Understanding What’s Understood

Welfare Mom

I was at the table where we sat for two hours a day, five days a week, being acculturated by well-meaning upper-middle class white folk. The organization was an NGO started by a church-lady from a West-End church that found a problem needing her solution. The solution was to teach those po’-folk how to be entrepreneurs like her. That way they could get jobs, start businesses and stop sucking at the teet of yet more West-End church ladies. So she thought, the problem was a lack of knowledge about how to run a business and keep a job.

One of those po’ folk, former drug addict, former drug dealer, former pimp, (the proper word is one I am not allowed to use), said, “You have to understand what’s understood!” in the middle of a discussion about emotional intelligence. The cloud of tropes and unchallenged assumptions in the room was thick and humid. The hat ladies and their Ph.D. therapists were trying to explain to the assembled some heroes of the WASP upper-middle class: Carl Jung, Albert Ellis, Daniel Goleman, the Dalai Lama and Dale Carnegie. The po’ folk were trying to teach the church ladies about Nefertiti and how Egypt was a black empire for a bit. There was a lot of smoke in the room but not much flame. The po’ folk wanted the church ladies to understand that some wisdom has its cultural womb in the Serengeti plains and the church ladies just kept firing back with words about being happy from the Dalai Lama. There was not much understanding in the room.

I live in the ghetto by choice. I could live elsewhere. I found a house a year and a half-ago–two bedrooms, 900 square feet or so, for about what my hotel room used to cost me for a month. I have a yard that gets overgrown because I don’t have a mower and can’t afford to pay to have it cut consistently. I understood some things better once I’d gotten over the shock of not living in a hotel dominated by addict neighbors. One of those things I understood is that my community has a lot of experience dealing with church ladies and their SUV’s full of hot food. They dutifully queue up for the food, take their plates, say obeisance to Jesus, thank the ladies and go about their lives unchanged.

The routine is the same whether it is free clothing, free medical care, books, food, cash, housing, any of the offered generosity proffered by wealthy whites who trade in tropes about po’ black folk. The white folk arrive, deliver their benevolence, it is consumed and life is resumed in the ghetto as if nothing happened. We who live here can eat everything delivered to us and come back for more and keep our malcontented ways.

Mrs. Church Lady, with her Federal grant money to fund a jobs program, ran out of money. The farce became obvious. Her claims to change a neighborhood by an infusion of Pimp Daddy Uncle Sam dollars stood in harsh daylight against the murder victims being scraped off the pavement outside her thrift store. Her church friends had to deal with the truth that those they sought to help were proving that if nothing changes then nothing changes. Her clients, her pets, came out of prison and went right up the street to where they could find prostitutes, drugs and everything else.

Now, in this election, we are offered a farcical choice. The Democrats offer us Hillary Clinton, who is Obama’s bitch. Obama is married. Michelle is a wife. Hillary is his bitch. There is a huge difference. Obama’s pimp hand is strong enough that we will probably get his bitch as president. Hillary offers us two tropes, that she will dole out benefits and cash, fix the roads, help them po’ folk, all the usual pork we are offered, and that she and the Democrats are the reasonable ones. We are to vote for her because she’ll give us money and because any reasonable person would understand what’s understood.

Our other choice is a real estate Barron who has made his wealth with other people’s money. We are told that because he is rich he isn’t beholden to the establishment, that he will make America Great Again. He has a mouth, has been an ass in public, and horrified the rabbis of the left with his transgressions of orthodox political correctness. This has been great fun for the press who have dutifully pushed the message that he is a thin-skinned, crazy, asshat pussy unfit for the office of the President.

There is our choice. A rich John who made his money on credit and a whore of Wall Street whose pimp is a magic Black Man and President of the United States. The whore is offering us more SUV’s of food for the ghetto. Her answer is another solution in need of a problem. The rich John isn’t offering much of anything credible. His pitch is a bunch of emo platitudes about what’s wrong excitedly reported by news outlets.

How does this relate to that table I spoke of at the start of this? It relates thus: no one is listening in our current political conversation. The level of emotional intelligence is infantile. There are a lot of tropes heavy in the air. Each side is quoting the liturgy of the tribe and confident that these hymns are body blows which will beat back the storms of the opposition. What I hear in all of this is a quiet attraction to the whore and her pimp because the food smells good. We know we shouldn’t, that the reasonableness is a velvet glove hiding an iron fist. We know that they don’t understand our love of plantains and Nefertiti. But that John just feels wrong to us and between choosing the John with his penis out and the whore and her pimp we kind of figure we’ll do better being pimped out.

I hated being in that room, at that table, and the nagging feeling that nothing would change because the church lady had money to give. This election I have a nagging feeling that too many understand that a more totalitarian rule by Obama’s bitch is what is understood. The heroes are not asian monks, WASP pyschologists or church ladies. The hero is still brown skinned, female, living in public housing on TANF and SNAP. Everyone else is apostate. More top down solutions needing problems is what enough folk want that these will win the day. This does not bode well for American exceptionalism and our great experiment in participatory democracy. God bless America. She needs it.


  1. This is a topic that’s near to my heart…
    Take care! Exactly where are your contact details though?

    1. Elsewhere. My contact details are elsewhere. I moderate my comments so if you are not a bot I’ll probably figure it out and take it from there.

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  3. Hi there, just wanted to say, I enjoyed this article. It was funny.

    Keep on posting!

  4. Hi there, just wanted to say, I loved this
    article. It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  5. Good writing! So….has charity helped or created the apathy? Were Christians so busy building mini-mansions…feeding our GABA centers…throwing bones to the poor, we didn’t notice the corruption of John? How did we get to the point that we can’t vote and the brethren is condemning our non-action over the truth you portray, while searing their own conscience. This will create a bigger cesspool under the guise of a mite of good? Rhetorical dodges….

    1. Thanks for the compliment. Charity helps some. It is the inept, unexamined dumping of resources into “poor” areas that creates the apathy. Fostering change is harder, takes longer, and requires becoming neighbors with those we intend to change.

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