Project 21 New Visions

 

Right or Rich? How About Both?

by B.B. Robinson, Ph.D.

It's common to believe more is better. More money. More fame. More power. While having more might be nice, isn't it better to be right? Being right and rich is much better than the alternative.

Consider the benefits of being right. Even though soul great Luther Ingram once sang that "(If Loving You is Wrong) I Don't Want to Be Right," we know that anything metaphysical or concrete that is not rooted in moral and physical certitude is ultimately doomed.

Take, for example, the periodic table of elements. Scientists can use a particle accelerator to force atoms into unnatural configurations and create new elements, but they are inherently unstable and don't last long. Ultimately, only the preordained and right combinations of electrons, protons, and neutrons create the elements that are found in nature. Consider the simple, wet, and natural mixture of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. With that combination, as jazz legend Nancy Wilson would say, "You're as Right as Rain."

If something is metaphysically correct, it can overcome societal imbalances. That's why Mahatma Gandhi and the citizens of India were able to wrest their independence from Britain. It's how Martin Luther King and his followers obliterated discriminatory Jim Crow laws in the United States. Apartheid laws could not stand up to arguments for change made by Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa.

These principles apply to wealth as well. Get-rich-quick schemes may appear to experience success but, generally, what is too good to be true is usually just that. Remember Enron?

We should feel naturally more secure investing in companies that produce quality products and offer services with proven track records. They also should be expected to produce a fair - though not necessarily exorbitant - return over the long run.

Some may argue that getting and being rich, no matter how it is achieved, is acceptable. Rapper 50 Cent titled one of his CDs "Get Rich or Die Tryin.'" I disagree. Riches obtained in violation of moral principles - wealth from sin - create a long shadow. That shadow casts pain and suffering onto the holders of those riches.

The only saving grace for those in such turmoil may be to purify their deeds through charity or similar redemption.

If you still disagree, I challenge you to tell the complete story of someone who obtained ill-gotten wealth but didn't experience the concomitant turmoil that always accompanies it. Be certain that you tell the entire story.

What does this mean for Black Americans who've lived without great wealth and riches for so long? We should continue to pursue economic gains, but we should do so correctly - with smart and right work, wise and right investments, and right patience.

We must remember that we are only two generations from the Jim Crow era. Patient perseverance will bring us the riches that we desire and deserve. As Whitney Houston and others have reminded us, "He may not come when you want, but he's always on time."

# # #

B.B. Robinson, Ph.D. is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21 or the National Center for Public Policy Research.


 Center for Environmental Justice
Donate | Subscribe | Search | About Project 21 | What's New | Blog | Project 21 | NCPPR