Thursday, September 11, 2008

How did you get where you are?

We tend to think we get what we have because we worked hard and acted responsibly... or the reverse may be true. Sure we may have done those things, but is that why any of us really are where we are?

Did you go to college?

You studied and worked hard to get into and through college. How did you know the entrance process and requirements? When did you realize or think college was an option for you? Who placed those ideas in your head? Did you know other people who were, or had been, in college? Did you do all your homework on your own or did some one “help” you? I don’t mean help as in what is four plus four but as in, “get in there and do your homework!” How many of your friends, or people in the neighborhood, finished high school?

How many times did you or your family move from k-12?

How did you pay for school?

How did you get your current job? Did you just walk up and apply or did you know someone? Did you know anyone in a similar industry before you started working there?

Did you ever get in trouble with the law growing up? What were the consequences? Who helped you get out of, or into trouble?

The answers to all these questions may or may not play a large role in where or who you are today… you tell me?

After answering these questions consider that the likely answers change depending on your race (and other factors, mainly economic) and ask why.

Is it all up to us, or does our situation play a large role? How did those before us get into these situations?


Siditty said...

Yes I went to college. Hook Em Horns!!!!!!!!!! I know about the entrance exams and requirements through my parents and school. College was never not an option for me I don't think. In 3rd grade I told my mother I was going to become a wrestler or football player, and she said that would be fine, once I graduated from college. Not to mention my parents were perpetually in school. My dad got his master's when I was 5, my mother got her undergrad when I was in 8th grade. When I was 14 or 15 she started on her masters and got it by the time I was 18 (she worked full time and went to school part time). Both my parents went to college, but my mother's parents did not, grandfather went to 8th grade, grandmother made it to 15. My father's mother went to college, but his biological father dropped out of school in 4th grade. In terms of homework, when I was in grade school my parents "helped" me when it came to looking over my homework or helping me study for a test, but my mom being a teacher, made me do my own science projects, as she told me teachers know when parents help. They were on top of it, they knew what I had for homework better than me. In college, I did my work on my own, and it was evident in my first attempt, but the second time around I did much better. In terms of my neighborhood, I am not sure, I didn't really have a neighborhood in which I grew up in, but our high school graduation rate was over 90% in my district. I moved exactly 6 times growing up due to my father's job. The first time I paid for school, my parents paid for it, I blew that and me and Sallie Mae became BFFs the second time around. We are still tight, as she still has access to my checking account.

I am unemployed at this time, but in every job I have ever had, I knew no one when I applied. I was in the insurance industry, and no one I know was in that industry, except my friends I met through work. I have no networking. I am studying to be a teacher (scary isn't it) through an alternative certification program, but I have no urge to go to the district my mother teaches in to work. I want to do inner city/urban areas.

I never got into trouble with the law, my parents scared me to death with that stuff, plus I had an uncle who went to prison and he was a crackhead, and my other uncle was head of the county Parole department, the allure of crime was diminished.

I think to an extent they do, my parents overt love for school makes me a perpetual student. I am considering getting my master's so I don't shame the family by only have an undergrad. My mother's profession as a teacher and my father being a former teacher probably had some influence on my current career path.

My answers would probably stay about the same, whether I was white or black, except maybe the networking questions. Every job I ever had, I have worked with people who were related to a higher up or friends or inlaws of someone at the job. In terms of class, if I was living where my mother grew up, I would probably not be inclined to go to college. My grandfather asked me at 16, when I was going to quit school and have babies, no lie. My mother almost cursed her own father out. She came from complete poverty and wanted no parts of it for herself or me, teenage pregnancy and all.

Situation does play a large role. My husband's family didn't really value education. My husband is a high school drop out. He and his mother got their GED simultaneously. His mother let him drop out because he was skipping school. He was really great at art, still is, and his mother instead of suggesting art school (yes he has a degree too), which he eventually did, told him he should be a tattoo artist. His step father was under the impression the only way you could get financial aid is to be a minority or woman, and that your college would be paid for 100% free if you were. Please reference Sallie Mae and our wonderful relationship that continues to this day.

Our situation does play a large role, when my husband was growing up his mother didn't push him to do homework, she didn't even question if he had a report card, he says there was no motivation or consequences to doing or not doing homework, or course he thinks my parents were hard core about homework, they would get me workbooks to do in the summer so I could stay sharp for school and not forget everything I learned. But I do think it is a combination of the two. But class and race play a big part. I was teased incessantly from some of my black cousins because I talked too white, and then because I went to a "white school". My mother was told by her father she thought she was too good for her family because she went to school and got married.

Corbie said...

I think 'success' (material or otherwise) can come via many avenues. Some are born into monetary privilege, some are born into supportive families, some are born into excellent educational opportunities. Of course, conversely, some are born into none of these and worse.

I can only speak for myself. I was born into a family with very little. My mom was one of seven children and only one of two who graduated from high school. There is a long history of abuse (many forms) and I was born to her, a single-mother, when she was 21. I don't say this as a sob-story, I say it as a celebration. How on God's green earth, this woman with nothing managed to rise the the occasion and parent me with rules, and love, and values, and conviction will always be a mystery to me. So, I think sometimes strength of character is inborn - certainly it couldn't have all been environmental. I am the first college graduate from both immediate sides of my family. Literally the first, from all the way up on my mom's side and all the way up on my dad's side - shocking, I know, but it is honest to the core. I worked hard, always, and had a job from the age of 14 on. I put myself through school (with the help of a husband who is even more of a self-made man). This being said, I still feel lucky. I had a supportive mom (many don't), a strong support system (incredible friends and their families), and some God-given strengths that I can only hope I have the presence of mind to use in whatever way he intended when he bestowed them.

None of this answers any of your questions, I suppose. It is anecdotal and simply my story. I guess, to sum it up, I think we all get where we get through many means - money, education, connections, talents, race, gender, etc. - oh, and let's not forget the all important method - choice.

Claudia said...

Why am I where I am? Probably mostly dumb luck. Birth at the right time to the right parents, with the right influences around me.
I did go to college, and learned about the entrance process entirely from guidance counselors at school and friends who were also applying. My parents started telling me about the time I was born that I should plan for college. My father is a machinist. He came home from work every day with dirt on his hands and sweat on his face. I saw his work take a toll on him. He told me every day to study hard so that I could get a good job and not have to struggle. I believed him. Does that count as “helping”? Everyone I know finished high school. Most of them finished college, and many went to graduate school, as I did (but only after my husband talked me into it). My parents still live in the house they bought when I was 4 years old, and neither of them went to college.
I paid for school myself, part through scholarship (my parents told me it was the only way I could afford college), part through working, and part through loans that I finished paying for with proceeds from an investment (thank you, housing bubble).
I got my first “real” job (as in, the one related to what I paid all those tuition dollars for) through a contact from the professor I did my graduate work with. Right place at the right time? Yes.
Because I married young, I finished most of my education as a wife. My husband’s tireless encouragement helped me immeasurably to complete my education and compete for jobs. He gets credit for much of what I have accomplished. At our house, we say that nothing worthwhile comes without sacrifice. These are words we live by. We have sacrificed much for our educations and our family – for only two years in the last twelve have we had a double income – but it has all been worth it. I learned so much more in college than job skills. I was exposed to people and ideas that I never would have been otherwise.
Does where and how I grew up have an influence on where I am today? I am betting on it for my children; moving my family out of the city and into a neighborhood based entirely on how good the schools are. I expect my children to make the best of the opportunities that their parents have sacrificed to give them. I don’t care if they finish college (well, okay, I care), as long as they do something productive and honest with their time. I guess I don’t care if they achieve fame and fortune as long as they can work an honest day and be happy about their situations.

Joshua said...

How did I get where I am? I honestly have no idea. I was born into a poor family that became poorer with each passing year. My father was fighting an illness he didn't know or understand the impact of until he was handicapped and wheelchair bound shortly before I graduated high school. My mother never worked but did her best to raise me and my many other siblings. My father was not terribly caring or involved in my life but was a great example of strength and hard work. My mother was a little too involved and dealing with her own issues. We didn't have much, but knew people with less so we were grateful for what we had.

Education was not encouraged in my family. I had to pass and graduate High School, nothing more was expected. My parents once told me that college wasn't for everybody when I asked them if I should follow some of my friends in that route. I went to college for a few semesters and stopped to enter the construction field as an apprentice electrician. I gained an appreciation for those who work with their hands because it is hard work and not everyone can do it. I was a terrible electrician and it is still amazing to me that I didn't kill myself and/or others.

I realized college was an option for me while working a construction job at the University of Utah. Claudia was already attending the UofU and I watched each day as countless people my age wandered back and forth to class. At lunch one day I picked up some forms from the admissions office just to see what it would take to apply. I then went to Claudia, my wife and constant source of truth, to see if she thought it was possible for me to survive, let alone succeed, at college. Claudia is the only person on this planet I trust, if she said no then I would go back to work, no questions asked. She said yes, and with her support I went. That first year of undergraduate education was the most difficult and stressful as I realized all the things I should have been paying attention to in High School.

With the constant support of my wife, I obtained an undergraduate degree, moved to the east coast, graduated from law school, and started practicing at the Department of Justice through the honors program.

I got my first job through the recruitment process at law school. Employers take resumes from hundreds of law schools, select people for interviews, and make offers based on the interview. Same as the rest of the world with the limited applicant pool of graduating law students. Why did they pick me out from the countless others? Probably my dashing good looks.

I have always tried to be honest, ethical, hard working, and look for and take advantage of every opportunity I see. I also believe that nothing I have would be possible without the guidance and support of God.

I feel like, so far, I have done everything I could hope for. I have a good education, a good job, a great family, and more material goods than I need. There are many people with less than me that are equally happy, many with less that are completely miserable. There are many people with more than me that are equally happy, many with more that are completely miserable.

Life comes with certain obstacles. Some can be overcome, some pushed around a little, and some seem immovable. I think the best advice is to do what you can with what you have and try and be happy despite the limitations.

John Moore said...

What you are describing here is privilege. It comes from various sources. There's male privilege, white privilege, middle-class privilege, privilege of U.S. citizenship, and others. A failure of recognizing the ways privilege has worked to our own benefit leads to the same beliefs that a failure to recognize God's care in our life does. Neal A. Maxwell talked about such people as though we were goldfish in a bowl, smug in our self-sufficiency, never recognizing the constant supply of food pellets of the changes of water.

In starting my study of law, I have become familiar with the opposite of recognizing our dependence and privilege: John Locke's labor theory of property rights. The theory basically is that before anyone owned anything, everything was up for grabs. The only thing that we really owned was our own labor. But since we had claim to that, and nobody else did, you could appropriate property to yourself by mixing your labor with property in such a way as to develop it. So if you carved a flute, it was yours (we are told to forget that you used wood since that was up for grabs). If you built a fence or a house, or irrigated, the land was yours since nobody had claim to it beforehand and it now contained the only thing that nobody really had any claim to, namely your labor.

That might not sound too nefarious, but it was this theory--that we can take credit for everything we do--that justified the European invasion of the Americas. It was argued that since the American Indians did not develop the land in ways that Europeans recognized, they hadn't really taken possession of it. It was still in its original state. In fact, Locke said "Thus, in the beginning, everything was America" equating America before colonization to the world that Adam and Eve found after leaving the garden: completely uninhabited. (Our current understanding of consumption and conservation has led us to understand how short-sighted the European sense of development was and how sustainable the American Indian idea of common property and treading lightly was.) Locke's theory, it has been pointed out, allows for the perpetuation of power of those who first grabbed stuff, and thus legitimizes grabbing.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. points something out related to this idea. He said, “The movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth…. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that's two-thirds water?’ These are words that must be said.

“Now, don't think you have me in a bind today. I'm not talking about communism. What I'm talking about is far beyond communism. My inspiration didn't come from Karl Marx…. I have to reject [communism]….

“Now, when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.

“And if you will let me be a preacher just a little bit. One day, one night, a juror came to Jesus and he wanted to know what he could do to be saved. Jesus didn't get bogged down on the kind of isolated approach of what you shouldn't do. Jesus didn't say, ‘Now Nicodemus, you must stop lying.’ He didn't say, ‘Now Nicodemus, you must stop cheating if you are doing that.’ He said something altogether different, because Jesus realized something basic: that if a man will lie, he will steal. And if a man will steal, he will kill. So instead of just getting bogged down on one thing, Jesus looked at him and said, "Nicodemus, you must be born again."

“In other words, ‘your whole structure must be changed.’ A nation that will keep people in slavery for 244 years will ‘thingify’ them and make them things. And therefore, they will exploit them and poor people generally economically. And a nation that will exploit economically will have to have foreign investments and everything else, and it will have to use its military might to protect them. All of these problems are tied together.

“What I'm saying today is that we must go from this convention and say, ‘America, you must be born again!’"

Being born again recognizes that, as Paul put it, “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Being born again thus means that we do not own things like our time, our talent, or our energy. They belong to God, just as surely as we do.

Thinking this way, can we claim credit for our college education, even if we worked very hard to obtain it? Is it truly our own? If you say “yes,” you are unwittingly relying on a theory that has led to exploitation throughout all of human history. If you say “no,” then can we take our college education and put it only to self-service? Can we use it to enrich our lives only? Or shouldn’t we use it to serve our fellow humans?

brohammas said...

Matt K said:

I'm here because I have been born in an advantaged life. With my talent level and a less advantaged station in life, I would be in dire straits.

Did you go to college? Yes
I walked into the admissions office and asked. I first went to schools that weren't tough to get in to so all I had to do was apply. My dad went to college, so I knew it was a possible route. However, I was by no means very motivated to attend college. When I got home from basic training 4 months after I graduated from high school, my dad got mad at me and told me I wasn't going to "take a break." Most of my friends finished high school; I am the only one of my close high school friends that have any serious college.

My family moved only once, about 75 yards.

How did you pay for school? Student Loans

How did you get your current job? Email and internet. Did you just walk up and apply or did you know someone? New in town; don't know anyone.
Did you ever get in trouble with the law growing up?

What The answers to all these questions may or may not play a large role in where or who you are today… you tell me?

They play a bigger role than the successful would like to admit and a smaller role than the unsuccessful would like to admit.

Is it all up to us, or does our situation play a large role? How did those before us get into these situations? Who can say; but for someone who is disadvantaged the only thing they CAN control is whether or not they give up.

It is interesting the measuring stick we use to measure success in this "slave-based" world. I personally think that modern society renders many people irrelevant when they would have been relevant in a subsistence setting.

brohammas said...

I'll take my turn.

My parents both had masters degrees and careers as public school teachers. My Dad's dad had a masters as well (mom's mom was a runaway who finished high school, then raised 5 kids mostly on her own).

I cared mostly about football, never did homework, but would be "skinned alive" if I ever skipped classes, and had a father and a coach who made me attend study hall despite my 3.7 GPA.

I was present for many an altercation with the law due to mischievous acts of vandalism, fist fights, underage drinking, and late night noise. I was never arrested or even spent any time in a squad car.

I once offered to stay home and work to help earn money to pay for my missionary service. My dad's response was, "no. You are going to college right after school, no matter for how short of a time and you are paying for it."

I payed for school myself... almost. I did get a $5,000 student loan, which I spent on a car, and had about a year worth of time on what I will call the Mrs. Montgomery scholarship.

Looking back I was amazed at the lack of driven geniuses in college, myself included. It may have had to do with my school or my program, or the fact that I play rugby, but intellectually rigorous was not an appropriate description of MANY people there.

After school I moved to Atlanta where the only people I knew were working service or labor jobs. It was a major recession and my industry was not hiring kids right out of school. I joined a rugby team and was given a temporary job by one of the teams boosters. A contact at church finally got me an interview with my current employer.

I worked with people from all over the country from some very good schools. None of them paid for their own schooling and most of them were not the academic scholarship type.

The suburbs are a very stable, and very white place. They are this way by design in many places (southern and post WWII major cities). Crime is low with cops who are not in fear of their life and are willing to deal with kids. Schools have time and the resources to both teach and counsel.
There is an environment where people have the opportunity to either achieve or fail. Plenty of people do either.

You can fail in this environment, but to be honest, you have to try to achieve failure. Any time I slacked off, someone took the time to kick my butt. Parents, coaches, teachers, and a general expectation that even if any of us weren't to be great things... at least we wouldn't be bums... there were no bums. To see any real visible signs of failure I would not only have to leave my neighborhood, I would have to leave the city... maybe go downtown.

Now no one handed me anything. I had to either earn or at least be capable of whatever I was to do or be. If I would have tried harder I could have been more, but I had/have the opportunity.

It is not that way everywhere.
There are places where there is no societal safety net. There are places and people who are in situations where avoiding failure takes the entire effort one can muster. It is possible to get out of these positions but it takes unusual and remarkable efforts or acts to do so. It takes much more work than I ever exerted... just to avoid failure.

How does this have anything to do with race? My upbringing took years of ground work and uninhibited progress to achieve. I may not attribute my luck or blessings specifically to my race, but my race has never been a challenge. ‘Big ups’ to Siditty’s parents for working so hard to get her to a similar place my parents got me, not everyone made it there.

Why not?

You cannot ignore that from at least 1500-197? The biggest obstacle to a black person achieving what I had, was white people. Sure slavery ended a looooong time ago but is that when the doors of opportunity opened? Sure there were lots of black people and places who did quite well, till they got burned down. (my rugby field in South Carolina was once the football field of a black school that was thriving pre-integration. In the early seventies SC desegregated and planned to bus white kids to this overachieving school. It mysteriously burned to the ground and the city never considered re-building it.)

We always have CHOICE. But are the consequences of our choices the same for everyone?

Allison said...

Neither of my parents REALLY attended college. My dad was enrolled the University of Idaho for a semester, but never could make it to class. So he went to a tech program in Pocatello and was awarded a certificate in auto parts, or something like that. His parents did not go to any college.

My mother took rock polishing and auto mechanics for a semester at Rick's because she followed a friend up there. Her parents did not go to college either.

While I was growing up I did well in school and never got into trouble because thats what I did. I did grow up in a predominately (an understatement) Mormon community and never moved. I had an alcoholic father, uncles (on both sides), and grandfathers. One uncle served time in prison for meth and two cousins were incarcerated multiple times for various illegal substances. Maybe I refrained from that route because I had witnessed the consequences so closely.

My mother told me in 4th or 5th grade that she could no longer help me with my homework. I was learning things she had never learned, so I did everything on my own from then on.

In my high school, college was what everybody did after graduation and everyone graduated whether they deserved it or not. And my sister has a master's degree so I can't rule out sibling rivalry. I applied and worked out the requirements on my own. I also paid for school with scholarships and my mom paid for the left over housing costs.

As far as employment goes, I have a pretty scant history. 2 jobs have been given to me because of who I knew and I walked up and applied for the other 2.

I don't think that I have surpassed unthinkable odds by any means; millions have overcome far more to achieve far more. I think it is mostly up to us. If I relied on my situation, I would still be in Malad with an unfinished degree and 3 kids by now. But our potential can easily be stunted by those who tell us what we can and can't accomplish (family members, guidance counselors, employers) I have great parents who taught me I could be anything I wanted to be and were always supportive. That seems to be a key component in anyones success.

Allison said...

P.S. Jake and I loved the flashback pictures. I love Kay's white puffy shirt!! Very fierce!

Melek said...

interesting questions.

yes, i went to college.

moved only once between K-12.

i got a full ride to school, so i didn't pay for it out of my wallet, but did pay for it with my hard work in high school.

have i ever been in trouble with the law...well, not the law, but with a teacher, which, when you're in 2nd grade IS the law. and what's funny, is that ever since then, i have NEVER gotten in trouble. not for anything. so that one "run in" did totally affect the way i behaved the rest of my life (even til now).

Sallad said...

I won't bore you with my personal history. But my history has reminded me that I am rich. Even for those couple of months My wife and I were eating frozen cafeteria food that the local school district surplussed, I still considered myself lucky and rich. All you have to do is look around you and you'll see some one worse off.
So Here's my question to myself... Am I thankful that there ARE people who are worse off than me?
Feel free to answer this question even if you are not myself. But if you are me, please don't answer.

rebecca said...


Rain is falling all around,

It falls on field and tree,

It rains on the umbrella here,
And on the ships at sea.

-------- by warcraft gold

Amanda said...

Pete and I thought about this a lot when "we" were applying to medical school. It cost us close to $8,000 out of pocket to apply. That covered application costs, a new interview outfit, hotels and airfare to get to interviews, bribes to let him in... just kidding. More seriously though, it was a very financially difficult decision to make. Luckily we had student loans and I had a job that paid for some of our tuition so we had extra to help foot the bills. However, applying to med school is a huge gamble. Sure, now that he is in school it doesn't seem like a huge investment, $8,0000 to insure that he will have a doctor's salary, but what if he hadn't been accepted? That's $8,000 out the window. We knew that if he hadn't been accepted we could rely on help from his family and that we could survive.

Without that safety net we wouldn't have been able to make the jump. We simply could not have afforded to take the risk. And although Pete is the first in his family to be a doctor, he had experience working with people who had been successful in the medical field and other fields.

We wonder why most doctors come from families of doctors-- because they have seen it done. They know it is something that can be achieved. If Pete hadn't know any doctors, hadn't worked with people who had succeeded, we would not have dared take a risk like that.

brohammas said...

Thank you everyone. It is good to see how peopel have worked hard to get where they are. We are remiss if we do not take time to be thankful for those who helped get us here.

With that in mind, look up some statistics on the disparity between the races in wealth, education, and other markers of quality of life. Ask yourself why. Look at where you found those stats and ask what the researchers were trying to figure out.

Are black people just more likely to be irresponsible and lazy? Are they just less intelligent than the greater population? Are they simply prone to social misconduct?

Or are these disparities the result of something else?

Siditty said...

‘Big ups’ to Siditty’s parents for working so hard to get her to a similar place my parents got me, not everyone made it there.

My father's way of scaring me as a child was driving me through the neighborhood he grew up in, telling me I would end up there if I got bad grades and did drugs.

My parents remember segregation, and my mom often says that de-segregation in some ways hurt the black community. She thinks it was more prevalent to see more black doctors, lawyers, teachers, and other skilled and professional people in the community back then, than you do now. She thinks it has to do with the fact that the upper class of the black community left leaving the working class and poor, unemployed, and unskilled.

Are black people just more likely to be irresponsible and lazy? Are they just less intelligent than the greater population? Are they simply prone to social misconduct?

I love this question. I always refer to the chitling test.

In terms of blacks being more irresponsible and lazy, statistically speaking, most of us work, I don't think that is it. Access to certain jobs and educational opportunities are a little bit more difficult to attain, I will say that.