An Open Letter to J. Cole

If your childhood home wasn’t vandalized, I’d be more likely to brand this chapter to my address. I have enjoyed watching people squirm when I mention my hometown over the years. “Ouch, really?” is the gut reaction. Even in the last week, “What on the earth are you doing in Fayetteville?” Everything.

Most people are teasing about the “Armpit of North Carolina” but a few vacuous, old world signaling types are not at all. The passive filtering of shitty-people becomes a superpower in your commercially valuable years, where time is increasingly scarce.

When I cared about what other people thought, I would withhold, like a lot of people do. I guess, people assign social capital based on the longitude and latitude of one’s upbringing, which sounds incredibly stupid when you say it out loud.

A good chunk of the smartest kids with the hardest lives all around North Carolina end up at NCSSM. If they continue to end up in supplementary roles to the 1% (e.g. management consulting, investment banking) we continue to perpetuate old-world income disparity and credentialing culture. I’m less against the 1% than the wealth-antagonizing misunderstanding it creates on the other side. No offense to friends in those fields, you probably understand this better than anyone.

Diversity in education isn’t just about in-flows of race and socioeconomic background of who gets in the door but in the outcomes. Getting another smart, poor Asian kid to work at McKinsey probably won’t change the world that much. I understand that changing the world is not everyone’s north star, but there was a girl literally whispering “Save the world” in my early years.

I often wonder about new ways to make people aware of what else is possible now. There’s a lot of fear-based learning: “if I don’t do X, it will be harder to impress the opposite sex in bars”.

How can we teach people to take risks? How can we incentivize them to dabble in a new field? I’d love to see a more level playing field on the high end. Not everyone can become a rapper. All of my tech friends look nothing like my friends growing up. How can we formalize non-traditional paths?

Even in a post-J.Cole, Fayettevillians are undervalued and typecast, setting the stage for outsiders to not believe what happens next.


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