Black People, let us READ a bit more...

2012-12-04 06:30

A while ago, an observation and a notion, which was soon clichéd, came about: “black people don’t read” - much to the ire of black people. But it was not just a black stereotype. It was, for the most part, the truth.

Then black people, mostly young people, took into some serious reading – newspapers, news sites, novels, biographies, books in general, etc etc. And they said, “hey, we are reading now. See, black people do read. We read. We are creating a new generation of readers”. And they started feeling good about themselves. And we suddenly started having conversations like “So, which book are you currently reading?” and “Oh, I want to read that book” and “I’m reading my 6th book for the year” and “Oh, we’ve got a book club and we’re currently reading this and that book”.

And so, black people kinda did away with the notion that “black people don’t read” – but of course, this reading phenomena has not spread wide enough as yet. For example, I read, on average, 1 book a year – and even that is normally a push (I guess I should be embarrassed).

But, the above is not the point of this post. Here, I’m appealing to Black People to read up just a bit more. And I’m not talking about the kind of general reading that we are most accustomed to, I’m talking about real reading for knowledge, knowledge that brings about consciousness, which brings about power, power than brings about economic freedom.

There are different reasons people may engage in reading: hobby, general knowledge, entertainment, current affairs, to look smart, be informed, boost vocabulary, revitalize your mind, motivation, spiritual upliftment, and more such. And reading for all these reasons is all good and well. But, as black people, we still have much deeper issues beyond general knowledge, vocabulary, leisure, etc. In fact, if you’re so concerned about developing your vocab, won’t you at least focus on your own native tongue? Meaning, read books in Zulu, Sotho, etc? Ok, scratch that.

One of the biggest challenges facing black people right now is Economic Freedom, Economic Emancipation. And, for purposes of this article, this not for lack of proper education or access to information – but, most often times, due to ignorance: we do not read enough, most of us do not process and absorb the relevant knowledge properly. Very few people read with the intention and consciousness of mind to bring about economic advancement for themselves. Instead, most read to pass time, for entertainment, ‘to be generally informed’, and more such rather futile reasons.

Why is that? Because we have been told that we need good education in order to make it in life and to bring about economic freedom, and so we pursue good education and all. We even fall into the trap of pursuing even more qualifications, doing one course after the other, as our ticket to economic freedom. And of course, employers are forever willing to pay for further studies – it’s the least they can do to get you empowered and ‘employable’.

And don’t hear me wrong, education is key, good education will surely bring you economic benefits, mostly in the form of a paying job – but more often than not, that’s about it. But why would you consider yourself economically free when someone else still controls your time, how much you earn, how much increase you can get each year, whether you are competent or not, whether what you are doing is good enough or not? At any point in time you may be told you no longer have that job in the first place. We work our butts off, sacrificing time and our families just to be considered ‘good enough’ to get a 10% increase and a bonus. That is not economic freedom; instead, it is an illusion of economic freedom.

But we want to be considered ‘good enough’ in order to secure a good increase and a bonus, so we put almost all of our effort in carrying out the tasks given us. In the process, not putting any effort in allowing ourselves to go beyond the ‘job description’, simply because there is no direct reward for doing that, or so we think.

And the reason most black people still find themselves in that rat race is non-other than ignorance – not allowing themselves to grow through reading. Not pursuing new information.

Let me give some examples below:

If you’re an Accountant, you dedicate your time and effort into carrying out your job as an accountant, and that’s it. Chartered Accountants, for example, receive regular emails from SAICA, receive the monthly magazine, and other communications. Same applies to other professions too, be it IT, engineering, medical, science, and more. These publications normally include updates and new developments in the profession, upcoming seminars and more – all meant to empower and build-up those in that profession. But how many people actually take the time to read those emails and the magazines? How many actually take the initiatives to go to those seminars, voluntarily? Very few. What does this mean? If there are any new developments in the profession, you will likely be the last to know about them.

The general mindset is, 'if there is something I need to know in order to do my job, my boss/ employer will make sure that I know about it'. And so, we get sent to training, workshops, etc, to learn of these. But have you considered who will be providing that training and conducting that workshop? I’ll tell you: it is the person who took the time to read that magazine, took the time to go attend that SAICA workshop to read up and learn of those new developments – that’s what put him/her in a position to be able to come and tell you what you could have known by yourself.

I’m particularly focusing on the Accounting field because I’m a Chartered Accountant myself (yeah, had to drop that in somewhere – CA (SA) bro). Ok, focus. I’ve realized that very few of these highly qualified CA’s actually know how much opportunities are open to them just by carrying the designation CA (SA). Most think being a CA means you will get a job and be paid well – and hence become ignorant of whatever else they could be doing out there, even on a part time basis. For example, how many really know that as a CA: you are automatically a commissioner of oaths, you can issue BEE certificate, you can serve as an Accounting Officer, you can practice as a Business Rescue Practitioner, and more – and some of these are things you could be doing while working full time.

In my opinion, as a CA, you should be able to make at least R5,000 extra income on a monthly basis, just by using some of your spare time. But those are not opportunities that you can wait to be spoon-fed of, you have to go out there and read in order to know/ find out about them. Same principle applies whether you're an engineer, IT technician, graphic designer, tax expert, and more.

Same applies to business opportunities out there, be it in government or private sector. Believe it or not, most business opportunities are published so that the public is made aware of them – but you will mostly find it in the sections where most (black) people wouldn’t normally spend much time on. In a typical newspaper, we normally read current affairs, sport section, politics, business section (just to look smart, informed and opinionated) and that’s it. How about you take some time to browse through the advertisements/ announcements section? You don’t need to be a tenderpreneur to read that section. Just see what’s happening, which skills are being needed out there, what new initiatives are being launched that require skills, that require young people to participate, that you can possibly partake in, etc.

Who knows, maybe your economic freedom lies in you being a consultant/ advisor than an employee. But no one will come to you and interfere with your comfortable job – you have to reach out yourself.

And not to say we all need to be business people, not everyone is necessarily business minded; and I believe you can lead a fairly comfortable life while being an employee. But even within your job, take that initiative and learn something new and be the source of new initiatives, the source of new developments. Then you’ll move from being a mere salary earning employee, to an indispensable somebody within the company. Take the time to read, read relevant stuff and consciously at that.

Another example: post the FIFA 2010 SWC in the country, FIFA has given South Africa about R500 million to be used for community development projects and the like. I know not every Tom, Dick and Sipho will benefit from this money, but, how many have actually taken the time to read up about how they can participate in this fund and get a share of this windfall? Chances are, very few. We just sit back complacently while we wait for others to take up the opportunities, and just whine and complain about corruption, not being given opportunities, etc. Read up, you may find that you too can also contribute something and be paid for it.

When the Minister of Finance delivers his budget speech, we all just read enough to be in positions to make ‘intelligent conversations’, you know, “just in case someone asks, I don’t want to appear uninformed about such things”. Having an intelligent conversation will not necessarily improve your quest for economic freedom, unless of course used as a networking technique. But how about you actually study that budget and ask yourself the question, “how can I participate in all the initiatives introduced by government”.

The National Planning Commission recently released the National Development Plan report. While a few people may be aware of it, very few have actually taken the time to find out what the document actually talks about, which opportunities are in the pipeline and how they can partake. Why, because we have our jobs and we are comfortable – if only they could pay us more.

New BEE codes are being introduced, have you taken the time to…. Ok, never mind. You know where I’m going with this.

So what am I saying? Reading books is good, reading novels is good, reading a newspaper every morning is still good too – you will be well informed and be able to have ‘intelligent conversations’ and be ‘opinionated’. But let’s get up from our butts and expand our knowledge base with the view to acquire economic advancement towards economic freedom – let’s read the relevant stuff to achieve this. Let us have the consciousness of mind to read and absorb the relevant information.

This is my appeal to all the ‘Clever Blacks’ – Be relevant, to yourself and to the economy. Let us be radically inquisitive and hungry for information.  I personally had to get this wake up call not so long ago in my life. Vuka Mzansi.  

(a first in a series of upcoming articles about Black People and the quest for Economic Freedom). Excuse the racialization and generalization in the article – intentional and necessary to bring the point across.

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