Editor's note: Baratunde Thurston is a comedian, writer, co-founder of the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and director of digital forThe Onion. His first book, “How To Be Black,” will be published in February 2012 by Harper Collins.
The following letter is a response from a hypothetical child to Gene Marks' article in Forbes, titled "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." While completely fabricated, the letter below has a stronger basis in reality than does Marks'. In his article, Marks, a business and technology contributor to Forbes, argues poorly that poor black children should use technology to improve their station in life. The article is terrible.
Dear Mr. Gene Marks,
I am a poor black kid. I don't have great parental or educational resources. I'm not as smart as your kids. These are facts. In 2011.
The one smart thing I do everyday is read Forbes. It's what all us poor black kids do. Forbes is constantly reporting on issues of relevance to me and my community. This week, I found your article "If I Were A Poor Black Kid" printed out and slid under my door like all Forbes articles.
Thank you Mr. Marks. You have changed everything about my life. Thanks to your article, I worked to make sure I got the best grades, made reading my number one priority and created better paths for myself. If only someone had suggested this earlier.
But that was just the beginning of how your exceptionally relevant, grounded and experience-based advice changed my life. Thanks only to your article, I discovered technology.
Why did my teachers not teach this? Why isn't this technology mentioned anywhere in popular culture? I don't understand, but you do.
You listed so many different websites and resources, at first it was overwhelming. But I didn't let that deter me. I thought to myself, "If a successful, caring, complicated, intelligent man like Gene Marks says to do it, then I'd better head over to rentcalculators.org right now!"
I did not stop there. I became an expert at the CIA World Factbook, started usingEvernote and made it my goal to get into one of those private schools you wrote about. Before your article, I never wanted anything more for myself. I used Google (thanks for the tip!), found the names and addresses of the school admissions officers, and showed up outside of their homes. It's like they were waiting for me. They smiled, waved and immediately told me about their secret scholarship programs.
Private school was exactly like you said it would be. I went straight to the guidance counselor, and I said, "You know everything there is to know about financial aid, grants, minority programs and the like."
And she said, "I sure do! And even though I don't know your name, I'm going to help you get summer employment at a law firm or a business owned by the 1% where you could meet people and show off your stuff." I love showing off my stuff, sir. You have no idea.
I took more of your advice. I got "technical." I had no idea I could get technical. I learned software!
From there it was just a quick hop to a top college, marketable skills and an immediate job offer from a businessman starved for talent. Did someone say recession? I can't see it!
The amazing part is that I did all of this in two days! All thanks to your article!
I didn't know any of these opportunities existed. My parents and I were too tired. We were all ignorant, and quite frankly, I could have figured it out sooner on my own if I'd had the brains to do so. Your article provided those brains. It wasn't about my parents or ways to improve the school system or how to empower the community. It had nothing to do with history or accumulated privilege or social psychology. No, I simply needed to want success more and combine that with technology. You taught me that I can do all this by myself, and I have!
With that one article, you solved the problems of millions. Imagine the good you could do with three or four articles! Please don't stop with poor black kids! What about children trapped in sex trafficking? How about undocumented migrant workers? And of course, there's women. Have you ever wondered why there aren't more women CEOs? I'm sure you have. You've thought about everything and figured everything out. You are a great man. Thanks again for teaching me about technology.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Baratunde Thurston.