I generally do not believe that you need to have experience doing something in order to offer an thorough critique of someone who is. You do not need to have experience as president in order to be critical of Obama’s policies, you do not need to be a working actor or director in order to write a comprehensive film review, and you do not need to have played a sport on its highest level in order to coach it there. There’s no hypocrisy or inauthenticity there. Sometimes it takes a person on the “sidelines” to better assess a situation because their potentially panoramic knowledge about a topic and their lack of personal engagement with it allows them to be both more insightful and more objective.
This belief does not extend to people telling other people—and by “other people” I mean “rich people”—what they should be doing with their money. Regardless of whether a person’s intent is noble—and regardless of whether I actually agree with them that a rich person could have spent their money in a “better” way—this type of criticism always rubs me the wrong way, especially if the rich person is actually doing a good thing. I was annoyed when Oprah received criticism for starting a school in South Africa instead of Chicago (although I saw their point), and I’ve grown just as annoyed with people insisting that Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine—but mainly Dr. Dre—should have found a more “worthy” place to gift $70 million (although I also see their point).
This annoyance stems from a simple place: the idea that wealthy people should be held to a higher moral/financial standard than the rest of us just because they’re wealthy. Lemme me put it this way. In the last couple of days I’ve heard and read several criticisms of Dr. Dre for giving his money to a school that’s already wealthy instead of one that actually needs the cash. And by “one that actually needs the cash” they mean “an HBCU.” (USC’s endowment is in the billions. I think Central State’s is $16.17)
Yet, a few of these critiques have been made by people with a few letters after their names. I even read one penned by a president of a university. I do not know any of these people’s salaries, but knowing what I know about secondary education, it would not be a stretch to assume that they’re near or surpassing six figures.
I do not have a problem with this at all. People are going to make whatever the market demands, and the market demand for a medium to high level university employee is a comfortable income.
But, if you’re going to criticize a person for basically just doing a money-based good deed that wasn’t quite good enough for you, how are you able to justify receiving an income that far surpasses what you need in order to live? Shit, why not work for free? I’m sure you’ve made enough money where you can survive for a couple years with no income. Why haven’t you decided to devote all of your non-essential funds to whichever cause you’ve criticized some wealthy person for not contributing to?
This sounds silly, but once you start criticizing someone for decisions they make with their money, when does it stop? Why are you driving a Lexus when the 10 year old Honda you traded in as a down payment still worked fine? Why buy bottled water when you can drink it out of the tap? Why buy your girlfriend a birthday present? You know she has money, a condo, and a car already. Why give more to someone who already has?
You know, I actually agree that Dr. Dre could have spent his money a little better. I say this while typing on a Chromebook I just purchased, thoughts still kind of scattered after watching a riveting NBA playoff game on my 50 inch plasma screen TV. I did not need to purchase either of these things. When my old laptop broke, instead of buying a new one, I could have just got a library card. And, the 100 pound TV with the 17 inch screen sitting in one of my closets would have allowed me to watch the game just fine.
I’m not saying any of this to make people feel bad about how they spend their money. I just want people to think about how they’re spending their own money before calling someone out for how they’re spending theirs.
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)