I sat at my friend’s graduation thinking, this is reconstruction:
John just got his certification, congratulations. I am 15 units away from my degree, and graduating. His is from Mandela Cypress Center for Construction Training . My degree is from Howard University’s School of Communications. His school was started in the early 1990’s, after the Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the Bay Area and caused the Cypress Freeway to fall; the need for construction workers in the East Bay skyrocketed. My school was created in 1867 after the United States Federal Government created the Freedman’s Bureau and the need to educate the “freed slaves” skyrocketed.
He is a certified carpenter, which allows him to go out and build some of those lovely condos that are gentrifying American’s urban sprawl. In due time, I will be a professional media producer, which will allow me to produce those lovely news stories about victims of violence, and how their bodies are sprawled out across urban America.
He’s a construction worker. I’m a constructive writer. We represent Reconstruction, 2010.
He chose vocational training, I chose liberal arts; both of us are looking to attain what DuBois and Washington called, “first-class citizenship”. We’re living proof that the ideological debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois is alive within us,in the first decade of a new century.
At the start of the 20th century, the once enslaved Africans in America debated the quickest root to achieving “first-class citizenship”, which was defined as full economic, political, and social engagement as Americans. This is otherwise known as achieving “the American Dream”.
Washington stood firmly behind the philosophy of mastering a trade, showing your value to America through contributions and earning political, economic, and social inclusion. While DuBois challenged the status quo and stated that we should not sacrifice civil rights in order to attain first class citizenship, instead we should study liberal arts and engage in America’s social, economic, and political arenas.
My friend John chose the path that Washington spoke of, mastering a trade and contributing to America’s blue-collar labor force. I chose Dubois’ method, studying liberal arts and contributing to America’s white-collar labor force.
But the question is, who is on the right path to achieving the American dream?
An interesting article was published by News Week in early June; the article addressed the growing division between American classes and how factors such as location, race, education, and the current state of the economy are aiding that division. The author concluded that, people trying to enter the job market, such as John and myself, will have to “…cobble together part-time jobs to pay the rent or accept positions with lower salaries or fewer opportunities for growth. Long-term, as the economy rebounds, this nagging unemployment rate means the economic disparities in this country will keep growing.”
I’m currently applying for internships but to no avail as of yet, so this summer I am freelancing for 3 different outlets; I knew all three of my supervisors before going to college. John is a part of a Union, but since gaining his certification he has only done work with his grandfather; who he obviously knew before his certification program.
In essence, we are both working part-time. As the economy is rebounding, we are both “cobbling” together jobs in order to make ends meet. And as we both live check to check, we are both slowly starting to realize: this isn’t exactly the American Dream we dreamt about.
Although we’ve taken different paths, we’ve ended up on the same cobble-stone paved path; A slow-moving path made of place holding part-time jobs, that we’ve only landed due to old bridges we didn’t burn.
First Class citizenship isn’t going to come from working for someone else, cobbling those jobs together is merely throwing stones at a much bigger issue: Ownership is the key to the American Dream.
As the author mentioned in the News Week article, there is a growing divide in-between the classes in America, which side of the divide do you want to be on?
America’s division isn’t between the wrench workers and the writers, but between the owners and the hourly workers. If it’s first class citizenship we are seeking, then question is not which is a better path: vocational training versus traditional education; but the question is, which method better prepares us to leave the beaten path of part time jobs and make the trail blazing move toward ownership?