Dissecting the “Pull yourself up by your own bootstrap” Theory

“Pull yourself by your own bootstrap” intrigued me because the phrase implies that everyone has an equal chance to experience the same level of social mobility. Black Americans have trailed behind in social mobility in America because of the systematic racism in our country. When comparing the Black American experience of social mobility versus their white counterparts, it is clear that it wasn’t the same. For example, The Washington Post has identified how the government uses taxes to help give aid to the rich. By giving tax breaks to businesses, allowing Americans to own homes, stocks and other instruments that are used generate wealth. Compared to the experience for Black Americans, where they had to fight to have freedom to do any of those things. Social mobility isn’t done by only one single person but it requires assistance from the greater forces in the government.  Most importantly, America has imposed sanctions on African Americans. Slavery and racial segregation are two examples. During the beginning of slavery in 1619, African Americans weren’t allowed to read, write or to own houses or land, setting Africans back 246 years until they were freed. Segregation exhibits these distinct differences from showing conditions of sections for Black and the sections for Whites. Even the Buy Where You Can Work campaign and other penalties were imposed on Blacks since they were not permitted to have education, jobs, or any other kind of employment. Despite Blacks overcoming these obstacles, Black communities across America are still trying to catch up. Some notable people have been able to overcome several personal obstacles set in place by segregation. As discussed in “When children talk health”, by Jane E. B. Harvey, artist Beulah Wood is one of those people. In her quest to become a well-known artist, she encountered many difficulties due to segregation. She was blocked from getting into art school and constantly received messages from society that the only place for a colored person in America is in domestic services. However, she was eventually able to attend art school abroad, which was her opportunity to begin a new career. The claim “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” should only be used when all resources are distributed equally. This ties in with my last post looking beyond the surface post on blog two. Specifically looking into the statement, what’s really the truth is not just what we see. Using the phrase “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” has been used to disparage Black Americans and their history. The harsh truth is that America only thrived economically because of the slavery and segregation of African Americans. A concept that is so ingrained into American history, that we see it playing out even today. America has allowed its businesses to go to other countries to fill this void. America has not pulled itself up from their own bootstraps. So the question is why would anyone feel inclined to have other individuals to do so?


We have discussed that the term “Pull yourself up by your own bootstrap” is a dismissive way not acknowledging the economic disadvantages that work and middle-class Black American face due to racist history of the West. However, we are going to focus on the one phrase ”It takes a village to raise a child” . This phrase means that an entire community of people must provide for and interact positively with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. The article “When children talk health” by Jane E.B. Harvey states the importance of education in a development to children. Harvey talks about how a teacher named Ms. Tillman teach young black children about health. Ms. Tillman states that if youngsters are made aware of the importance of their own health in an attractive manner, they are more likely to take it seriously. As the article progress Harvey talks about how the children got to understand the eight basic health rules. Which are Brush Teeth, eat fruit, drink four glasses of water, eat some vegetables, drink milk, doing outdoor activities, take a bath often and getting to bed on time. These children learned these eight rules, while doing an school play. Not to mention Ms. Tillman taught child health and nutrition to parents by conducting food demonstrations to show the cooking and preparation of simple, nutritious dishes. This proves and help combat against the “Pull yourself up by your own bootstrap” narrative. The people your children are around in their everyday lives will affect who your children will grow up to be. Some in the mainstream would teach that we should “lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” I disagree. The youngsters in the article are students, which is the same regardless of your age group. In this life, we are all students. When we gain more knowledge, the economy experiences greater productivity growth. Once upon a time African Americans were backbone of the economic advancement but were denied the benefits of economic advancements of this country for a while. We must recognize the truth and help push the phrase “When children talk health” instead of “Pull yourself up by your own bootstrap”.


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