Armstrong Williams
During a recent speaking engagement at a DC high school, I talked about the importance of cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit. I shared with the kids my own experiences working on my family farm. I told them that each morning my father would come into my bedroom around 4:30 a.m. and tell me to get up and work the fields. I would spend the next two hours before school slopping pigs and cropping tobacco. Was it fun? Not even close. But these early lessons in physical striving taught me discipline, work ethic, routine, and responsibility and instilled an attitude of achievement that was the better part of my later successes. The point I was trying to convey to these kids was that it is not enough to merely wish for the good things in life. You must develop that kind of 4:30 a.m. discipline that distinguishes you from others; you must think of yourself as an entrepreneur.

Nearly every student in the audience was black. Their response was heartbreaking. One student after another told me that the white people would prevent them from becoming successful entrepreneurs. These kids were only teenagers, and they had already given up.

I guess it is not surprising that minorities, who were traditionally shut out of mainstream society and treated as second caste citizens, would be susceptible to thinking of themselves as victims. Up until just one generation ago, black Americans were relegated to the fringes of American society. The white, patriarchal society was not about to give up its sense of superiority. So it leaned on minorities with its full weight.

Black children were segregated in under funded schools. Black adults, regarded chiefly as a source of cheap labor, were denied opportunities for economic advancement. The results were straightforward: many young minorities received a poor education, lacked role models to cultivate their talents, plainly saw that society expected them not to succeed, and consequently stifled their own sense of future possibilities. In countless specific ways, minorities were made to hate themselves. This kind of conditioning was necessary for the maintenance of the white, patriarchal ruling structure.

If black America tended to respond with a certain distrust and hostility toward mainstream business and politics, it was plainly a matter of self defense. The rise of Black Nationalism and other separatist movements did not happen in a vacuum. They happened because even up to a generation ago, white America did everything it could to discourage black people from even making the attempt to be successful.

Armstrong Williams

Armstrong Williams is a widely-syndicated columnist, CEO of the Graham Williams Group, and hosts the Armstrong Williams Show. He is the author of Reawakening Virtues.
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