Rising Above Mediocrity

We’re finally getting to do something, we’ve been denied the right to DO SOMETHING, to have anything for so long that we’re all so happy that somebody’s finally doing something. There was a time to celebrate that but now is the time to step up and say, okay you’re doing something, now do it BETTER – Mychal Smith on HBO’s ‘The Black List’ 2009

Belle over at A Belle in Brooklyn tweeted about HBO’s ‘The Black List’ a couple times and it got me interested in the series. So I went to Youtube (where else?) to find out what exactly this show is about. After combing through several posts including Chris Rock’s insightful take on the black experience and the video that made me realize Slash was black!!!, I came to the one that includes the quote above.

I don’t know who Mychal Smith is, but he hit the nail on the head with how I feel about many of the people I encounter on a daily basis, even about the attitude of entitlement that I see slowly trying to leech itself onto my soul sometimes. I read Belle’s post asking who we’re inspired by and it’s sad that in 2010, most black kids still have to say Marcus, Martin, Malcolm or Mandela…throw in Oprah and the Obamas and your momma and that’s pretty much it. We have such a ‘crab in a barrel’ mentality as people that we fight to keep each other down rather than build each other up. And the FEW of us that reach out and try to do something great are often lauded for mediocrity rather than pushed towards perfection.

For example, I read an article the other day where a popular entertainer was being praised for taking care of his daughter. Come again? We are now at the stage where we have to be grateful when a black man takes care of his child? Well give me an award for breathing! Or my Jamaicans can relate to the mothers in the ghetto who spend thousands they don’t have to get dressed for graduations in May then can’t buy books for the child to start a new school in September. Why are we paying for excessive graduation gifts like these kids have any other job but to do well in school? I’m not saying people should not be applauded for good work but we need to get our priorities in order.

We could blame any number of sources for our inability to DO BETTER…media, slavery, post-colonialism, the dangerous facade of a post-racial culture …bleh. The problems were always there. The problems will always be there. Why does it feel like my generation has failed to meet them the way our forefathers did? Maybe I’m just having a bad night but I look around and I don’t feel inspired by anyone alive really. There are some wonderful people around; people who are doing great things but I cannot tell the last time I’ve been truly inspired by someone. When’s the last time you looked at someone that made you think ‘I wanna be like him/her some day’? No, your mom/dad/family member doesn’t count. It hasn’t been that recent for me. (Can’t lie, I wanted to be Oprah when I was little though).

So why aren’t there more positive examples in our community? Because somewhere along the line we failed as a people. I didn’t mentor enough kids from my neighborhood, our parents didn’t stress the importance of community because they were so busy just trying to make it, you didn’t counsel the young’ns you left behind in undergrad how to deal with being an even smaller minority in grad school :-/ It’s time for us to stop looking to be inspired and start inspiring our own selves. I’m tired of hearing about the same people every Black History Month. We keep reviving ghosts of Black culture past, trying to make the struggle of the 60’s relevant to a present generation, but they see none of this fight in us…we don’t see it in ourselves. And so they say, “n*gga isn’t a bad word to use in 2010”, and “we’re living in post-racial America” and the lives we lead validate these untruths.

When I look around, I see my generation doing a whole lot of nothing…settling for less than what’s best and that unsettles me. We forget that every time we win or lose, it’s not just for us. We’ve got a whole legacy to keep building on and toddlers coming behind us who need us to be our best so their paths can be easier. So who’s my inspiration? Today, I am inspired by those who have none. Those who look around their communities and see no black doctors, lawyers, engineers or professors; those who believe that because they were born poor they have to die poor; those who can’t see past their block to the wider world that’s there’s for the taking. Those are the people that need us to succeed. ‘Us’ being the fortunate ones who are rising above our circumstances. We’re getting our degrees and our 6 figure jobs and making mom and pops proud but if we don’t help others to come up then what are we really doing? That’s why mentorship is so important to me. It’s important for us to tell these inner city kids that they CAN DO BETTER, even when their relatives, teachers, friends and even parents tell them otherwise.

Instead of re-hashing the same stories this BHM, maybe we can go out and MAKE history.

– Trying to stay inspired,


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