Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kirsten West Savali: Why Gene Marks Is Not Our Concern


By: Kirsten West Savali, Your Black World

In the wake of Forbes contributor, Gene Marks, giving us an intimate view of his cozy cocoon of white privilege in the mind-numbingly dense column, “If I Were A Black Kid,” an outpouring of angry, insightful, cynical and humorous retaliatory articles have drowned the cybersphere with the crippling weight of the oppressive Black experience in America.

To stamp his condescension with the executive seal of authenticity, Marks drags out a quote from President Barack “Stop grumblin’ and cryin’” Obama as his inspiration, in which the POTUS further proves that the GOP has him so afraid to claim a knowledge of kinship between “Black” and “poverty” that he probably wouldn’t order Roots on Netflix:

“This is the defining issue of our time,” said Obama. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class…”

It’s perfectly fine to say poor, Mr. President. It’s not contagious.

Initially, several sarcastic ideas floated through my mind in response. I thought, maybe I should write an article entitled, “If I Were A Poor White Kid”? — or, better yet, “If I Were A Middle-Class White Guy.” After my instinctive anger faded, however, I realized one simple fact:

I could give less than a damn about what Gene Marks has to say.

HIV and AIDS are killing our ‘poor Black girls’ at a disproportionately higher rate than any other demographic around the globe; yet, what is supposed to be our media (*Kick rocks, BET*)promotes Chris Brown crooning that he’s going to make them “wet the bed.”

That was a problem long before Marks published his article on December 12, 2011.

The dismally low percentage of Black fathers in the home, and the subsequent ill effects, should cause many of us in heterosexual relationships to re-evaluate the dangerously unhealthy paradigm we’re passing down to our children; instead, we “honor” Lil Wayne at every single award show, who with four children by four different women, teaches our ‘poor black boys’ “how to love.”

That was a problem long before Marks published his article on December 12, 2011.

Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest public school district in the United States, has been found guilty of providing a sub-par education to Black students; but, through such “entertaining shows” as Basketball Wives and Love & Hip-Hop, our ‘poor Black kids’ are realizing that with big bank and a bigger derriere, they, too, can run the world — or at least VH1.

That was a problem long before Marks published his article on December 12, 2011.

Living in a society where Tyler the Creator can boast about being a “Young Nigga” and Nicki Minaj can brag about being a plastic Barbie, Gene Marks probably thought he was doing us a solid.

Let’s be clear: The Black community is not a monolith. Whether Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean, first generation African-American or descendants of African slaves, we do not face identical issues and there is no one prescription to solve all of our complex ills. The reflections of Black America that are scripted directly from misleading statistics are directly funded and promoted by wealthy white executives and mainstream media — we all know this. For every absentee Black father, we all know one who goes over and beyond for his children; for every groupie, we all know an attorney; for every ‘poor Black kid,’ we all know one who grew up in a household that the Huxtables would envy.

Still, there are imperative issues that I believe collectively concern all of us. The “upper-class” may be selling the worst that Black culture has to offer, but many of us are buying it with about as much concern for the ramifications as a diabetic eating a sugar cookie. Common wisdom tells us that we are only as strong as our weakest link. From my perspective, this means that even if circumstances do not affect us individually, we, as a people inextricably linked by history and shared experiences, should be concerned about every ‘poor Black kid’ around the globe.

We could debate and argue the sheer audacity of Gene Marks’ Forbes spectacle; but the issue isn’t with his article, as least not for me. The issue is he only scratched the surface. When he cavalierly tossed out cliché antidotes for every single layered disadvantage that plague our ‘poor black kids,’ he didn’t have enough empathy to also address the ingrained racist nature of the American judicial, economic and educational systems. He didn’t have enough awareness to also understand that if it were that easy, if we didn’t have to start mid-race with physical, societal and psychological shackles strangling us, there would be more of our ‘poor black kids’ crossing the finish line.

With this typical piece of privileged garbage, Marks has just added his name to a long list of self-entitled, patronizing plantation throwbacks, who wouldn’t understand the plight of a ‘poor black kid’ if he painted on black-face and walked through Compton.

The question should not be why Gene Marks would write such an insensitive article; the question is: what exactly did we expect from him?

From the state-sanctioned murder of Troy Davis and the flagrant slaying of Oscar Grant, to Marks’ voluntary assassination of our character, Black America at-large has an unhealthy habit of waiting on white America to agitate injustice before we mobilize the passionate protection of our collective self-worth. I think we can all agree that instead of ripping Marks’ ignorant article to shreds, our time and resources would be far better utilized creating our own plan to elevate the condition of our ‘poor Black kids.’ Because at the end of the day, it’s inconsequential what some “Middle-class white guy” is saying to them.

What are we saying to them?


imageKirsten West Savali is Senior News Editor at She is founder and administrator of the Nomadic Poets’ Oasis, an online destination dedicated to the exposure and elevation of poetry, spoken word and the visual arts. She is also currently co-writing The Hole in the Wall, a piercing, Blues-tinged screenplay that delves into the bruised soul of a fatherless son in search of himself. Her provocative commentary appears in various publications and explores the interconnectivity of race, gender, politics and culture. Kirsten’s work can be found on (where an earlier version of this article appears),, AOLBlackVoices,,, and others. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @KWestSavali

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