In an entry at News One, blogger and Fulbright scholar Terrell Jermaine Starr writes that what Gene Marks' Forbes column failed to discuss is that overcoming poverty is not only about achieving academic success but also about making a cultural shift away from harmful friends and family.
… I was a poor black kid once. But I eventually went on to earn a bachelors in English, an M.A. in Russian, an M.S. in multimedia journalism, acceptance into the Peace Corps, and a Fulbright Scholarship.
And trust me. It took more than a TED talk and a primer in Google Scholar to achieve it.
What Gene Marks’ column and his legion of detractors failed to touch on is that overcoming poverty is not only about access and citing statistics. It is a major — sometimes painful — cultural shift, both mentally and socially. For me, it meant that I had to shut off large parts of my family whose behavior wasn’t conducive for my intellectual growth and spiritual well-being.
I grew up in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan, in a neighborhood so rife with violence that not being a member of a gang designated you to being a victim of one. Prostitution was so open it seemed legal. And shootouts were such a regular occurrence I stopped flinching at the sound of gunfire. Twice, I was caught in the middle of shootouts between rival drug dealers. And fighting off gangs walking to and from school was a weekly, and sometimes daily exercise. To top it off, I had two live-in uncles who sold drugs. It wasn’t unusual for me to boil a hotdog on one eye of the stove while my uncles cooked crack on the adjacent one.
Read Terrell Jermaine Starr's entire blog entry at News One.
Terrell Jermaine Starr is a senior editor at AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter.