America.
I earned the money.
I bought the car.
Believe me, I speak from experience when I tell you that there is a great feeling of satisfaction attached to providing for oneself.
It is in that spirit that I urge all of you, African Americans, Hispanics—or Latinos, call us what you want—immigrants of every stripe, to get off your butt and to get a proper job.
You can start small. Even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company had to start somewhere.
Above all —and I realize that many will disagree on this next point, but— “tick” that box. Get an education.
Please, go back to school.
You don’t have to aim for a doctorate, a master’s degree, or even a bachelor’s or associate degree. Just finish high school or go back to working on getting that GED you said you would get.
Because we must learn to crawl before we can walk.
I promise you: doing certain things every day—we are creatures of habit—will start you on the road to success, whatever success means to you.
I know that there are hundreds of people out there who are wealthy beyond their wildest dreams despite their not having graduated from college.
Each person is different. Why should surprise anyone that we may have to follow different roads to success?
We get an education not merely to acquire knowledge.
Knowledge without action gets us nothing.
However, in the process of getting educated, there is a chance we may also learn how to apply our newly-acquired knowledge.
About a century ago, Napoleon Hill said that the reason for getting an education is so that we can “get anything we want without infringing upon the rights of others.”
To Hill, that was what it meant to be educated.
I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of getting everything I want. Moreover, I love the idea of being able to do it “without infringing upon the rights of others.”
Get an education so that you can be your own person; so that you do not have to depend on handouts. Not that there is anything wrong with accepting help when we are down. It is wise to ask for help if we are lost. The good news? There are people out there for whom there’s nothing more rewarding than helping a fellow human.
And most of all, get an education so that you can help your children succeed.
Education and work is the only way to break the cycle of material, intellectual, and spiritual poverty you have been living in.
• I urge you to read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay: “Compensation.”.