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The Obligation of the 70’s and 80’s babies

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Our parents were being born into this world a little more than 50 years ago. They were the children of Black Americans born three generations after the abolishment of slavery. But thanks to governmental acceptance of the institution of segregation, they remained second class citizens. Being second class citizens, they did not have access to the best schools and were ineligible for many good paying jobs. Our grandparents refused to allow this form of segregation to remain in place and demanded change. They made a choice to fight for this change by any means neccessary. This choice cost some people their lives and others their freedom. While fighting for these rights, our grandparents also taught their children to value education. Many adults in their generation did not finish high school; but they wanted more for our parents. Grandpa and Grandma pleaded with our parents to get a high school degree and refused to accept anything less. Their persistent message stuck with our parents and resulted in millions of black teenagers receiving a high school diploma. Black teenagers had never finished high school at such a high rate and this was largely due to the efforts of our grandparents.

After segregation was abolished and our parents became adults; they bought us into this world. We were the first and second generation of black children born in a post segregated United States. Our parents were only expected to finish high school, but they wanted more for us. The new message was to obtain a college degree. They knew a college degree would increase our chances of obtaining a good paying job and achieving financial stability.

Their own career failures led them to this conclusion. While having a high school degree got them into the doors of Corporate America, our parents weren’table to advance without a college degree. They had to settle with the lowest paying jobs and didn’t have the time to obtain a college degree. Many of our parents had to provide for us and attending college was not feasible. They did not want this lifestyle for us and made sure we heard this new message. Their persistence worked. We finished college at a higher rate than ever before. Many of us even went on to obtain post graduate degrees. Our parents used a message to help with the advancement of our race just like grandma and grandpa. While it is true that not everyone bought into this belief, their message was proven effective. There are more black CEO’s and presidents in Corporate American than ever before. We’ve even witnessed the election of the first black president of the United States; a Harvard graduate. But now our parents are the grandparents and we are the adults. We are the people guiding the next generation of Black American adults. We are left with the responsibility of helping our race overcome setbacks from the past. The message of obtaining a high school degree belongs to our grandparents. The message of obtaining a college degree belongs to our parents. What is our message?

The message we must create for the next generation should be different. Our children watched us finish college and obtain post graduate degrees. They understand the importance of a good education and the role it plays in getting a high paying job. The next generation needs more. Education based messages are no longer good enough. We need to offer them a message that will fulfill the dreams of our grandparents. This message must lead to Black Americans overcoming a problem that has yet to be solve; owning the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the United States. The way to achieve this is to teach our children how to effectively manage their money. The previous generations have taught us how to earn money; now we must teach our children how to use it. Our message to the next generation must be to obtain financial freedom. We must keep them from falling into the same debt building habits we accepted. It is no longer acceptable to promote obtaining college degrees through the accumulation of unsustainable debt. They must understand the consequences of uncontrolled spending and excessive credit card usage. We can’t teach our children to allow home equity to be their biggest asset. They must be taught how to protect their net worth and achieve lifestyle goals without a serious accumulation of debt. We must teach them how to escape paycheck to paycheck cycles. Failure to spread our message will result in a continuance of financial inferiority. Our parents taught us the value of a college degree without going to college themselves. Our grandparents taught our parents the value of obtaining a high school degree without finishing high school themselves. It’s time for us to step up and help with the advancement of our race. No excuses allowed. This is our obligation to the next generation and we should fully embrace it.

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