Poor Black People or Black People Making Poor Decisions?

check As many of you know there is a battle in the United States of America to increase the minimum wage of fast food workers to $15/hour. I’m not interested in arguing if the workers deserve $15/hour and my position is the fast food industry is losing too much ground to gourmet burger startups like Five Guys and Shake Shack and Smash Burger and have to increase their worker wage as well as prices and quality. Years ago, I already blogged about how fried chicken places have failed in the hood due to hole-in-a-wall fried chicken places popping up on hood corners. You do notice there are no more Church’s and Popeyes and Mrs. Winner and KFC in your hood anymore..you did notice that right? But that isn’t what this article is about. The minimum wage issue is moot – the wages will have to go to $15/hour and $20/hour for retail workers and fast food due to retro artesian (that means cooking old school and store floor selling old school) and automation technology such as self-ordering and financial technology such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. The problem is the entire concept of broke dumbass basic retail workers and fast food workers will become extinct. In other words, the concept of some high school dropout loser in life finding a job at a fast food or retail store is a thing of the past. You going to need some college for those $15/hour and $20/hour jobs. This article is about is two black folks Terrance and Safiyyah who been highly profiled as the “working poor” and when you see the poster boy and poster girl story, we need to have a conversation if these are actually poor people or people making poor decision. Now, this topic on social media has been highly conversational and passionate from both sides. There is one side that want to badly feel sorry for and believe “oh those poor people, let’s tax the conservatives more to increase the minimum wage!” and there is another side that says “My life was rough too but I made that decision to better me!” So be warned – this is an emotional argument with strong passions on both side. But you have a right to express yourself on this topic and I have my own thoughts on these two. Let’s cover them. Poor Terrance... terrance Let me start off by saying – Terrance is probably the proudest pathetic excuse of a man I have ever seen in my life and probably the most pathetic person to stand next to the most powerful person ever in history – that is how I honestly feel about Terrance. This video has been controversial because it is hard to watch Terrance speech without getting angry or without getting really compassionate – pick your side: So Terrance is a 2nd generation fast food worker (wtf?) and is 36 years old and worked at a fast food job and done it for nearly 20 years, working for $8.00/hour for 20 years. I cannot stress how hard it is for me to type a sentence on this Dream and Hustle blog talking about this $8/hour for 20 years 36-year-old man proudly boasting he is a pathetic piece of work without shaking my damn head. Terrance indicated his wife worked in the health care industry for 12 years and make $10/hour, which means his wife makes $2/hour more than her husband Terrance who only make $8/hour. I mean, when you both working low-wage jobs and she still make more than you? And Terrance is a father of 3 girls as he indicated and come home to these 3 girls with $8/hour in his pocket while President Obama has 2 girls and come home with a $400k/year salary and a drone kill list to read over. I’m pretty sure you are trying to look at the reaction on President Obama face as Terrance states how pathetic he is and all I can say is I will never play President Obama in a game of poker. insurance Look, let me first start by saying how awful Terrance situation is and let’s do some math. So Terrance revenue has been $8/hour times 40 hours a week is $320/week or $16,640/year. A 6% annual from a $250,000 life insurance payout invested in a stock market or mutual fund is $15,000/year. So Terrance is just as good as tilting his neck to the side and throw his own ass down a flight of stairs. So with the life insurance alternative, Terrance is worth just as good as dead as alive. This is just a question for you all. As a father with three daughters - at what point in life as you are working $8/hour for 20 years do you make the decision you need to be doing better as a man for your family? Do McDonald’s and Burger King owe Terrance $15/hour or should Terrance had ran off to the oil fields in North Dakota and got a fracking job or managed wind turbines and sent some money back home? Are Sri Lankans and Mexicans supposed to feel sorry for Terrance and believe he had an excuse to not leave home and find a better job to send money back home to his family? Was Terrance scared he was going to kiss his wife off, then die in a car accident like James Evans Sr and his wife scream "damn! damn! damn!" or something like that? Why Terrance stayed at an $8/hour job for 20 years? Don’t you think Terrance could have done a better job at making sure he make more than $8/hour for his family sake? Or do you want to feel sorry for Terrance so you can be mad at McDonald’s and Burger King? In the YouTube video, you heard Terrance say “that ain’t right” – what ain’t right?! Is Terrance ain’t right or that $8/hour ain’t right? Poor Safiyyah... safiyyah First of all, Safiyyah is a cutie pie! But that is something we will talk about later but she was featured on a CNN special about the working poor and how she is managing day to day and I want you to see if you noticed something about Safiyyah while watching the video: Safiyyah story is all too familiar for anybody who grew up in the hood. Here you have a sexy thick sista who chosen a thug over a nerd and gotten pregnant with a baby and now thug is in jail and she is now out there on her own. But Safiyyah in addition to the fast food job get additional government assistance as she indicated with daycare and food stamps or SNAP or WIC or whatever and for some reason, sistas love those government benefits over getting with a nerd brotha that is probably now making $100K/year and got his nice vacation rental spot in San Pedro, Belize he run away to hook up with his Costa Rican girlfriend. Sistas always choose the thugs over the nerds, I guess. But there is something worse I saw and this is what you should have noticed: obvious obvious2 Safiyyah is 22 years old and that belly is a bad sign of her poor eating habits. She indicated she do not buy fresh fruits and you can already tell what kind of food she eats. I’m wondering if she got waste buildup in her belly and that is not baby fat - the sistas want to believe that but it ain’t no damn baby fat. That is the result of a poor diet that will have an impact on her health and affect the rest of her life if not cut her life short. Because being from the hood, the story that get hushed and untold is the number of sistas like Safiyyah laying up as a corpse in a funereal home at 30 and 40 dead from lifestyle/dietary related illness and the son lost his mom at an early age. You can go in the hood anytime and check out a funeral home and they got more young sistas than a nightclub in those coffins in the back room who died way too early from poor habits and lifestyle choices. There is talk about people cannot eat right on food stamps or low wage and I’m going to officially call bullsh*t on that. When I changed my diet, I learned it was the most expensive stuff that was slowly killing me and then I realize all the good food was cheap as hell. A can of black beans is 70 cents and that can be spread out 3 days. One banana that can be shared by two people is 25 cents. Fish like flounder or pollock or cod is actually pretty good when baked and flavored correctly. Then canned salmon is actually rich in calcium and you can make salmon cakes just like our parents used to do with canned mackerel back in the days. Safiyyah is walking in those streets and she have physical activity but she is not eating right. Not eating right is a circular reference for poor self-esteem and it feeds off each other. It is likely she going to let another knucklehead come around and sweet talk her into more babies she will be stuck alone raising – then she going to get a tummy trainer, poke her booty out and post pics on Facebook and have brothas all up in the comment section posting “you fine” Kevin Hart memes. Is Safiyyah really poor? She got a nice house and I heard her refer to her sista and I also believe we ain’t got a lot of details in terms of those government benefits like Section 8 and stuff like that she is not mentioning on top of the McDonald job. Her belly is not an indicator of lack of food, it is an indicator she is buying expensive “quick” food over smart, cheap healthy food. But it could be the possibility she don’t know how to eat to live and this is something we got to look at as black people if we are really living in the proper means by knowing what to eat instead of eating processed food that is killing us slowly. I will be honest with you, Safiyyah is a cutie and if she start eating right and exercising and go to school even to do hair, she can change her life around pretty fast. You Decide – Poor People or Poor Decisions? In life, you have to remember one thing – this is your life. You are responsible for your mortal life and if you brought children into this world, you are responsible for them. No one owes you a damn thing in this world and you should not be expecting something from somebody. When I hear people argue Terrance and Safiyyah deserve to make more money, as one guy I observe on this conversation said is who the f*ck are yall to tell a business operation how much to pay somebody? Show me your business where you have to pay extra for the Affordable Care Act for your employees - show me that ish before you talk about telling a business to raise their wage for their employees! That business operation can pack up and leave and you will hear a really sad story about these minimum wage workers because they won’t have a job. But when I hear people talk about Terrance and Safiyyah should do more to better themselves for their children sake at least, I also have to realize maybe these low-wage black folks don’t know any better. One of the things I learned doing Dream and Hustle and working with black folks and covering our issues for over 10 years is we do have a lot of black people who are simply ignorant and don’t know. Many of you cats are information junkies on the web and know all the topics and stuff and debate politics and sports because you are an information junkie but the real and majority black people in America just want something to eat and a house to live in and worry about that on a daily basis. The majority of black people don't know any better and no one is telling them how to do it any better. selfserve But there is an elephant in the room about this whole minimum wage conversation – we are moving to a technology age where these minimum-wage jobs will be phased out and better waged jobs will be made available to people who dropped out of college and may need to work these jobs for $15/hour to $20/hour. That means the high-school graduate with no college may not have any jobs and may not even get to sweep the floor – they got Roomba that can do that stuff now and they may outsource to a cleaning crew that are Hispanic immigrant entrepreneurs doing it for cheap. I don’t know why African-Americans do not realize technology and immigration and globalization is wiping them out in real time from any economic relevancy and think this is a joke and the government checks will keep coming in after Obama leaves office – Obama cut most of those benefits a few years back if you guys forgot as a way to bargain with the GOP Congress to deal with the deficit crisis. African-Americans for too long believe there is a tolerance for poor decision making like having unprotected sex, not getting an education and thinking there is a welfare check or a bullsh*t job waiting around the corner for them. If we African-Americans keep being poor decisions makers, we are not going to be poor – we are going to be marginalized, plain and simple.

16 thoughts on “Poor Black People or Black People Making Poor Decisions?

  1. As one who grew up in the projects raised by a single (divorced) Black mother back when it was “shameful”, endured being homeless for extended periods, (illegally) worked FT through high school, put myself through university working two FT jobs (telemarketer and overnight gas station attendant) and a weekend PT job (washing cars), and then going on to pass the CPA exam (first attempt), race through the corporate ranks, become an entrepreneur, and then semi-retire at age 32, there is no way anyone will ever convince me Black people do not generally make poor (often due to ignorance) life decisions.

    “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” but there are far too many of us who think we are ENTITLED to just such a staircase to compliment our glass houses.


  2. There are many topics going on in the article. Many which really get my adrenaline going. For example, it is silly to think that raising the minimum wage will help much. Inflation is bottom up. Those at the bottom spend an enormous share of their income on those things which are are affected at least TWICE by inflationary pressures. Raw foods, for example are harvested/slaughtered by minimum wage workers. If their wages double, the cost of raw foods may increase by 50% (for example) or more. So, the working poor must spend an even greater percentage of earnings on raw foods. They are directly socked again when the cost of fuel at the gas station goes up 25% (for example) because the gas station owner employs minimum wage workers. There are other direct impacts, but I will move on to the indirect inflation. Every industry is impacted by rises in fuel costs. Those industries increase their prices by 10% (for example) to offset their increased overhead (all their vendors’ price increases). Well, passing on just 10% via price increases is not enough, but they have to remain price-competitive. So, they reduce headcount beginning with…(wait for it)…the working poor (!). Employees who were smiling yesterday because their wages doubled overnight find themselves unemployed and unemployable because small businesses can’t afford to hire anymore. Those who remain employed find their new wages actually buy much LESS (in their shopping cart, for example) than before the minimum wage increase (!!!). So, the snowball keeps rolling on and on. The endgame is another MASSIVE transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich because the poor are unable to save anything. They have to spend ALL of their “increased wealth” on necessities and/or incur more debt and transfer real property wealth (when hey default) to those who provide all the necessities and loans consumed by the poor.

    Really, it is Macro Economics 201.

    The very LAST THING the working poor should want should be increased wages. But it provides a very temporary increase in spendable wages, so they are bamboozled into thinking their life is better for it totally unaware of the increased misery that awaits 3-18 months into the future as the bottom up inflation works its way through the economy.

    Here is a very SIMPLE way of grasping what I just summarized:

    The first minimum wage act set the minimum wage at $.25/hour. That was deemed to be sufficient in late 1930’s America. Much of the COST inflation experienced between then and now can be largely attributed to the perpetual increases of the minimum wage (!). Now, to be fair, most of the non-cost inflation is due to the increases in money supply, but that is another topic.

    Another topic going on in the article is Farriqqua (or whatever her ghetto name is) thinks her son Shafoofoo (or whatever his ghetto name is) is going to go far with names like that. In the Linked-In world of today and tomorrow, they can both fahgettaboutit. Linked-In is the White man’s answer to shtcanning EEO laws. Dumbss colored-folk (that’s right, I said it!) routinely volunteer to post all their discriminate-able info (including pictures!) so as to guarantee they will be discriminated against at every opportunity – and ghetto names do NOT help.

    Another topic is is how CNN et al. yet again perpetuates the grossly inaccurate stereotype that this is a Black people story. This is a White people story as they are the overwhelming majority of welfare recipients and working poor (!). On the other end of the welfare story are the major corporations and SMEs having overwhelmingly majority White leadership and White employees who receive hundreds of BILLIONS in corporate welfare relief (!). [Ya’ll make a Brotha wanna stand up and PREACH for a minute!]

    I need to just calm down, but I am keenly aware of what goes on because I PAY ATTENTION and don’t fall for the okie-doke like so many of my brethren. As Rakim put it: “I’ma DIE with my eyes open!”

    1. Surely you noticed a US President that attack black fathers in his speeches just stood there propping up probably the most pathetic African-American male in Black History. 20 years at $8/hour and he pointing out his mother, talk about his wife and 3 daughters and said “that ain’t right”. Why did Obama propped Terrance up there?

  3. I tell folks all the time on low paying jobs to take yo arse to the oil fields in the Dakotas and send that money home! Why are you here struggling with <25K a year? Furthermore why don't you have 2 jobs and a side hustle? I'm at a pretty good point in life, but there was a time I was working two low paying jobs and going to school, but I WANTED to do better and saw successful black folk killing it out here and that made me grind harder.. Oh and even on the LGBT side, sistas will choose a thug over a nerd…I'm like go head, enjoy that section 8 lifestyle sweetie :0). As always, great article Ed

  4. “Surely you noticed a US President that attack black fathers in his speeches just stood there propping up probably the most pathetic African-American male in Black History. 20 years at $8/hour and he pointing out his mother, talk about his wife and 3 daughters and said “that ain’t right”. Why did Obama propped Terrance up there?”

    I purposely avoided commenting on that facet of the article because I saw beyond the points presented as your point of view regarding him. My first thought was exactly the same as Obama’s and consistent with other posts I have made on this site (and others) regarding stupidly simple things what “we” need to do to address and resolve our condition:

    1. Vote
    2. Run for office
    3. Pursue careers in law enforcement and police our own communities. Imagine if all the Black youth who enlist in the military were to do this instead of fighting wars and dying “over there”. Imagine how many more police officers, attorneys, District Attorneys, local, state, and national politicians we would have as a result.

    Your points highlight and speak to the obvious, but there is so much more complexity to his story and condition. For examples:

    Ambition – After 20 years, why is he still ringing the register or flipping burgers? Why hasn’t he been promoted into management? [Not to make this about myself, but at 18, I was the youngest ever Roy Rogers Store Manager.] I do not know enough about him or his situation to be able to comment on why he is not at least in management after 20 years.

    Kids – Paraphrasing Posdnous in the ad libs to “I am, I be”, his father really hated collecting garbage, but his father loved his 5 kids more than he hated collecting garbage. As a fully committed father of two myself [literally homeschooling my son as I type this comment, btw], I can’t with a good conscious criticize any father for putting food on the table and clothes on his children by any means necessary.

    Fear/Entitlement – There is a book, now out of print, entitled “Danger in the Comfort Zone”. It was required reading as part of an ongoing management training program during my corporate years. It literally changed my life and validated that I was not an “employee-for-life”-minded person. The book explains all the personality “types” (DISC) and how/why there are people who are very much “born” to be employees-for-life. They fear risk and prefer to just be a worker. Perhaps that guy is simply one of those personality types. Regardless of what we may think about such a mentality or predisposition, such people are essential to the economy.

    Obama’s staff – I doubt if Obama was the decider who put this guy out front. Someone on his staff did that. Obama’s immediate comment that he should instead run for political office supports my suspicion. I think it would be more appropriate to question the person/people who selected this guy as the face of Obama’s initiative to raise the minimum wage. I would think it should be obvious by now that if you really want something done in DC, you probably should not use a Black face as the poster person.

    I will stop here, but those are some of the things that immediately came to mind. I personally cannot criticize the guy without knowing more about his situation over the past 20 or so years. I suspect Obama or someone else on his staff may have had a talk with him afterwards about other things he could be doing with his life.

    1. Is working 20 years at $8/hours considered “by any means necessary” for a father? He couldn’t find a $11/hour job to at least make $1/hour more than his wife? Or try to be better than his mother instead of proudly state he is a 2nd generation fast food worker at the White House?

      I tried to find excuses and rationale but really..this Terrance guy is just pathetic and I cannot accept his excuses why he didn’t choose to progress himself for his mom, his wife and his 3 daughters.

    2. I hear you Ed, but I think it falls back to something that you said in your blog post.

      “One of the things I learned doing Dream and Hustle and working with black folks and covering our issues for over 10 years is we do have a lot of black people who are simply ignorant and don’t know. Many of you cats are information junkies on the web and know all the topics and stuff and debate politics and sports because you are an information junkie but the real and majority black people in America just want something to eat and a house to live in and worry about that on a daily basis. The majority of black people don’t know any better and no one is telling them how to do it any better.

      There it is right there. Cats sitting on the middle to maybe the n-1 part of the curve. Doing the best that they know how with what they have. A lot of people, regardless of their color or ethnicity are here. The one difference is that some colors might have had more generations of accumulating stuff (assets, resources). It might not make them “rich,” but if some working-class cat did inherit his grandpa/grandma’s shotgun house it does make a difference.

      This Terrance cat has enough heart to want to work to support a wife and two children (in the realm of doing what he is supposed to do as a man and a father), but maybe he isn’t intellectually curious enough to reach for more. If $15 is too unreasonable for an artificial floor, it at least has to be higher than what it is.

    3. I hear you loud and clear too, Ed. I do not disagree with your points, but I still can’t hate on a Brotha who is trying legally earn versus the alternatives.

      I am just now reminded of a cat I knew in Jr. High named Marc. Roland Park, Jr. High was a pioneering city-wide elite public school competing with private schools for the White wealthy such as the likes of The Calvert School just up the street in Baltimore. He was in my Latin classes. Damned if he could not speak conversational (!!!) Latin with our teacher. I was in awe. He excelled like that in every subject. He was without a doubt the smartest Brotha I have ever encountered and he was later being recruited to Ivy League universities as a Sophomore at The Polytechnic Institute, an elite public high school with a history of feeding full-ride scholarship Ivy League university students.

      I attended a competing high school and lost track of him. I recall encountering him by chance when, in my late 20’s, I rushed a friend to the hospital and was roaming the halls as I waited. He was a janitor with mop and bucket. I could not process that it was actually THE Marc I knew and revered. He was obviously a bit embarrassed, but I brushed that aside and we had a long conversation. He dropped out of high school and walked away from his future to care for his dying father. It was just the two of them back then. His father having raised and tutored Marc himself between working whatever (often demeaning) jobs he could find. Marc was his only son and the light of his life. It goes without saying how much Marc loved him back. I was in tears as Marc told me about his life to that point. So, orphaned at 16, he had no choice but to simply survive. Those Ivy League schools recruiting him didn’t accept him because his father could not show up at the interviews. So, he dropped out and started working. He did eventually get his GED (without prep, he simply sat the test on a whim one day and passed with a perfect score), but his depression was so overwhelming that he never recovered. He would think of his father every time he picked up a book.

      That is just one of many perspective-altering experiences I have had which stop me from judging another man who works to feed his family. There was also the taxi driver in Naivasha, Kenya, the potato sack shirt seller on Luzon Island in the Philippines, the would-be mugger in Trinidad, the mercenary in Sierra Leon, my wife’s extended family, I could go on and on with real life stories.

      Terrance may have a life story which answers all your questions, but I will not judge Terrance the fast food guy without knowing all of it.

  5. Actually President Obama broke it down in his speech and is being hardcore honest about the environment. It’s like the President is the only black person in a position of power that gets it. And he been trying to tell black folks this stuff for years and our people are not listening to him.

    President Obama goes around the world and worked on the TPP – he knows damn well what is going down and what going to happen to brothas and sistas after he leave office. African-American are screwing around and think this is all a joke. In that YouTube video the President is giving the same warnings and forecasting and strategies that I’m trying to tell African-Americans who are not listening.

    Listen to Obama speech, he is saying the same thing I’m saying – things are going down.

  6. I would have found one of those “get dirty” blue collar jobs. I mean I would have got my cdl. Plumbers license. Electrician license. Painter. Tech certs. Garbage man. Over night security. I mean anything to get me away from minimum wage. I took some Ls in the recession. But with that mine set I got out of it. Going to start studying for my CPA license. Got 5k saved in case that don’t work. And trying to do research on a business so I can never be poor again. I make decent money now and still feel poor. I don’t know how much I need to shake that feeling forever but I’m still going to keep building

  7. I think Michael Hicks said it best

    “There are those who don’t know, then there are those who don’t know they don’t know”.

    Terrance, and others like him might not know that you have to strive to be better and climb the ranks.

    I feel this way because I used to be that way. I wasn’t taught it in school and my parents didn’t tell me. I didn’t learn about myself until I left the hood for the Army. I met a lot of intellectual people, started reading books, learned about work ethic and all kinds of life skills. My eyes were finally open, but I had no idea they were even closed.

    Terrance might be conditioned to not believe a black guy can run a McDonald’s. Hell, I’m sure Terrance himself could manage that store (he better), but it probably doesn’t even compute because he’s never seen that.

    Good article

  8. You can go in the hood anytime and check out a funeral home and they got more young sistas than a nightclub in those coffins in the back room who died way too early from poor habits and lifestyle choices.

    this is a powerful statement that hurt me to my heart to read

  9. technology and automation will just not hurt poor folks,it will get the middle class too down the road.

  10. Safiyyah story is all too familiar for anybody who grew up in the hood. Here you have a sexy thick sista who chosen a thug over a nerd and gotten pregnant with a baby and now thug is in jail and she is now out there on her own

    the worst folks in the community go hard after the women because they put a lot of time and energy into chasing women. that is all they do and they get good at it.it is a ego thing and a survival game, they go live off these chicks. I will never forget being downtown the first of the month in Baltimore looking at these sad sack guys walking behind the welfare chicks.

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