Do You Bear The Torch For Your Race?

February 17, 2007

On the Black In Business blog, Jim posted about personal weaknesses and improving them. I made a comment about how one of Jim’s weaknesses (poor spelling) could be interpreted as making blacks in general look like poor spellers. His response was very profound:

Every thing we do as black people reflect upon the whole race. If a white man cannot spell, he may be excused or just be a dumb white man, for us we carry the burden of representing the whole race. Until we are allowed to be one aspect of a diverse race of people, we risk never taking risk for fear of making all black people look bad.

Now in my defense, my comment was from the point of view that his misspellings would be interpreted as ignorance, which in turn would unfairly reflect on blacks in general. I correctly determined that he wasn’t very proficient with using a computer. Still, I’m embarrassed that I too fell into stereotyping.

Jim’s response made me think about how I also often bear the torch for my race. There have been plenty of instances in my life where I’ve been the first or only black to accomplish something. Whether it was the first to receive the Eagle Scout award, or being the only black at a technology company, I felt that I was representing my whole race. Even today, I feel that I have to be successful so that I can open doors for other blacks. Chris Rock said it best in “Head of State” when his aide said he shouldn’t quit in his campaign for the presidency:

“I wish I could quit. I wish it was that easy. You’re lucky, you are so lucky. You don’t know how good you got it. You just represent yourself. Me, I represent my whole race. If I quit, there won’t be another black candidate for 50 years.”

I’m willing to bet that most successful blacks feel that way deep down, that they have to succeed for our race, not just themselves. No other race gets this level of scrutiny. No other race has this level of pressure placed on each individual of that race. The Asian and Middle Eastern cultures probably come the closest, in that family honor is important. But like my wife said, “it takes a special person to be black. Most people don’t have the inner strength to live out what we go through in our lifetime.”

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Are You Black Enough?

January 8, 2007

I was reading my copy of “The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don’t Read the Newspaper” and noticed something surprising. In one strip, Huey was playing Granddad in a video game. By the dialog, I could tell they were playing video soccer. Wow. Now this comic strip is about two boys that move from the south side of Chicago to the suburbs of Woodcrest with their grandfather, and they’re playing a soccer video game. Just out of curiosity, how many black Americans do you know that have a copy of FIFA 2007 or Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007? Personally, I’m the only one I know about. All my black friends are busy playing Madden, NCAA Football, NBA Live or NBA 2K7. But soccer? Please.

 

So, the question is, why are two kids from the “ghetto” playing what is considered a “white” sport? Could it be because soccer is the number one sport in the world? Could Aaron McGruder be a soccer fan? I’m willing to bet that most people that read The Boondocks didn’t even pick up that these kids and their grandfather were playing video soccer. The irony went entirely over their heads.

 

I, on the other hand, happen to be a huge fan. I have a few kits (jerseys) from my favorite team (Chelsea), watch Fox Soccer Channel avidly, and play in an adult league. Heck, I’ve even scored a few goals, for my team and our opponents. But I digress. Black people in America don’t play soccer, at least not yet. As soon as they start paying everyone like Freddy Adu, we’ll pick it up just as quickly as we do basketball and football.

 

The reason I mention all of this, is because a female I was sort of dating a few years ago, basically told me I wasn’t black enough because I liked soccer. Needless to say, I was dumbfounded. I’m not black enough because I like soccer? Last I checked, soccer was the number one sport on the continent of Africa. And there are waaaaaaay more blacks there than in the US.

 

Her statement just shows the continued ignorance that we black Americans still show. Never mind that I went to two HBCUs. Never mind that I volunteer with black youths. Never mind that every day I wake up and look in the mirror, I see a black man. I’m not black enough because I have some interests that are mostly shared with white people in this country. And yes, I even sound “white” because I have a college education and speak all proper. Here’s a secret for you….most educated people speak proper. It has nothing to do with race.

 

It’s this attitude that is holding us back as a race. We’re too worried about our “blackness” and “keepin’ it real”. I mean, who needs the Klu Klux Klan when we do more harm to ourselves. Instead of being color-struck or jealous of what the next guy has, we need to start working together. There is more than enough for everyone. Who cares if Omar has more than I do. I’d much rather ask Omar how he got to where he is and could he be a mentor to help me get there to. But remember, at the end of the day, to a lot of people out there, no matter how successful we are, or how much money we have, or how great an athlete we are, we’re already “black enough” in their eyes. We’re all just another n*****.