I remember attending a predominantly white church one week as a high school student. This was a rare event. As Fannie Lou Hamer is credited with saying, the most segregated place on earth is America on Sunday morning. While sitting in a completely routine Sunday school class at this particular church, the teacher began talking about how to get the most out of a Roth IRA. Pause. A what? I had no clue what he was talking about. What bothered me most was not my ignorance but my curiosity as to what other things were routinely discussed in that neighborhood that were not in my own.

Knowledge is power. In this life, not knowing will cripple you: not knowing how to access capital for a startup business, how to navigate financial or governmental institutions, who to talk to about a financial problem, the roadmap to getting into and funding a college education. These things, surprisingly to some, are not often discussed or widely known in some neighborhoods. This is, in my judgment, the most damaging manifestation of segregation: the segregation of knowledge.

When you don’t know and no one is pressed about informing you, it’s possible to linger in darkness for a lifetime. I’ve met geniuses in the hood who had no clue on how to apply that genius. I’ve met others who didn’t even know where to apply it. I’ve met many who would make great political consultants but have never heard of that career. I’ve met others who have great ideas on how to reform education but have no clue as to which institutions they should seek entry into to make those changes or that they exist. And while we’re on the subject of jobs, 80% of jobs are filled through knowing someone. That’s another problem in my neighborhood- you don’t know anyone and getting an introduction is very difficult. Ultimately, that makes things harder even if you have a college degree. I went to school with guys no more talented than me who were employed right out of undergrad because of who their parents knew. A luxury I never had, unfortunately.

So we face a knowledge gap. Things commonly known in your neighborhood are almost unheard of in mine. The right people and the right connections for a number of things are not far from some people but nowhere close for others. While you might only be separated by two degrees from some lady in HR, I may be miles apart. So indeed it’s both who you know and what you know that count. Some might say the internet is the great equalizer- one can Google anything. To that I say, Google is not helpful if I don’t know what to look for or that I should even be looking.

Google is very helpful once I have a lead. Reminds me of my high school days when I randomly heard about “joint enrollment” courses from someone. The idea of taking college classes early excited me, something I’d never heard of. I went to my guidance counselor, a white woman incidentally, who told me she’d never heard of it. It was then that I went to work on the internet and eventually I took enough courses in my senior year to enter undergrad as a sophomore. I wasn’t dumb, just ignorant.


Duane Terrell

Excellent Blog. You've gotten one leg off my political s**** list. One of the things that I saw in this blog that made me nearly stand up and clap was that you took the initiative. Once you noticed something wasn't right you moved to correct it. Wonderful. Now you can take the power that you have and share it with other people and let them take the initative form there.

Also, no complaining. Not one complaint did I read. You didn't blame whitey. You didn't blame the system. Perhaps you'll do that in your next blog and that leg will get back on the list but until then I want to commend you.

Whenever I take over a responsibliity from someone one of the questions I always ask is this, "What should I be asking that I'm not asking?" And you know what, I get responses like 90% of the time. Sometimes you just don't know what you don't know.

One of the things I would always suggest, if possible, have it least one friend who doesn't look like you.

Duane Terrell

One question hopewell, just wondering. Have you ever been to a trailer park full of white people to visit someone who was white and the trailer you were visting had bugs in it? I have, not a pretty sight.

YOur title is right, but there are white peple who are just as ignorant, probably more than you think.

Duane Terrell

lol, I screwed up my last post. I didn't meant to imply that white poor people or poor peole in general are ignorant.

I was mearly attempting to state that in certain context, this article could have been titled poor and white because there are some white people who do not know these things.

I also didn't mean to imply that if you are poor you had bugs in your house. I was merely attempting to show I have expereinced in part (albeit small) white poverty.

D.M Hopewell

wow. excellent point, Duane. Not a bad strategy..

D.M Hopewell

i see your point and I have. Your observation is accurate. However, i would contend "black" adds another layer. poor and white, while certainly contemptible at times, stands a better chance of breaking into a social network than poor and black…at least i think.

Duane Terrell

Since you link to this post again and I actually forgot you posted it, I have one additional question.

How are black people suppose to "handle" all this influx of new information about IRA's etc, when, according to Democrats, we are too stupid, incapable, or lazy to get an ID so we can go vote?

D.M Hopewell

lol! in some ways i can actually see your point here. paternalism can be quite problematic

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