“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” — Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple
At first glance, it can appear that people who have an abundance of money also possess the sole power to determine other people’s destinies. For example, education, suffrage, liberty and property ownership contribute to the quality of our future. Sadly, our public school system suffers from inequitable financing policies.
Our voting rights are under attack. Drug and other criminal laws are created and manipulated to unfairly target African Americans. And predatory lending policies have devastated our community’s wealth.
To a large degree, these inhibitory policies are advanced with money — money that lobbyists use to influence greedy government lawmakers. Money, power, respect…the whisper continues to linger.
In the ’hood, violence pervades young brothers’ pursuit of money, power and respect. We must purge this sickness from our quest for success. I introduced this same theme last month, when my column specifically addressed how the reckless pursuit of money and its association with manhood can derail our success in life.
For many young brothers, part of the lure of the paper chase is the power that flows from money. It’s the power we seek to create change in our lives and be self-determining men.
Over time, I’ve learned that we don’t have to chase power, take it from anyone, or wait for it to be passed down to us. Money isn’t the power that directly determines our lives. We’re actually born full of power to determine our future. And that power resides in our responses to life’s situations. The way we respond heavily influences the outcome of any situation.
You can choose to capitulate in the face of adversity and accomplish nothing. You can respond with immoral violence and crime and end up in prison or dead. Or you can respond correctly with intelligence — and prosper. Yes, social forces do influence our lives, but they don’t trump the personal power we possess to choose how we respond to the hurdles these forces impose.
Many people who lived in oppressive, violent or impoverished conditions became successful because of how they chose to respond. Maggie Lena Walker was born just one generation shy of slavery. In 1903, she became the first woman to establish and head a bank in the U.S., called the Saint Luke Penny Bank.
In 1904, Mary McLeod Bethune started her own school for African American women, now known as Bethune-Cookman University. Drew Days is a successful law professor who represented minorities in housing discrimination cases. He also worked to secure minority voting districts in the South.
These people didn’t allow inhibitive policies or negative people to curtail their success. They controlled their destinies through their personal power.
Psychologists refer to a person’s sense of personal power as “locus of control.” People have an internal locus of control when they believe that to a great extent they have the power to control their destinies.
Those with an internal locus of control are usually more successful and less depressed than people who have an external locus of control. It’s paramount that young people understand that the outcome of their lives is deeply rooted in how they choose to respond to life’s challenges.
This personal power only achieves its full potential when we choose the correct response. The awareness needed to make the right choice develops through experience.
Some of you young people may think you’re already well-experienced. “Man, I’ve been on my own since I was 12. I’ve been hustling and grinding in these streets all my life. I know the game.”
Young brothers make this claim all the time. Well, let me share this with you: Life encompasses much more than just a struggle and a hustle in the hood.
Before I went to college, all my experiences were based solely on my perspective from my small corner of this huge world. Regardless of how many hardships I lived through, my experience was still limited. Therefore, my responses created more hardships.
But going to college gave me the opportunity to exchange ideas with people from all walks of life. This knowledge enhanced my level of experience and strengthened my personal power of choice.
Experience is understanding life from a variety of perspectives. The only way to acquire this experience is to develop relationships with people outside your culture, economic class and community, and read extensively to overcome the difficulties of connecting with a variety of people and ideas. A good book to start with is Dr. Verna Price’s The Power of People.
You are full of great personal power to determine the outcome of your life. If you nurture your level of experience, your power to choose the correct response will reach its full potential. And so will your future.
Next month: Part 3, respect.
Jeffery Young welcomes reader responses to Jeffery Young #213390, 7600 525th St., Rush City, MN 55069.