Pull up your own Bootstraps!!!

Pulled up bootstraps:  The field is level...
Pulled up bootstraps: These boots are made for walking (and opportunities) and they’ll walk all over you…

“Why can’t  they pull  up  their own bootstraps? I did it, why can’t they?   They skirt accountability and  their ‘ghetto behavior’  doesn’t help!”

Many are convinced this is the case.  They boldly declare cultural differences — such as,  social class, ethnicity and gender — do not limit opportunities.   Disadvantaged groups are deservedly  stuck in poverty  because of laziness and attitude.

But can there be alternative explanations?  Explanations that do  not skirt accountability and blame “ghetto behavior”  for the plight of those struggling to survive in America.

Here are three alternative explanations (there are many more).   These alternative explanations are grounded in research and I included a partial reblog of a well-written  article  from the World Health Organization (WHO) on health determinants.  (A link and a brief snippet of article follows)

No bootstraps to pull up; Can't go much farther on rugged terrain in these...
No bootstraps to pull up; Can’t go much farther on rugged terrain in these…
  • Poor environmental conditions profoundly impact health by creating unhealthy social, physical and emotional environments; as well as producing self-imposed social isolation and societal-imposed social isolation.    People living in desolate, impoverished and unhealthy environments  are  often blinded by the darkness of their world.  They can’t see, making it extremely challenging to find boots, let alone pull them up.
  • Media coverage reinforcing negative stereotypes stigmatize  disadvantaged and targeted ethnic communities and their members.    Positive media coverage of disadvantaged groups are sparse with very few societal reminders that they are  main characters in this movie called “life.” Disadvantaged or unprivileged groups are given few opportunities to break the cycle of poverty but many opportunities to stay where they are.  The media plays an important role in keeping the status quo.
  • Access, equity and justice are unfairly meted out to disadvantaged groups and targeted ethnic groups.    Instead they are treated like children without brains.    Decisions are made about their best interest without their input.   Unintentionally  giving these communities,  boots filled with gaping holes without strings — impossible to pull one’s own boot straps up.

Have poor people and other ethnic groups stopped pulling themselves up by the bootstraps?  No, they are walking bare-feet.



Which baby is likely to die first?   It’s a shame!  We can make such predictions based on the color of one’s skin!   We can also make those predictions based on social class!   We can predict but cannot prevent!

The following was reblogged from World Health Organization’s  Health Impact Assessment  http://www.who.int/hia/evidence/doh/en/

The determinants of health


Many factors combine together to affect the health of individuals and communities. Whether people are healthy or not, is determined by their circumstances and environment. To a large extent, factors such as where we live, the state of our environment, genetics, our income and education level, and our relationships with friends and family all have considerable impacts on health, whereas the more commonly considered factors such as access and use of health care services often have less of an impact.

The determinants of health include:

  • the social and economic      environment,
  • the physical environment, and
  • the person’s individual      characteristics and behaviours.

The context of people’s lives determine their health, and so blaming people for having poor health or crediting them for good health is inappropriate. Individuals are unlikely to be able to directly control many of the determinants of health. These determinants—or things that make people healthy or not—include the above factors, and many others:

  • Income      and social status – higher income and social status are linked to better      health. The greater the gap between the richest and poorest people, the      greater the differences in health.
  • Education      – low education levels are linked with poor health, more stress and lower      self-confidence.
  • Physical      environment – safe water and clean air, healthy workplaces, safe houses,      communities and roads all contribute to good health. Employment and      working conditions – people in employment are healthier, particularly      those who have more control over their working conditions
  • Social      support networks – greater support from families, friends and communities      is linked to better health. Culture – customs and traditions, and the      beliefs of the family and community all affect health.
  • Genetics      – inheritance plays a part in determining lifespan, healthiness and the      likelihood of developing certain illnesses. Personal behaviour and coping      skills – balanced eating,      keeping active, smoking, drinking, and how we deal with life’s stresses      and challenges all affect health.
  • Health services – access and use      of services that prevent and treat disease influences health
  • Gender – Men and women suffer from      different types of diseases at different ages.

More information:


An excellent video on the importance of Early Childhood Education as well as innovative approaches to lifelong health. http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/videos/

Other Posts:

The Forgotten Black Experience, not Trending…What is it?

White Privilege

Author: Angela Grant

I am a first generation Jamaican immigrant whose experiences and accomplishments were made possible by the courage, sacrifices and the heroic acts of many whose bodies have rotted away in unmarked graves. Those are my heroes. Their sacrifices and death paved the way for my children and I. Failure to Listen is a token of my eternal gratitude. Failure to Listen is a tribute those generations of unmarked graves occupied by people of all races whose ultimate sacrifice of life opened the door for me and others, THANK YOU. Failure to Listen https://failuretolisten.wordpress.com/ uses cultural lenses to appreciate and understand the relationships between current events and our values, beliefs and attitudes. Culture is everything without it we are nothing. Failure to Listen will take you on a journey to recognize the beauty of our differences as the seeds to creativity, innovation and resolving disparities. By sharing my personal and professional experiences, I hope to do justice to the perspectives of those who are rarely heard or listened to. This site is not to incite anger but rather to provoke thought. It is my hope that Failure to Listen will work to foster intergroup dialogues and motivate readers to step outside the box and get to know ALL PEOPLE. In the spirit of Martin Luther King, let's join hands and remember his famous speech about a dream... A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead

18 thoughts on “Pull up your own Bootstraps!!!”

  1. I think this is very important. I am a sociologist by training and always think there is too little discussion of the social control aspects of public health if we don’t listen, empathize and learning from those we are “helping.” I think there can be a real moralism. I worked in practice for many years and I recall very few times when consumers were REALLY involved as opposed to advocacy professionals. I remember one place I worked where most people worked on child obesity, but no one except me and the admin assts ever talked to the people in the neighborhood, most of whom were poor, overweight, smoked etc. but were good parents in the face of a lot of challenges. I think public health needs more heart.


    1. Ann,

      You hit the nail on the head. “…public health needs more heart.” I have noted the same.

      There is a problem when advocacy professionals are the voices of the community. Often they don’t even live near the community. I went to one community meeting where community members didn’t know they even had a community advocate (they never met), who was speaking on their behalf. Interestingly, that person sat on the opposite end of the room, far away from the community.

      How can a person truly advocate?

      These are excellent comments.


  2. Hi Angela,

    First of all, I loved your piece of art.
    When I first read this article, I was bitter because I felt betrayed, but then I realised its the attitude I have grown to have_ “those who have had their way will always pick on those who have not.” At times we feel that some people will forever have better treatment than others, yet it is not true. And you have clearly brought this out, everyone has an opportunity to
    pull up their bootstraps((: Thank you for this, and I am waiting for many more.


    1. Hi Kasabiliti,

      Thank you for the compliment on the article and “art.”

      Your comments gave me joy: Hearing your initial bitterness and sense of betrayal did not prevent you from listening and appreciating my article was the ultiimate compliment. I even shared it with my youngest.

      There are opportunities all around, but we need to be prepared (have the skills) and not let the darkness prevent us from seeing those rays of hope. Always easier said than done!

      Why did you feel betrayed? Many do not understand.

      Glad to have you on board.


Let your voice be heard, contribute to this discussion. What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s