Thursday, July 20, 2006

Double Consciousness is a Bitch

Excuse the stream-of-consciousness tone of this post, I just had to put this into text ASAP.

As a chaperone representing my corporate sponsor, I spent the last few days with kids from an inner city Boys and Girls Club at a historic national park. As expected, I enjoyed the company of those kids in attendance and I’m sure they enjoyed mine, while the entire time I couldn’t shake the sense that I was straddling a fine line between their world – as black youth from the inner city – and mine – as a young professional in attendance on behalf of my corporation, who was sponsoring the event.

Straddling that line has become increasingly annoying. Hence, the title of this post.

Placing my grand delusions of corporate social responsibility aside, I’m starting to feel like company-sponsored community outreach is a larger mechanism to help assuage white (or at least affluent) guilt.

Let’s think about it for a second: multi-billion dollar corporations sponsor token events in the community to help make their employees feel good about having the opportunity to participate in an activity that allows them to feel as if they’ve given back. And this type of activity boosts worker morale while offering the community a needed handout.

All is well. Right? Wrong.

This scenario has become increasingly problematic for me because I don’t see myself as anything more than an older version one of those kids and I know that they are deprived of much more than they are receiving in corporate handouts. By assuaging the guilt of corporate employees who are able to provide a far more comfortable standard of living for their own families than the children with whom they work, the sentiment of corporate volunteers is one that dangerously becomes complacent.

But for our "inner city youth", isn't much more required than corporate volunteer gestures and token philanthropy? Once you’ve been on both sides of the scenario – corporate volunteer vs. brown child – you understand the broad complexity of the situation. For me, that broad complexity evokes a mindset similar to DeBoise’s double-consciouness, where straddling the line between being black and being American is an endless activity.

Apparently, that line extends into the professional domain for those of use who have been so blessed to achieve more than the norm for a person with a brown hue.

Then again, perhaps I'm only writing this to assuage my own sense of guilt.

Double consciousness is a bitch.

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