This is a topic that I wanted to touch on since the inception of My Black Perspective. To be honest I have not talked about black culture specifically that much on this blog. Other than the self titled blog entry and “Jay Z and the NFL – The Next Blueprint?”, there has not been a post on this blog directly targeted at the black community. That’s partially by design. One thing that I do not want to do with this blog is have it too one dimensional. I want to be able to talk about different things. I recognize that the blog’s title can be off putting in and of itself but that’s why I diversify my content as best as I can. Because yes, this blog is about the world seen through the perspective of a young black man living in America, but that young man (me) just like black culture, is multifaceted; and I would be doing myself and my culture a disservice if I pigeonholed this blog. That being said; that is not the case with this blog entry.
For some context, like I said, this was one of the first entries that I thought about writing for this blog. What brought upon the inspiration was all of the amazing things going on in the culture at the time. While this blog was still in its premature stages I was watching and reading news about Kamala Harris, the only black women in the senate, entering the 2020 presidential race and becoming a part of the short list of black women to ever run for president as a major party candidate. I saw stories about Beyoncé’s $60 Million Netflix deal, Tiger Woods’ Masters win (his first major win in over a decade), and Tyra Banks coming out of retirement, and making history by modeling for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition for the first time in over two decades.
Throughout this year stories like those continued to pop up: Jay Z became a billionaire and struck his deal with the NFL, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 after being out for over two years prior to gaining popularity, Cardi B became the first female artist to win best rap album at the Grammy’s, and Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” became the longest running number one song in history (17 weeks). Russell Wilson became the highest paid NFL player Period, Steven A. Smith became the highest paid sports analyst on ESPN, and Billionaire Robert Smith, pledged to pay off the entire student loan debt for Morehouse’s graduating Class of 2019. Wendy Williams got her star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and Kanye West (claim him or not he’s black), made a Christian album that was the fastest album in Spotify history to hit number one. I know I’m missing a whole lot from this list, but the point is, black culture did some amazing things in 2019.
Seeing all of this take place I have never been more proud to be black than this year. Depending on who you ask in my circles, I was and to some extent still am whitewashed to a degree. Those comments stem from how I navigate my world, but I can never renounce my melanin. But, that sentiment plays perfectly into this topic and the following question: what makes black excellent?
I was talking to my dad two days ago and he said to me “Ken, when are you going to get a career”. My dad is old fashioned and thinks I should be on my way to being well settled by now. I do not knock him because that was his lived experience, but I responded to his question by saying I do not want to punch someone else’s clock for the rest of my life. He responded by saying that’s why I should have kept practicing music when I was younger, or I should look into being a preacher. Being older I can appreciate my dad more because we can have more robust conversations. So I ask him, why is it that for a black person in America, their only way out is through entertainment or the church, why cant we be the CEO, the scholar, the writer, the entrepreneur so on and so forth? And his response to me was “That’s just the way it is”.
As off putting as that response may appear from the outside looking in, there is a whole lot of truth behind it. There are some doors that are flung wide open for black people most of which are in some type of sport/entertainment, other doors can be opened we just have to find the key – of which no one wants to help us find – thusly, some doors we have to bust down, and some doors no matter how hard we try need a miracle to be opened otherwise it’s not happening. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that this type of inequity is a form of modern-day slavery (personal theory not concrete fact), but it is here within this societal structure where I would suggest that our excellence is best depicted.
Back in high school I was a part of a young men’s youth group called “Young Men of Excellence”. The group was compiled of young black men who did not necessarily align with the stigma of black men in my high school at the time. Yes, some of us were athletes, but none of us dressed sloppily, spoke in improper sentences, or were delinquent in nature. Looking back on that group the one thing that it gave me and hopefully everyone who was a part of it was, the notion that one, we are a community, and two, we can beat our odds. Fact of the matter is we were not the norm. I think that’s what black excellence is especially as it relates black people in America.
We are excellent because of our ability to beat the odds. So yes, my dad was right, success inequality is a fact of life for black people, but what also is a fact is that within that inequality there is this unique opportunity to defy the odds, to inspire whole generations, and instill hope by being the first to [insert achievement here]. I believe that above all else, it’s that level of influence that makes being black excellent.
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