As told to by Kalyn Womack...
My theme for the year 2023 is “disruptive thinking.” In my upcoming guidebook, “Disruptive Thinking: A Daring Strategy to Change How We Live, Lead, and Love,” I explain how to challenge the traditional ways of thinking that keep us stagnant. Until we, as a Black community, disrupt the old constructs we were taught and exposed to, we will deprive ourselves from exploring the vastness of our innovation or creativity.
The Harm of Traditional Thinking and Doing
The traditional thinking of problem solving or the well-worn rules of the generations before us no longer serve us today. That’s not to say we were intentionally misguided. Our parents did the best they could with what they had to inform us on how to make money or take care of our families. Though, the reality is the world is changing rapidly. Within the last five years, technology alone has surged significantly with the development of artificial intelligence.
Everything in society seems to be moving so fast while we seem to be getting further behind by the limits of this traditional mindset.
The more we include topics like passive or aggressive income in our table conversations, in the barbershop or any other space where it can enter the ethos of our culture and community, the more it is possible for those ideas to be manifested and the more normalized they become as opposed to being seen as strange or “not Black.”
Faith versus Figures
Another perspective that sometimes restricts our thinking, within the Black faith community, is resistance to the system of capitalism. The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of all evil,” (1 Timothy 6:10). It doesn’t say that money was the root of all evil. If capitalism is an evil system, it’s an evil system because there is no justice and there is no equity. I think that the system often feels contradictory to everything that we teach and understand about faith because there is no justice. Though, when there’s equity and nobody is being oppressed, the system ceases to be evil. At the moment, it’s lost its equilibrium. If you have a shovel and I have a teaspoon and you tell me, “Dig your way up,” don’t be surprised when you dig further than I do. Equal tools create equal outcomes.
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What makes the system evil is that a few are hoarding and hiding the opportunities from the masses. That’s why those of us who have broken glass ceilings and gotten into rooms that others couldn’t is so we can reach back into the community to bring more people into the room to have an opportunity at upward mobility.
Right now, to be honest, the reason faith has an important part to do with our progress is because when you’ve been oppressed for so long, it takes faith to believe that it is yet possible to achieve your dream. When you grow up, you don’t see anyone in the neighborhood who’s breaking out or breaking forth except for what’s been marketed to us. What’s been marketed to us is Hip Hop, sports, entertainment, acting, comedy and even preaching - all of which we have excelled in. However, what is not being marketed to us is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. As a result, our kids don’t grow up seeing people who look like them building, coding, making apps or just doing the things the world is demanding right now. Our school systems even struggle to keep up with the kind of courses and curriculums that are necessary for us to be airborne in those areas.
Closing the Gap
Though, the good news is we have the most educated group of young people we have ever had in the history of this country. The bad news is they have debt from all of that education and they can’t figure out how to pay off those student loans and get liberated so they can enter into these jobs with equal playing fields. As a result, they feel stuck on the ground while others are escalating. On the other hand, we are facing a huge problem as a community being the nation’s top consumers but poorest investors. We have got to stop bragging about how much technology we bought or the clothes we wear and start talking about how many shares we own.
To change our language, the T.D. Jakes Group (which operates globally through T.D. Jakes Real Estate Ventures, TDJ Enterprises, T.D. Jakes Foundation & T.D. Jakes Ministries) is proactive in helping Black people pursue entrepreneurship and acquire wealth. I took my International Leadership Summit and my platform to create equal access to tools by offering capital grant opportunities and connecting people with top level companies through career fairs. We want to close the gap in income, in homeownership, in the tech industry and everywhere else across the socioeconomic landscape. We use the conferences as a site of hope, inspiration and self-development so while you are developing spiritually you are also developing professionally and personally.
While these disparities are due to systemic racism, the resources we create to fight those disparities will not make up for your lack of ambition. You have to be hardworking. You have to be determined. You have to be willing to do the work, take the classes or whatever you have to do to scale up. All of those things are going to be a part of the ethos of how we see and shape our role in the world and our personal lives.