What does success mean to you?

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Success is different for different families, for different people. It might mean getting out of the trailer park. It might mean having the biggest trailer in the trailer park. It might be having a steady job at the factory or having a wife and lawn and a supermarket around the corner. There is no “White success.” But there’s a White idea of success. It involves home ownership, children, a marriage; it involves a nuclear family. It involves a job, a car; sandwiches for the kids when they go to school. Good schools. White people have a right to send their kids to good schools. The right to getting a good deal on a car, a house. We don’t have to live in dangerous neighborhoods where there are drive by shootings. If our neighborhood isn’t safe, we move. We have the right to safety. We have the right to happiness. We have the right to choose what church we want to attend. We have the right to choose not to have any religion at all. We have the right to not be questioned about our religion. Or our politics.
When White people brag about their children’s success, here’s what they brag about: Johnny got into the best preschool. Johnny’s doing well in kindergarten. Johnny’s kissing the girls in first grade. Johnny’s playing baseball. Johnny’s going to college. Depending on your socio economic bracket, Johnny might be attending a good college. Johnny’s getting a good job. Johnny is supporting himself. Johnny’s getting married. Johnny’s having offspring. Johnny calls his parents at least every few months, and we see Johnny at least once a year.
Success means bigger. When we think of really successful people, they live in bigger houses than we do; they go on more exotic vacations. We imagine that they have parties that are more fun, lives that are more glamorous, and they have more sex. That’s the ultimate symbol of success: More sex and better sex. Sex like the kind of sex Black people have every day. If Cornel West can be believed, and the man has some street cred as well as some academic chops, Whites in America believe that Black men are far more exciting sex partners than their White counterparts and that Black women know tricks we White women could only dream of. The margins are always more exciting than the middle. White people imagine that gay people, Latinos, but especially Blacks have better parties than we do and are whooping it up in the sack while we try to figure out which end is up. Success means bigger.
Consequently, most Whites are never really happy with their lives. If you’re working class, you know someone who’s got a bigger truck, and if you’re middle class, you know someone who’s got a bigger RV, and if you’re upper class, well, the neighbors have a better vacation home than you do. Success involves the life people live on television. It is mythical and far away; well lit by huge HMI lights. It has streetlights, crossing guards, the houses have trees, the houses have pools and kids playing in the yards. Happiness is sunny and beautiful and American and clean. You reach out for it, but like the Declaration of Independence, it’s under glass and heavily guarded.

Published in: on October 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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