Dad, 85, recently reminded me of an incident I had forgotten from when I was about 10 years old. We ordered ice cream at the diner near our home in a black Baltimore suburban community.
The white waitress wrapped our order to go. Dad said we wanted to eat it there and the waitress said, “No.” Dad still laughs at my over-the-top militant attitude. He said I wanted to burn down the building.
So yes, I have felt the sting of racism; nor am I suggesting that racism, sexism and every other “ism” does not exist.
However, I strongly disagree with the founder of Black Entertainment Television, Mr. Robert L. Johnson blaming “long-term institutionalized racism” for black America’s unemployment woes.
Life is all about choices. The moment you believe your life is in the hands of someone other than yourself, you surrender your power.
Nothing would truly empower blacks better than simply telling them to pursue their dreams.
My buddy Joe grew up fatherless, raised by his grandmother. At 16, Joe did a year in jail for stealing. A black tech school teacher taught Joe to paint signs. Joe worked his way through college and grad school. Joe was the first black man to land a job as an account executive in a major Baltimore advertising agency. Joe succeeded because he made different choices.
At 15, I wrote a letter to the Baltimore mayor William Donald Schaefer, requesting a scholarship to attend Saturday classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Wearing my Sunday best, carrying two pieces of cardboard taped together as a portfolio, I interviewed with the Mayor in his office for over an hour. Mayor Schaefer’s scholarship was the first of numerous scholarships I received from white politicians. I was the first black graphic designer hired by the ABC affiliate television station in Baltimore. Years later, I was promoted to supervisor.
Before landing my position at the TV station, I was hired by a white-owned design firm where I honed my skills. I loved working in the private sector because it gave me great pride to know that the company made money from my artistic contribution.
In my senior year of college, a white businessman who was impressed by my portfolio offered me free office space to launch my own design firm. Thus, I do not have a history of “whitey” trying to hold me back.