Sunday, November 30, 2008

Will The REAL African-American Please Stand Up?

Are "black reality" shows like Flavor of Love, I Love New York, and The Way It Is, casting a biased and negative stereotype of what the AVERAGE black person is like--even in the hood?

Does this represent us?

Does this represent our mothers?

Do the current "black elite" reflect who we are?

Or, are many of the behaviors we see depicted on the television and movie screens simply "ghetto?" - You tell me.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Can You Do About Juvenile Vandalism? Plenty!

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice, in 1997, law enforcement agencies made approximately 136,500 arrests of persons under age 18 for vandalism. These juvenile arrests represented 44% of all vandalism arrests.

As many of us know, vandalism is a real problem in many communities, but there is something we can do:
  • Ensure property is well lit at all times. Be sure that property throughout the community, especially common areas, is well lit.
  • Start and get involved in a neighborhood watch program. Even if your community does not have a neighborhood watch, be the nosy neighbor. Take the time to peak out your window or door. Look around and if you see something suspicious--call the cops!
  • Clean up graffiti as soon as possible.
  • Report all crime to local police.
  • Use unbreakable glass and fixtures.
  • Put up and lock away all tools, machinery, and lawn furniture.
  • Report teens engaging in anti-social behavior (speeding, loud music, in common areas after they close, etc.). Complete log sheets to keep a record of anti-social behavior.
  • Contact local youth workers to find out what activities are available for young people.
  • And, if all else fails: Prosecute--if not the juvenile, the parent.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Right Kind Of Education?

The civil rights organization Operation Hope just released the results of a study, the third of its kind, about African American students and their personal finances. The results are intriguing.

According to the article, Third Study Shows African American Students Consume More, Save Less:

When contrasted with the financial literacy of whites with the same incomes, the
highest income African Americans (those with family incomes above $80,000) had
financial literacy scores that were just 71.9 percent of whites. In contrast,
the lowest income African Americans had financial literacy scores that were 95.6
percent that of whites in the same income group. The report also revealed that
African American students are better spenders than savers.

In contrast to young white adults, African American high school seniors of
the same age are more likely to use credit and debit cards, are less likely to
have a bank account, and are less likely to work part-time or summers while they
are still in high school. This orientation toward consumption and away from
saving may help explain higher relative scores of African Americans on spending
rather than saving questions.

Several things jumped out at me. While high income African Americans had only 72 percent of the financial literacy of their white counterparts, low income African Americans had 95 percent of the financial literacy, or should I say illiteracy, as their lower income white counterparts. And, many of the African American "high-schoolers" did not work. The conclusions one can draw from this are many: (a) African Americans with good incomes who know a little something about managing their money need to know more, (b) knowing how to use your money means you're probably going to have more of it because you're going to keep more of it in YOUR pocket, (c) not knowing how to use your money will keep you poor--regardless of race, and (d) by not making our children earn what they want, we (African Americans) are not preparing our kids for the real world or the responsibilities of handling money. We are setting them up to be poor.

All of us want our kids to have the best education possible. Perhaps we should teach our children that character is "who we are" on the inside that shows outwardly in our decisions and actions--you don't wear it on your back. Next, we need to teach them the difference between needs and wants. And clearly, as this study by Operation Hope shows, it is important for us as black parents to learn all we can about personal finance and then teach those skills to our kids. Remember, many of us created our own financial crisis by buying way more house, car, clothes, hair, jewelry, holiday gifts, etc. than we need.

A final note - "Don't spend money you don't have trying to impress people who don't feed you."

Monday, November 17, 2008

The "Down Low" Brother - Undermining Black America?

Today, I came across some standard statistics about the Aids epidemic among African-Americans:

The CDC states that according to the 2000 census, blacks make up approximately 13% of the US population. However, in 2005, blacks accounted for 18,121 (49%) of the estimated 37,331 new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States in the 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting.

Of all black men living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was sexual contact with other men, followed by injection drug use and high-risk heterosexual contact.

Of all black women living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was high-risk heterosexual contact, followed by injection drug use.

Yet, it's not the numbers, but the words within the statistics that are telling. The highest risk for HIV/AIDS for women are black men...who are also having sex with other black men. As if black women don't have enough to worry about!

It's not enough to keep quoting the standard although all-important mantras: practice safe sex, get yourself and your partner tested, practice monogamy and celibacy. There's another, SIMPLE, solution to this! BLACK MEN--be honest with yourself and your partners! If you are in any way having sex with another man, you are Gay!

OK, let's move beyond labels. Stop the risky behavior. No, I'm not talking about being homosexual--that's your personal choice. No, I'm not talking about having unprotected sex or even having sex with multiple sex partners, although this type of risky behavior is dangerous to both heterosexuals and homosexuals. I'm talking about lying. And if you're a male who has had any type of sexual contact with anther male and you don't tell your partner, especially a women, I'm talking about you. Any mature adult, regardless of sexual orientation, knows that "honesty is the best policy." So let your partners, especially our precious black women know! As you can see, your dishonesty is killing them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How To Find The IMPERFECT Mate

Today, I came across an interesting statistic about black people and marriage: 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. And, African American women are the least likely in our society to marry.

This got me to thinking. Why do so many black folk, and women in particular, find it so hard to find someone to/worth marrying? My mind flashed back to my parents advice, all those articles I read on relationships, the Sunday sermons, and the seminars and books on "how to find the right person." As I reviewed the stuff in my mind, it dawned on me that there were common themes. So why are black folk still having a hard time? Well, sometimes I understand things better if they are stated in opposition, i.e. tell me to do something that results in exactly what I DON'T want to happen. So, if you want to practically guarantee you will enter into the wrong relationship, wrong marriage, or not marry at all, read on.

Robert's 10 Rules For Finding The Imperfect Mate

Rule 1. Date someone below your social class. That's right, marry someone with far less education and money than you and you guarantee yourself a miserable existence.
Rule 2. Date someone with different religious beliefs than you. Go ahead Christian and marry that non-church goer or that atheist. And by all means don't pray about it.
Rule 3. Judge a book by its cover, date someone simply because they are your look type.
Rule 4. Go to the club, chat room, gym, mall, Internet, etc. to find that special someone.
Rule 5. Totally disregard anything your family has to say about the person you want to marry. After all, what do they know? And you're grown!
Rule 6. Date someone solely because of their material possessions. What's the phrase on Tyler Perry's movie? "Quality"
Rule 7. Value good sex more than good conversation.
Rule 8. Date someone who is selfish and self-centered.
Rule 9. Let your Friends decide if the person is right for you.
Rule 10. Don't meet the other person's family while dating.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Will Obama's Presidential Election Doom Affirmative Action?

Today, ABC News talked about how Barack Obama's election as President of the United States would change the dynamic of the US workforce. The supposition was that the US workforce would become more culturally diverse as a result of his election and his leadership thus far in assembling a very culturally diverse team. ABC also noted another positive: African Americans and other minorities finally see that they can achieve more and are motivated to do the right thing: go to school, work, start businesses, etc. (more on this later) But I wonder, could an Obama election have just the opposite effect?

For many years when people debated the merits of affirmative action, those opposing affirmative action usually split into two camps. The first are those that opposed because they feel any quota is wrong. The second set are those who oppose because they feel blacks and other minorities have been in this country long enough to have overcome the handicaps of segregation. While I don't agree with either, Obama's election, as well as the very high profile careers of many other people of color, adds strength to their central theme--people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

Obama, like many Americans, started with humble beginnings (not to mention a checkered family history) and finally realized that he had to buckle down and use his wit, charm, and poise to succeed. Both he and Michelle worked hard and graduated from Harvard School of Law. Now I wonder if many Americans might expect the same of all of us? That is, to buckle down, work hard and receive the rewards thereof. Or not to do so and live in mediocrity--without excuses.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

How To Keep A Job In This Economy

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years:

1. Be good at what you do, but not to good. Basically, be one of the productive members of the team, but not so much so until your coworkers notice, single you out, and help find a way to get you fired.
2. Don’t be terrible at what you do. If you can’t or won’t do your job, why should they keep you?
3. Use teleworking and leave sparingly. After all, if you can be absent for long periods of time, why have you there at all?
4. Lean to do other people’s job--quietly! The more you know, the cheaper it is to keep you because you can do more than one thing. So, take on new responsibilities, volunteer, learn.
5. Stay out of, but keep tuned into office gossip and politics. You don’t want to be a part of it, but you do want people to tell you what’s going on. Sometimes the grapevine can reveal when the sharks are out for you! And by all means, don’t discuss your personal life at work. But, because people fear what they don’t understand, learn to make idle, but harmless chit chat. (talk about insignificant things like what the kids did, sports, weather, etc.).
6. Learn and follow the cooperate culture for the position you’re in. Learn how you are expected to act, communicate--especially when speaking and most assuredly in disagreement, dress, and what work related social gatherings to attend. When in doubt, be conservative. And remember, ANY gathering where your coworkers or boss are in attendance is a work gathering. Finally, never drink at any gathering where coworkers or your boss are in attendance. Why, management tend to listen to management, so while your boss may be OK with your drinking, it’s almost a sure thing another manager will not be.
7. Learn to manage your boss. Read up on various methods of personality profiling and try to sum your boss up. Treat them they way the want to be treated!
8. Don’t complain. Always be positive and upbeat. If someone asks and you can‘t think of anything else, just say how glad you are to have a job.
9. Be likable. Be friendly, help others from time to time, genuinely hear what others have to say and respect their opinions, get to know the people you work with. I once had a boss call it the “likability factor.” That guy or gal everyone feels is just a “good guy” or “good people.“ It’s hard to fire someone when you feel a genuine kinship with them. Be mindful of how you present yourself and even more so of how others see you. Take note of those little cues and ask trusted friends what they think.
10. Don’t use company equipment for personal use. And never, never, never do, write, say, or look at anything sexually explicit at work.
11. Don’t date anyone at work.
12. Update your resume and keep it updated. Post it on several of the large job search engines. Carry a few clean copies with you to hand out. However, be careful--you don’t want someone from work to see it.
13. Always be on the lookout for a job, whether you have one or not. You don’t wait until you need insurance to buy it? Right? Search employment websites, newspapers, magazines, etc. And by all means, do the next bullet.
14. Network, network, network. People, not resumes, or qualifications, or anything else hire. Many jobs are never even advertised. Talk with friends who might have leads on job openings, talk with people at training classes, seminars, meetings, etc. Discretely visit other departments. Attend job fairs. If you do some work for someone outside your agency and they like what you do, put a feeler out. Stay connected, when you meet someone in a position to either give you a job or let you know one is opening up, stay in touch--send a Christmas card or drop a friendly email.
15. Remember that when an employer has a job opening there is a problem that employer is trying to solve. Often the problems an employer is having, and therefore a job opening, can be found in unconventional places like the television, magazines, and radio. Just yesterday I saw that a major housing authority had fired their executive director and a senior board member was running things. I also saw where a major county was getting a multi-million dollar grant to revitalize a community. So, I shot them both a resume!
16. Be prepared to do anything legal that pays the bills. You may be a software engineer now, but if working two jobs as a restaurant manager will pay the bills, do it!
17. Always find time to volunteer--you will meet lots of people and do lots of good. And if that’s not enough, you will undoubtedly hear about some of those employer problems, i.e. job openings.
18. Heaven forbid if it should happen, but if you must leave a job, for good or bad, leave gracefully. Don’t badmouth your boss or coworkers and don’t cast blame. Remember, you will probably need a reference. One trick I've seen is to befriend a mid to senior level staffer who is familiar with you work and have them write the recommendation.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How To Survive A Bad Economy--Now That’s A Good Question!

Here are a few simple tips that work!
  • Pay yourself first--start an emergency fund. If you can, start a retirement account and a college savings account for your kids.
  • If you’re fortunate enough to have a retirement account, leave it alone.
  • Pay down debt, especially credit cards.
  • Stop buying things you don‘t need. You don’t have to have designer clothes, a European car, or the most expensive house, and you don’t have to drink or smoke.
  • Take care of the things you have. If the things you have work, don’t go into debt or spend money now to replace them. Take a few cues from Katherine Reynolds Lewis who offers some sound advice on how to cut your cost of living.
  • Again, put something away for a rainy day, i.e. start an emergency fund. Try to build up three to six months of living expenses which will give you a comfortable cushion in case you lose your job or see overtime hours cut. You will also be able to cover the unexpected medical bills, car repair, or help for a relative or friend.
  • Know the difference between needs and wants and ONLY BUY THE THINGS YOU NEED. You need a roof over your head, food and water, clean clothing, a dependable vehicle, and to maintain your basic hygiene--you don’t have to eat seafood, go to the hairdresser each week, or get your nails done, and you don’t have to have the sexist cell phone. By the way, does everyone in your family NEED a cell phone?
  • Shop for the best deals. Clip out store coupons and use Internet coupons. Buy generic foods and medicines. Take advantage of sales, but again, buy only what you NEED. Shop at dollar stores, they have lots of stuff, especially the basics. Take advantage of flea markets, swap meets, and garage sales--lots of good deals here. Buy in bulk (Sam’s Club, etc.). Compare prices, most stores have the unit price printed on a label on the shelf--this is the true cost of the item. Recycle gifts. How? Have an old gift that just isn't you? Don't just let it sit on a shelf or throw it away, give it to someone! Review your insurance policies, compare them with others and choose the one with the best value.
  • Learn new skills. For instance, learn how to do small repairs around the house yourself. Patching a wall, fixing a faucet, painting--there all easy things to learn and Lowes and Home Depot offer classes. Increase your skills base on the job--if you're a carpenter, learn how to do small electrical and plumbing repair. If you're a contracts manager, learn how to both administer and let contracts. You should also balance your skills base. If you're a white collar person, pick up a trade such as carpentry, and if you're a blue collar person, learn a clerical skill such as using a computer or bookkeeping.
  • Use bartering instead of cash. This is the way our forefathers did things. For instance, you need your car repaired and someone else you know needs a room painted. Why not paint their room and in turn let them repair your car?
  • Reduce utility usage. Go easy on the lights and gas by keeping your thermostat set at the minimum level comfortable. Turn off lights and other electric appliances in rooms not in use--and unplug that phone charger! Don't you know its still using electricity even though the phone isn't on it?
  • Use public transportation, especially if your job helps pay for it.