Posts Tagged ‘Who’s Afraid Of A Large Black Man? – book review’

Today I finished “Who’s Afraid Of A Large Black Man?“, by Charles Barkley (edited by Michael Wilbon) (2005©).  This is a book about racism in America.  More specifically, it’s a book about asking successful people to discuss their experiences and views about racism in America.
Charles Barkley is a famous former professional athlete.  In this book, he interviews thirteen people to open a discussion about race and racism in America.  The list includes:  Tiger Woods, former President Bill Clinton, former Senator (current President) Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson, and George Lopez.  Each of the interviewees brings their perspective to the issue.  All say essentially the same thing:  we’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a ways to go.
I found the book a fascinating (and very quick) read.  My own view is, of course, mixed with my personal experience – racism exists and is a powerful force for division in the country I love.  I have seen it face to face, experienced it, seen people look away, and seen people rise up to the challenge of it.
I believe racism in America is about fear and economic opportunity.  The fear is the fear of “others”.  Those not like us.  Those not from around here.  Them.  I believe there is a natural tendency in humans to bond with those we are near and associate with.  Call it localism, nationalism, tribalism or some other kind of “groupism” and it still results in the same thing – “us” against “them”.  This tendency is played upon and magnified by those who seek to “control” the majority of Americans – the majority who just want to get on with their lives, get ahead a little financially and raise a family.  The tactic is to divide and conquer and, as I mentioned previously, race is one easy way of dividing people who might otherwise find common cause.
There is a perception in modern society that we can’t ALL have great jobs – whatever “great jobs” means.  That may be correct.  But, we should all be able to work hard for a living wage.  Note, I said “living wage”, not “minimum wage”.  “Work hard” means more than just showing up, although that is a very important part of working hard.  It also means giving your best effort during the time you are working. It normally means using your brains as well as your muscles.
I question this perception / belief / assumption.  I believe we can all earn a living wage. We are not all going to be “rich”, but I believe our nation is unique in its ability to fund equal opportunity.  I’m not sure we always had this ability, but I certainly believe we do now.  I believe we are moving into a post-industrial (post-standardized, post-mass produced) world where the benefits of industrial scaling are beginning to decrease and the benefits of limited, customized, specialized manufacturing are starting to dominate.  On top of that, we are now better able to use technology to make very specific (small scale) manufacturing cost effective for the majority of products.  And finally, a significant portion of the economy is now purely digital, meaning: it isn’t consumed by use.
There is a saying that a smile is something you can give away freely and never have less of.  This is what we are approaching with an economy based on digital use without consumption.  The trick will be the distribution of wealth and opportunity for economic advancement.  It will be a disgrace to see race rather than ability as the determinant factor in distribution.
The book is a terrific thought provoking read and I highly recommend it!
Finding this book was pure serendipity.  A co-worker is also an avid reader and she brings in books and just leaves them for anyone who wants to take and read them.  I was walking along the bookshelf and there it was…

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