The fact that I feel a need to write a column specifically addressing black college grads says more about the racial state of affairs in America than my state of mind at this juncture in our nation’s history. Quite naturally some will posit that I’m unnecessarily stirring the racial pot by offering advice exclusively to persons of color, but given the current political state of affairs nationally, and the loss of ground African Americans are currently experiencing, I would be remiss if I didn’t focus my comments on black youth since their needs — and the challenges they will face — are vastly different from their fellow citizens who were born with a severe melanin deficiency.
1 If you can’t “be” anything else in life, you can “be” on time. I usually arrive to meetings 10 minutes early, just to make up for all of the black folks whose clocks are permanently set on C.P. time. Sure, some whites are also chronically late, but hey, they can afford to be — you can’t. Is it unfair that you should be judged differently, but who told you that life was going to be fair? And that goes double or triple for black folks. Get over it.
2 Don’t take anything that you didn’t earn by honest labor. If you’re going to take a bribe, make sure that it’s big enough to buy your own private island, and then move there. Remember, there never was a financial crime committed that involved only one person — and that other person will tell on you when the heat comes down. Sleeping well at night is its own reward.
3 It’s not always paranoia — in some cases they really are out to get you. Talk on the phone, text, and send emails as if the F.B.I. is watching and listening in, because they just might be. And erasing or deleting doesn’t mean shit those messages and words are here to stay — forever. Now, in spite of this advice, some of you will still do some really stupid shit at some point in the future. Learn to live with the consequences of your actions.
4 Think big. The best advice my father ever gave me was, “Son, since you’re going to have to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.” I never forgot it. The worse advice he ever gave me was the advice he didn’t give at all. He didn’t adequately prepare me for the untrammeled racism I would face once I left the safe and secure nest he and my mother created for me.
5 Don’t believe the sign on the door. As you enter corporate America or academia you’ll find that virtually all institutions have an office with a sign on the door marked “Office of Diversity and Inclusion,” or some similar iteration. Don’t think that it’s anything more than just that, a sign on door, because in most cases that’s all it really is. The CEO or university president (or whoever else is in charge) directed that the sign to be placed on the door and gave some black person a title, but don’t be smoked over by the bullshit. Oh, the person at the top might have really meant it when the office and job was created, but you’re not going to be dealing with them. It’s that person way down the food chain that’s going to be upset with your presence and potential progress, and they’re the ones that are going to try to throw roadblocks in your pathway to success. Learn to pity rather than hate them, for their hatred of you is only a mask for their fear. They know, as virtually all of white society knows, that when we people of color are afforded a decent education and are put on a level playing field there is no stopping us. Nothing can keep us down.
6 Don’t get angry, get even. And smile when you are doing it. Racism is designed to drive you bat-shit crazy; don’t allow it to happen to you. Start planning your exit strategy from white corporate America as soon as you get there. Figure out how to start your own business at some point down the road since, with relatively few exceptions, you’re not going to be allowed to rise as high as merit and your talent dictates.
7 Become a cop. Yep, every black college graduate, no matter what career they plan to pursue, should become a cop for a minimum of three years, and demand to be assigned to black neighborhoods. This is the surest way to curtail the killing of young black men.
8 Eat well and take care of your body. It’s the only one you’re going to get. Don’t put any tattoos on it that you can’t completely cover up.
9 Stay out of debt. The folks on Madison Avenue stay up nights trying to figure out more and more clever ways of separating you from your hard-earned money. Don’t lust after shiny objects and frivolities just to keep up with the Joneses. In fact, fuck the Joneses. Buy fewer clothes of better quality, and always keep your shoes shined.
10 If you want to stay young forever, travel the world, read good books, and learn to laugh a lot … a whole lot.
From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.