Joining Better Networks, Part 1: Consistently Bring Something Of Value To The Table

This is the first chapter of an ongoing series of posts about how to become a welcomed member of productive networks. Humans are social animals, and always cluster into various groups. Unless you’re a hermit, you’re a member of various (sometimes overlapping) groups. These networks vary in size, purpose, and effectiveness.

Most African-American women need to find and join new, healthy networks in the global village. Because their current all-Black networks tend to be accidentally chosen, non-reciprocating, and often downright destructive. However, to join productive networks, most African-American women will need to change the way they approach networking. Most importantly, they will need to change their understanding of the entire process.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT #1: READ THE FREE NETWORK INFILTRATION SPECIAL REPORT PROVIDED BY THE SOVEREIGN MAN BLOG

Your homework assignment is to visit the Sovereign Man blog, and get a copy of his free report Network Infiltration: The Secrets to Becoming a Welcomed Member of The Most Exclusive Networks in the World.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT #2: READ THIS POST BY THE SOVEREIGN MAN

Read this post.

HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT #3: PURGE YOUR MIND OF THE “PEOPLE OWE ME SOMETHING” MENTALITY

When most African-Americans speak of networking, what they’re really describing is coattail riding. It doesn’t occur to them that they should or need to contribute value to the target person they want to benefit from. Especially when that target person is also African-American. Most African-Americans have an entitlement, “hook me up” mindset. That’s why you hear all this talk of expecting other African-Americans to “reach back,” and “set up programs” for them. It’s all one-sided. The people looking for the handout from other Blacks never say what they’re going to do in exchange for any assistance given. Because they don’t intend to do anything except TAKE from that person. And if you don’t hook them up, then they create an entire narrative in their minds about how you must be jealous and evil. It’s irrational.

With African-Americans, this entitlement mindset is also heavily intertwined with our many toxic attitudes and misguided notions about class issues. Here are some responses I gave to several readers at the previous blog when this topic came up,

My responses to Reader A

I…see…Perhaps they simply did not want to give them to you. Perhaps they simply did not want to give them to anybody. Were they under any obligation to do so? I think not.

I had a Korean martial arts instructor. He did NOT accept any and every person who came to him wanting to be his student. He was right. He had a right to decide whom he was going to share his hard-earned information with. There are potential students that one feels comfortable with. And then there are other people that one does NOT feel comfortable sharing oneself with. For all sorts of reasons. Some “legitimate.” Some “illegitimate.” Regardless of the reasons involved, nobody is required to share their life lessons with anybody else.

The sort of mentoring that it sounds like you’re talking about is very personal and requires trust. In explaining real-life things (such as the keys to personal happiness), one inevitably ends up sharing details of one’s personal life. Details that one might NOT want broadcast to the world.

I know for myself that if somebody approaches me with a “you owe me” attitude, I’m immediately turned off and distrustful of that person. If somebody feels entitled to have access to MY life lessons, what else of mine do they feel entitled to have? Furthermore, what happens to the personal information that I shared with the student if the student “falls out” with me at a later date?

Also, an attitude of entitlement to what I’ve learned through MY personal experiences would make me wonder about the “you owe me” wannabe student’s judgment. If I did share, what would they do with the information I gave them? Would they handle MY information with the same level of discretion that I feel it deserves? Would they spread my comments around? Would they misuse my information?

Why take that risk with insights that I’ve learned through MY personal experiences? Personal experiences that I might not want broadcast to the world if the student ever “fell out” with me?

Respectfully, it sounds as if you’ve never considered the risks involved in what you were asking of these women.

. . . More blunt talk:

The Black poor and underclass have this peculiar (really quite vain) notion that people from other classes actually think about, or pay attention to them. From what I’ve seen, the Black poor and the underclass are NOT on most middle class persons’ radar. The ugly truth is that nobody cares enough about the Black poor or underclass to pay any attention to what they’re doing. Nobody’s watching them. Nobody even sees them until they do something (often negative) to bring themselves to other folks’ attention.

I have never seen people FROM middle class environments who actually defined themselves in relation to the Black poor or underclass. They have other measures of self-definition. The Black middle class’ self-definition revolves around jockeying for position among other middle class people. And on social climbing into the Black elite. The Black poor and underclass don’t factor into this self-definition equation. They are irrelevant to this equation.

On the other hand, I have seen insecure, dysfunctional strivers take great pains to distinguish themselves from the Black poor. These are also often the people who have emotionally charged relationships with material things, professional titles, and other “stuff” that they are desperate to wave around and show off. It seems much more likely to me that these are the sort of people that you’re describing who enjoy, or need, to see ghetto clown shows for their self-validation.

. . . All of this sounds as if you’re [still] angry with these women (and by extension the Black middle class–the “hate” part of the “love/hate relationship” you mentioned having with the Black middle class) because they chose to exercise their free will, and chose not to mentor you. Why be angry with them if you understand that they had NO obligation to mentor you? Why be angry with the Black middle class if you understand that these women had NO obligation to mentor you?

It seems to me that the only way a person could be angry about this is if that person felt entitled to these women’s mentoring. As if these women OWED somebody some mentoring. They didn’t. They don’t. Anyone who understands this also understands that there’s no reason to harbor anger or resentment about this years later.

. . . But since you understand that they didn’t owe you (or anybody else) any mentoring in the first place, it doesn’t matter what their reasons were for choosing not to give it.

. . . As far as the Ebonics-speaking lawyer [that I had mentioned], her inferiority complex and hateration prevented her from perceiving what others were telling her as help. She chose to interpret the help as a put-down. Back to the “you’re looking down on me” obsession with such folks.

I don’t recall saying that “most Blacks don’t want help.” What I will say is:

Because of various distorted thought patterns, many poor, underclass, and hater-striver Blacks often don’t perceive help as help. Their distorted perceptions twist it around into something else. Usually something negative, such as the “you’re looking down on me” obsession. When they don’t perceive it as help, then they don’t want it.

Even if they do understand that the offered help IS help, and do want it, such people often ONLY want it ON THEIR TERMS! As if the helper is under some obligation to make the help as convenient and pleasing as possible to the person who needs it.

Considering that nobody owes anybody help, this is upside-down and backwards thinking. It also turns off potential help-givers. Someone making demands about the form and fashion of the help that they want from others increases the “hassle factor” involved in helping that particular person. Some people are only willing to be helpful as long as it’s not a hassle. Because they want to make demands about the form and fashion of the help, a lot of Black folks make it too much of a hassle to help them. The Black poor, underclass, and striver-haters have a bad habit of making it a hassle to help them. As if somebody has to cater to them to help them. NOT.

Anyway, back to the main point:

No matter how sincerely you wanted help, these women were NOT under any obligation whatsoever to give it to you (or anybody else). You wanting their help did NOT create any obligation for them to give it. They did not owe anybody any mentoring or any other help. If this is understood then there’s no reason to be upset with their decision to exercise their free will and not offer mentoring.

. . . We agree to disagree.

It sounds like you’re adding qualifications to the “nobody ‘owes’ anybody any help” statement. Qualifications such as “the same path,” or people “not trying to help themselves.”

For me, those qualifications don’t matter to the basic principle involved. The basic principle I believe is that nobody owes anybody anything. [I am excluding caregiver relationships such as parent-child, etc.]

My basic principle is that people have the right to exercise choice when it comes to giving, charity, help, whatever. They can choose to give. They can choose to withhold their help.

Charity is a good thing. However, I believe that any duty to give in charity is a believer’s duty to God, NOT a duty owed to other human beings. One is giving out of thanks and obligation to God, NOT because other human beings demand it. To think that people owe us help is similar to the attitude of an aggressive panhandler who feels that other people owe him some of THEIR money. No, I DON’T owe any of my money to panhandlers. I don’t owe panhandlers any money whatsoever whether or not:

1-they are passive or aggressive while panhandling.

2-I perceive them, or they perceive themselves, to be on “the same path.”

3-I perceive them, or they perceive themselves, to be trying to help themselves.

None of that is my point. My point is that I don’t owe panhandlers any money. And the money that I do NOT owe them can take various forms: the money can be my time, energy, information, or help.

Like I said, we agree to disagree.

My responses to Reader B

This is an extremely important point about how a person’s class of origin affects outcomes.

Hard work and determination are VERY good things, but there’s always a LOT of other stuff going on behind the curtains. Too many of our people don’t understand this. Especially some of those who are first-generation college grads. Some of us believe that a degree from a status university like Harvard automatically grants one entry into various settings. Or that such a degree will grant one authority or “juice” in various realms. It does NOT work like that if you don’t have family or social connections to back that up.

Furthermore, the organizational chart (on paper) does NOT necessarily reflect true authority or “juice.” Let me give an example. If you’re a Black professor at a prestigious university, this does NOT mean that you have any true authority whatsoever over any of your wealthy, connected, White students. NOT unless you are as connected as they are.

This means that they are free to refuse to defer to you. To whatever extent they wish. And there will be very little that you can effectively do about it. ESPECIALLY if you are your family’s first college grad. A fancy degree from an fancy university does NOT outweigh that wealthy, connected student’s extended family connections.

Let me give the reverse example. The (racist) White dean at the law school I attended had the nasty mental habit of assuming that every Black student there was the first in their family to go to college, much less professional school. This dean seemed to perceive us all to be so-called “charity cases” who should be grateful to be there.

NOT. And the dean found this out the hard way. The Dean and Assistant Dean did some things that I found to be extremely foul. Among other yucky potential consequences, they then discovered that my father was in a position to have the wrath of the IRS descend upon that school. They quickly backed up. And decided to “fly right,” and address my concerns.

But they apparently thought that I was a fluke. They still didn’t learn their lesson about assuming that it was safe to try to screw over ALL of the Black students. They messed up and took liberties again. With one of my friends who was a year behind me. What they didn’t know was that the then-Illinois Attorney General (now Sen. Roland Burris) was a close friend of his parents.

Apparently, they discovered that the Illinois Attorney General’s Office was planning to stop interviewing any students from that law school if they persisted in their foul actions regarding my friend. They quickly “got on the good foot” regarding my friend. Praise God, for at least these incidents, it worked in the reverse of what usually happens: This racist White dean of a White law school had to factor in how 2 Black students might react.

The moral of these stories is that there are always things going on behind the scenes that have nothing to do with paper credentials. It’s not enough to have the paper credentials. For stuff to work in the best manner, you have to have an effective posse to accompany the paper credentials.

My responses to Reader C

No, nobody is saying that strivers NEED the help or friendship of affluent Blacks. But it certainly helps, and makes the path smoother. There is an expression about “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” Only a fool goes out of his way to urinate on potential sources of help and advantages.

Striver-haters are NOT going to be able to connect to those Black people who already have connections. Therefore, they won’t be able to borrow the benefits of that Black person’s family connections. The same applies to aggressive panhandlers who are in folks’ faces demanding, expecting, and feeling ENTITLED to their help.

My responses to Reader D

I’ll be pleased if just one person reconsiders the hateration and/or entitlement mindset that has become dogma in mass AA culture.

I think that this “you owe me” mindset is a fairly recent innovation in mass AA culture. As in, since the 1960s (my older relatives say that this is when large numbers of Black folks went crazy).

My grandmothers (the maid and the seamstress) did NOT think that anybody owed them anything. My grandfathers (the handyman and the cook) did NOT think that anybody owed them anything. My parents (who grew up poor, and are strivers who made the leap into the middle class) never thought that anybody owed them anything.

As I reflect on your comment, I realize that no, my parents didn’t raise me to believe that they necessarily “owed” me anything after they raised me to adulthood! For example, it would never occur to me to expect my mother to just drop whatever she’s doing to babysit any children I had. It would be nice if she was willing to babysit, but she doesn’t have to do that. She does NOT owe me that.

[I believe, as I’m sure you do, that parents who choose to produce children owe a duty to feed, clothe and properly rear the children they produce. Even with that said, my grandparents and parents taught us all to be GRATEFUL and THANKFUL for anything that anybody ever did for us. Including what our parents and other relatives did/do for us!]

The other thing that I find interesting about the entitlement mindset is the lack of introspection that frequently accompanies it. If I’m getting a series of negative responses from a series of different people, then I’m going to take a step back and try to check myself. I’m going to try to envision the FULL range of possible reasons why all of these different people are saying “No” to my request. Including the price tag and risks involved for a person who says “Yes” to my request (that I might not have previously considered).

Verbally saying that my heart is pure and my spirit is beautiful does not necessarily make it so. My first move is definitely not to assume that they are ALL somehow jealous of me. [Which is vain, and inconsistent with a pure heart.] Maybe these other people are seeing something going on with me that I can’t see myself. Something that I probably won’t find out about if I’m CLOSED to the very possibility that maybe I’m the one who’s off-base in this situation.

This is all quite interesting.

Letting go of the entitlement mentality is the most important part of joining better networks.

July 15, 2010   52 Comments