Unless he was offering direct flights to and from heaven, there was no way in hell Creflo Dollar was going to successfully raise $65 million for a new Gulfstream G650 jet via his own website.
Despite that harsh reality, the Rev. Dollar Dollar Bills, Y’all pulled his campaign only because the online commotion that his outrageous request had caused resulted in absolute ridicule. But as shameless as Dollar may have seemed, he is not an aberration in terms of how people are exploiting online charity.
I can understand fundraising to cover medical bills or even the cost of some creative endeavor, but how have we gotten to the point where people feel comfortable turning to strangers to support their every want and desire no matter how superfluous?
Take, for instance, Jameelah Kareem, who set up a GoFundMe page to raise money so that she could fly to Las Vegas for the upcoming Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. Kareem’s initial goal was to raise $1,500 (which she did), only she subsequently decided to extend her campaign and shift the remaining dollars raised to a former high school classmate who apparently needs to cover some medical bills related to breast cancer.
That gesture sounds lovely or something, but they do not negate Kareem’s initial intentions, which are audaciously superficial.
Or there’s the case of Azel Prather Jr., who recently launched a GoFundMe initiative to collect airfare to fly to Miami to “save his relationship with his girlfriend.” Prather, who works in marketing and apparently “has a knack for comedy,” scored an interview by the Washington Post for his efforts. Ah, there’s the real win.
There are worse campaigns than this, though. Some are presumably created in jest, hosted by people aiming to cover the cost of a Hennessy bottle or those professing that they are tired of being broke or in need of money for breast augmentation, intending to properly tip strippers or just wanting white privilege. But if their crowd actually donated, each fund seeker would have undoubtedly gleefully taken the contributions and spent them accordingly.
For example, there’s the woman who successfully crowdsourced her $362 Halloween cab ride from Uber. And then there’s the man who netted $55,000 to make potato salad. It’s not their fault that folks gave them money. Yet I somewhat resent them for inspiring the foolish aforementioned.
And while some of these stunts scream comedy, others are taking advantage of crowdsourcing and are completely serious in their intentions. I’ve stumbled across GoFundMe pages seeking help to cover the cost of immigration fees, baby showers and college tuition.
A month ago, I was sent a link to a Web page of a student trying to pay for the second semester of his freshman year. His story was sad and he went to my alma mater (Howard University, thank you very much). So in theory, I was supposed to feel bad and subsequently toss some money his way.
Unfortunately for him, my only reaction was that his predicament just describes so many people at Howard and every other college in America. My friend echoed this sentiment as we then proceeded to complain about the private student-loan system under which we both still suffer.
Since then I’ve seen several other campaigns like that one, and my outlook has not wavered: If you cannot afford the school of your choice and you’re not anywhere near the finish line of your degree program, go to a cheaper school.
Likewise, if you cannot afford to go to Las Vegas to watch a boxing match that will be screened at way too many sports bars (with wing-and-drink specials to match), stay at home. And if you can’t afford to tip a stripper, go look at free porn. (Sorry, porn stars. It’s rough out here.)
Sure, I’ve sometimes thought, “Well, hell, let me set up a GoFundMe page to support my love of go-go boys, making student-loan payments on time and eating catfish despite it being way more expensive up North than down South.” But I have a sense of pride—something that is beginning to feel passé with each passing day.
Although in the past I have struggled with asking for help (a character flaw that has been to my own detriment at times), whenever I have accepted help, it was not for such self-serving causes.
Beyond that, most of the people asking the folks in their own networks are essentially asking those in similar situations. Most of us are one or a few paychecks away from seriously entertaining the thought of doing something a little strange to keep a roof over our heads. Yes, I read the job reports: And wages are still stagnant and a lot of our cousins have just stopped looking for jobs, hence the lower unemployment figures.
Studies have shown that the poor can be far more charitable than the wealthy, but some of you selfish monsters using the Internet to live out your rapper and reality-star dreams need to pour gasoline over your electronic, Internet-ready devices and get the hell on with it.
Charity is beautiful, but one fine point always needs to be kept in mind: You can’t always get what you want. And to the more self-serving beggers of the virtual world, I say you don’t deserve half of what you’re asking for.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.