Ras Olugbenga

White Hustle/Black Hustle

Ras Olugbenga
White Hustle/Black Hustle

The Hustler

Malachi Love-Robinson called a press conference. His caravan arrived in 2 separate cars, young adults and the elderly. Their attire and vehicles implied a humble lifestyle.

Malachi Love-Robinson walked to center stage, and with an astoundingly mature acuity began to tell reporters that he is appreciative of the support he has received in this rough time for him and his family. Next, he requests that they should pray for his family and “look to build them instead of tearing them down”. At that moment, Malachi Love-Robinson became my “dark hero”, the epitome of a savvy "playa". At that moment I can see why even through all of Donald Trump’s heinous acts, he still has supporters. Even though Malachi isn’t a squeaky clean teenager, and has committed some wild crimes of his own, I can’t but help admire his unbridled boldness and confidence.  You know how Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is iconic (albeit in part due to an untimely demise) and magnetizing.

When the world was introduced to Malachi Love-Robinson, he had opened a naturopathic clinic in Florida as an 18-year-old.  But it wasn’t his age and profession that gained attention, he was busted in a medical office space by an undercover sheriff  for telling her to take an allergy pill. He was busted because it is illegal for someone who is not a medical doctor to prescribe medicine. Malachi “Dr. Love” Robinson was also accused of stealing checks from a patient who allegedly paid him over $35,000 for medical treatment.


Do The Hustle

American culture values “hustle”, they even named a dance after it. As a subculture of American culture, hip-hop culture also values hustling. But what is hustling? As told in the iconic movie “Player’s Club”, using what you got to get what you want  - even if that means stepping outside the bounds of legality. Laws are only as good as the state’s ability to or enforce them. Issues arise when they are only enforced for specific groups of people, commonly known as discrimination.

Malachi’s ability to conduct damage control via public relations showcased an undeniable maturity for an 18-year-old. Not to mention his “white voice” - the voice Black people use during their work hours of 9a to 5p - is much better than mine, and I’ve been practicing for over 5 years (The Midwest playa drawl gives me away every time). Seriously, Malachi’s story of making it happen without capital resonates with me oh-so-tough. And he did it straight out of high school. But wait a minute, Tamika Cross hustled too - honestly and ethically achieved her goal.  She went to school. She used what she had to get what she wanted. Trish Doolin became an architect. And Dr. Denmark did the same to become a duly certified professional. Yet all three of these women had their competence and skill level denied. Even when Black people are certified, we are still seen as incompetent because of the subconscious idea that melanated people are incompetent.


Black Hustle, White Hustle

Perception is key. Not only to consumers and customers, but also to hired help and partners. That an 18-year-old was savvy enough to pull this off while donning a mohawk haircut, is absolutely hilarious! And he generated $35,000 in revenue from a single client. Don’t misconstrue my exaltation of his entrepreneurial spirit and mental acuity for a proclamation of permission for his behavior.

Nightcrawler is a movie about a thief turned freelance reporter (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) with sociopathic tendencies. At the very end of the movie, unlike a Hughes Brothers film, the humanly savage protagonist is not met with karmic justice, rather he is rewarded. The main character’s thirst for power, to the chagrin of his foes, is quenched by his opposition's blood thanks to cutthroat tactics.

I became distracted while watching I could not help but put myself in Jake Gyllenhaal's shoes and ask if that was me would be able to get with that? There were several scenes where he interloped in a project or trespasses in a space and is met with little to no inquiry or pushback. He encounters cops and eludes them while picking their watches. When Night Crawler opened in theaters I was living in New Orleans as a tech entrepreneur (see my rep). At 24 my daily life consisted of correspondence with venture capitalist, business modeling, pitching, and of course selling. Over $100 thousand of capital was raised having pitched in more than 10 different cities. Daymond John, “The Shark”  of CNBC’s Shark Tank & FUBU fame, gave our squad the nod at a Miami pitch competition.  

When it comes to certifications the matrix of inequality is immutable. Dr. Tamika Cross was not taken seriously when she proclaimed her status as a doctor on her Delta flight after eminent illness befell one of her fellow passengers. Although she possessed years of experience she was told to sit down, literally and figuratively.

We’re Getting Hustled

But through all the work and undeniable success, at every turn my business partner and I had our credentials questioned. And that’s to be expected, but our scrutiny was taken to new heights, as was told to us by outside and objective advisors. I’m all for earning things, but the issue arises when you become certified and your credentials are still questioned unduly. The Zuckerberg/Silicon Valley wave isn’t about certifications; it's about skills and products. Undeniable results - which we had. But for Black people results has proven to not be enough. If results are the name of the game, then perception is the hoop.

Certifications don’t matter. If you are white and certified nobody cares because they won’t ask for proof . If you are Black and certified nobody cares because black skin is a prerequisite disqualification - no matter how qualified you think you might be. When Donald Trump uses perception to achieve results he’s lauded as a supreme “businessman. When Malachi Love-Robinson uses perception to achieve results, he’s a criminal.  When Black youngster’s hustle, they are treated like Eric Garner and Alton Sterling. White hustlers aren’t associated with the connotations of hustling. In fact, they aren’t described as hustlers by the mass media - Donald Trump and his ilk are deemed “enterprising”, “industrious”, and “ambitious” “with gumption”.

How many white frauds do we have amongst the professional ranks but because they are assumed as legitimate authorities, no one questions their credentials? Leonardo DiCaprio and Jake Gyllenhaal in Catch Me If You Can and Nightcrawler, respectively, were actually movies about white male privilege. Malachi Love-Robinson is facing 3 years in prison while Donald Trump is running for President. Life is like a (white male privilege) movie, I guess.