Working While Black: Slavery, Paternalism And Why White Folks Get In Their Feelings When Black Folks Quit
One of the effects of slavery, one that is so rarely discussed, is the paternalism it fostered in White people. White slaveowners believed that because they were feeding, “sheltering” and exposing their Black slaves to White Jesus, that they were taking care of them.
And since they were taking such great care of “their property,” these slaveowners were doubly insulted when their “well-taken care of” slaves decided to liberate themselves. Not only were the slaves’ attempts to escape a threat to their economy and livelihood, they were an insult to the care and kindness they put in enslaving these people. How dare you run away from me when I feed, clothe and shelter you?! It’s unforgivable.
In the same physical ways the transference of wealth carried on after slavery, so did the attitudes that made it possible. The myth of White superiority, being chief among them. And a part of that superiority meant that White people automatically knew what was best for Black people. They believed they knew what was best for us when it came to choices of schools for our children. (Anyone away from their children.) They knew what was best for us in the way we should vote. (Not at all.) And they knew where we should be employed. (The places that are the most financially advantageous to them.)
If you’re thinking that these attitudes are a thing of the past, you need look no further than the reaction to Malia Obama being accepted into Harvard. Or the way people tried to come for Oprah when she announced she was voting for then-senator Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton. She had to actually remind fools that she was and still is free.
And we see it in the arena of employment all the time. There was a very clear reason why White folks burned LeBron James’ jersey when he left Cleveland, taking his talents to South Beach. But as you might remember, it wasn’t just the fans who felt betrayed. The owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, wrote a scathing letter after LeBron made his announcement, back in 2010.
If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a few telling excerpts:
“You [the Cleveland fans] simply don’t deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal.”
He wrote about LeBron’s “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal” and his “shocking act of disloyalty.” He said LeBron’s actions taught “the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And “who” we would want them to grow-up to become.”
He called LeBron’s actions “heartless” and “callous” and then said his leaving would serve as the “antidote to the curse on Cleveland, Ohio.”
Then ironically he evoked a line from The Color Purple, “And until he does “right” by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”
But before that he made a promise to the people of Cleveland.
“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE”
If you recall, the Miami Heat would win two back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. And while LeBron returned to his hometown team in 2014, the franchise has yet to win a single one. And I don’t just mean since LeBron has returned, I mean ever, in the history of the Cleveland Cavalier franchise. Which, if you ask me, proves that LeBron absolutely needed to bounce.
What Gilbert, and I think a few other people, fail to remember is that these basketball players are not simply there for our entertainment. Basketball is more than just a hobby for them, it’s their career. And instead of Dan Gilbert recognizing his disappointment at LeBron leaving and acknowledging the intelligence of his decision to leave that floundering team, he shamed LeBron. And not just as a player, but as a human being.
I respect LeBron’s decision to return to his hometown. But if it were me, I would never let that man make another cent off of my name or talents. Because at the end of the day, he proved that as soon as LeBron stopped making money for him, he had nothing for him, not even respect.
And this goes beyond the athletic arena. We all watched for weeks as Kelly Ripa acted out her frustration at the fact that Michael Strahan was leaving “Live” for “Good Morning America.” When I was first heard the story. I thought Ripa had a valid point. She deserved to know when he was leaving. But, the thing is, when she was called into a meeting and told about Strahan’s departure, by Strahan himself, it was months in advance. ABC executives reported that the deal to move Strahan took five days to complete. And they informed her of the decision in April. Strahan was supposed to move to “GMA” in September. That’s five months in advance. But after all the drama, that date was pushed up to May.
When most of us quit a job, two weeks notice is standard and fair. Furthermore, you certainly don’t tell your coworkers about your plans to change your career as you’re making them. Where dey do dat at?! Kelly Ripa was upset because rumor has it that when Regis quit, she was told 15 minutes before she walked out onto the soundstage. She was upset because work as she knew it was about to change. And I would argue that she was upset because instead of looking at Strahan’s move as a great career opportunity, she saw it as a betrayal.
Several sources have quoted her reaction to the news of Strahan’s departure, “Didn’t I tell you this was going to happen? I told you two years ago this was going to happen.” Outlets have said that she was not mad at Strahan, but instead was displeased with ABC executives. I’m sure she was pissed at them too. But if so, why did she say she told them this was going to happen. If you knew it, tell ‘em why you mad! It was because she felt betrayed. She welcomed Strahan into the fold and look what he did, turned around and moved on without her.
Through her work in the soap operas, Kelly Ripa has been a part of the ABC company for 26 years. And here comes Strahan, a former football player who gets a promotion after just four years hosting a talk show.
Church folks say, “Favor ain’t fair.”
Point is, Black people are free now. We are willing and able to make our own decisions and know what’s best for us in the area of our lives, our children and our careers. And while White people are entitled to their feelings of disappointment, it’s far from betrayal. After all, y’all taught us, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”