“If you don’t have a job and if you’re not rich blame yourself.” Republican presidential candidate, Herman Cain stated these words in a recent interview discussing the Occupy Wall Street protests. He also goes on to state that people should not be jealous of others’ success. According the Cain, if you didn’t succeed in life its all your fault. I understand that Cain is trying to get people to be more accountable for their own actions. There is some truth to his statement. At times we blame others for our own misfortunes instead of taking into account our own mistakes. However, when discussing the big banks of Wall Street and how common people have suffered in the recession, it is unfair to dismiss their strife as “jealousy”. What about the oppression, elitism, and discrimination that has plagued America for centuries? These definitely affect the socio-economic statuses of many Americans, especially African Americans.
One documentary in particular, unknowingly highlights this. Born Rich is a documentary that has interviews with the people that we would call the 1% (the wealthiest people in the world). Throughout the course of the interviews, it’s easy to see that many of the rich families became wealthy during time periods that African descendants were forced to work as slaves, sharecroppers and low-wage workers. While the children of the wealthy families inherited the wealth (centuries later) without having worked for it at all; the children of the poor families inherited the poverty at no fault of their own. Its not a simple matter of who works harder. Many times its a matter of who was born into the “right” family, race, gender and economic class. Thus the effects of inequalities are passed on to new generations. Its kind of like a cycle. These type of cycles can be ended but it takes a very very long time. This is a fact of society that can not be ignored or disregarded.
Though we are born with various inequalities, the goal is to make society better for the whole, not “privileged” parts. Because of the historical privileges allotted to wealthy corporations and banks, many people are feeling disheartened as they struggle to pay their mortgages, find a job and put food on the table. I think this is the crust of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It is not about being “jealous” or “envious” it is about desiring a better life and pressuring the government to stop catering to certain privileges that are costing common citizens hundreds of millions of dollars. To a degree, I do understand Cain’s sentiment. Hard work should be valued and does help with achieving success. However, preexisting inequalities are highly relevant and should be taken seriously.
Jessica Ann Mitchell is the founder of Black Bloggers Connect. Mitchell specializes in multicultural outreach and communications. She also writes on her personal blog at OurLegaci.com. To reach JAM email her at info@OurLegaci.com.
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See The Herman Cain Interview
Watch the Born Rich Documentary Here