Indentured to Serve
by Robalu Gibsun
Lord, forgive us our student loan debts, as we forgive our pre(debt)ors. And lead us not into high-priced higher education but deliver us from big banks that bind our generation. Amen.
If “In God We Trust” is our scripture, how did we get cash-cropped out of the picture?
Picture post-high school graduation: After 13 years of hard labor we proclaimed our emancipation. So we held our diplomas like slaves clenching limited edition prints of Amendment Thirteen. Suddenly, summer leaves and ALL ABOARD: the Underground Railroad to Opportunity. But my departure was delayed ‘cause I had the wrong numbers on my GPA. And my parents weren’t paid, so my ticket to freedom wasn’t free.
‘Til just my luck, Uncle Sam pulled up in a dented Chevy Venture with a taxi sign on the roof that spelled out: COLLEGE. He rolled down the window and spoke with a grin:
“Neph! You’n think you can afford to roll with me? See, for a fixed rate on your liberty, I will loan you thousands of dollars you have never seen. With your degree, you can get you a high-paying job and make so much money your wallet will scream. You’ll be swimming in waves of green from sea to shining sea. Then you can buy you a big house, a Mercedes, and find you a wife to pop out 2.5 babies. You can diet, straighten your nappy hair, dye it, and then brace and bleach your crooked off-white teeth to get that picket fence smile like them stars on TV.
And forget bonds, you can invest in your wants and neglect your needs. Then, as you sleepwalk in the chubby smog of your American Dream, you can cough up the money—to pay back to me. All you gotta do is sign on the promissory dotted line. Come now neph, we family! I WANT YOU to trust in yo’ Uncle Sammie.”
So I listened to society, packed my bags, threw them in the back and stepped on in. Then, looked him dead in his dollar sign eyes, and told that drug lustin’ love rustin’ oil slick talkin’ outta his gas guzzlin’ elephant donkey mind relative of mine, “Aight! Fine. Now shut up and drive.”
Years pass, and I’m teary-eyed, wallet dried, in the driver’s seat shackled to steer this government taxing taxi back seat packed with stacks of textbooks I can’t buy back. And I drive like a road-raged slave tryin’ to escape his fate. But after 4 years of speeding through subsidized red-lights and fines, there is no more Moses conducting the ride, no more boarders to cross to get off this plantation, no more Mason-Dixon line.
Took me until my senior year of college to learn how to be a wooly-eyed black sheep lost in the herd. And after all of our diplomas and degrees burn, we’ll be career-field negros, indentured to serve—for the rest of our cottonpickin’ lives.