When the Ben Carsons, Stacey Dashs’, Raven Symones and Gilbert Arenas’ of the world get to talking, the whole Black community takes a collective sigh and Black Twitter organizes a racial draft and there’s a reason for this.
It’s not just that one of our own has lost their damn minds and let us down, it’s not that we give a damn what their opinion is, and it’s certainly not that they speak for the community. It’s that we know, White people are about to act like they do.
All it takes is one Black person to say some foolishness and that becomes the White-conservatives smoking gun.
All of a sudden, White people start acting brand new. Saying stuff like the republican party isn’t racist or suppressing the Black community, because Ben Carson and Clarence Thomas said so. All of a sudden it’s racist to have a Black History Month because Stacey Dash said so.
All of a sudden, you can’t open your mouth to have an intellectual discussion about the plight of the Black community because some person of color has sold the community out in order to climb up a ladder that leads to the very same glass ceiling they’re pretending doesn’t exist. No matter what you say, some White person is now going to cut you off and say “But even so and so agrees and he’s Black.”
By way of illustration, I once dated a White guy who was trying to convince me that police brutality is not an issue and that #BlackLivesMatter is problematic, by telling me and my Black ass, how he once lived in a ghetto, and the Black people there loved the police because it was dangerous, and they were happy for the police to show up.
I won’t waste my time rehashing this fight and the 63-page thesis I wrote about the criminalization of Black bodies and police brutality in America since it’s no secret that the Black community at large, especially the ghettos he was referencing, are no fans of police.
On to the point. Later that night in a totally separate conversation, I mentioned to him how I loved Tha Carter 3 when I was a freshman in high school. The moment I said this, the gates to oppression hell opened wide and enveloped me. He cut me off and said “Yes, yes, I’m glad to hear you love Lil Wayne, he is SO intelligent, I have a friend that spoke to him and said he is so smart, he speaks so well, and just his command of the English language is amazing, and Lil Wayne spoke out against Black Lives Matter so how could you challenge that?”
There’s so much wrong with that. And obviously, I didn’t go on another date with him.
Without addressing the many microaggressions in comments like Lil Wayne “speaks so well,” I ask, who died and made Lil Wayne Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Not Every Black Public Figure is a Black Political Leader
Let’s be very clear, Lil Wayne is not a scholar, a civil rights leader, or Jesus. While I am a fan of Tha Carter 3, I, like the rest of the Black community, does not look to Weezy to develop my Black political thought or figure out how best to address police brutality. That being said, it should be wholly irrelevant to the cause when Lil Wayne sits on an interview and says he doesn’t support Black Lives Matter. Nevertheless, when he said it, the community sighed because we knew what would follow, conversations like the one I just told you about.
White people get it in their head that all anti-Black views got legitimized and that’s the trump card to anything you say — to hell with your arguments, statistics, and your sources.
Don’t mention Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Jordan Davis, Dontre Hamilton, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, or Jordan Davis. You know why? Because Weezy said Black Lives Matter isn’t necessary.
So by way of confused Black people letting us down, yesterday, Buzzfeed published an article of an image celebrating Black men attending Cambridge University. The subtitle of the article read: “‘Yes, it is very difficult to get where we are, but we did it. Why can’t you?’ said student Donte Nembhard.”
Listen, I’m not mad at this boy. He swallowed the blue pill, it happens. Wokeness wasn’t built in a day.
Nevertheless, he does have the game fucked up.
It’s not Gospel just because one Black Person said it
I saw this article because a friend of a friend posted it on Facebook. Immediately, a miscellaneous White girl who I’ll just call Mindy for her sake, commented:
“it’s the students themselves who’ve repeatedly made that statement in various forms throughout the article.
I think it’s just based on interpretations but I read it as the “why cant you ?” being an introspective question that asks yourself why not aim for this and similar institutions it even states the inequalities they face.
it’s just my personal opinion I don’t see it as painting black people as being lazy but rather lacking self belief in the face of adversity”
This boy breathed life into Mindy and allowed her to say crazy things she knew in her soul she couldn’t say without hiding behind him like a bulletproof vest. Because he internalized this foolishness, she now gets to say that BLACK PEOPLE LACK SELF BELIEF IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY.
Sound that out. BLACK PEOPLE, a people that have gone through slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, medical apartheid (Tuskegee Experiments and Henrietta Lacks, you better ask somebody), police brutality, the prison industrial complex, and more… lack self belief in the face of adversity.
I quietly read along with the thread before I decided to reply.
When initially checked by someone else in the comments, her defense was that she’s well within her rights to basically disregard an entire system of institutional oppression that Black people in America face because it was originally said, not by her as “someone with privilege” and said by someone who has “come across great adversity.” Mind you, she doesn’t know this boy or anything about his background, but only that he is Black. Apparently being Black is synonymous with adversity. So while he is Black and will obviously always deal with that as an obstacle in his success, we know nothing else about his background to be able to argue that he speaks for the average Black man in America. Moreover, in all likelihood, he probably isn’t representative of the average Black man in America’s lot in life. But he talked out the side of his neck and now Mindy is using that to take flight.
African Americans have actual roadblocks that a pep-talk and a picture of a Black college student doesn’t negate
“You really don’t get it. It does not matter whether someone of privilege or not made the comment “I did it, why can’t you?” Just because someone is a minority not born into privilege and managed to be successful in spite of institutional and systemic roadblocks, does not mean they haven’t internalized the same bullshit “pull yourself up by the bootstraps and achieve the American dream,” mantra that is perpetuated in society to ignore the fact that not everyone has the same access or opportunity to achieve the American dream.
He is failing to recognize his good fortune and that he was an exception, rather than the rule. He lives in American society and he can absorb the okey-doke just like anyone else. Being Black doesn’t mean he can’t internalize and spread the same implicit biases and racism White people do. The naivety in his comment is not negated by him being Black so you don’t get to hide behind it and avoid criticism.
‘I did it, why can’t you?’
Because many African Americans have been forced into low-income neighborhoods and ghettos due to redlining, restrictive land covenants, white flight, etc. The public schools in those neighborhoods have less resources, less qualified teachers etc. Practices in those schools contribute to the school to prison pipeline — so where their white peers at the better schools get detention, they get arrested, pushed out, and placed in the system, exponentially increasing the odds they will stay in it and be arrested in the future.
That contributes to them ending up in juvenile detention centers or prison and often being unable to complete high school altogether, let alone college. And remember those neighborhoods we talked about just now? They’re over-policed and called “high-crime areas” so Black boys get their Fourth Amendment rights trampled over, stopped and searched on the street for looking “suspicious,” which they inherently do since America has criminalized the Black body. And if you put a magnifying glass somewhere, let alone where there is poverty, you’ll find crime, so they get incarcerated and treated as thugs for things their teenage White peers get called “kids being kids” for. Following, the average Black man between 18–29 has been incarcerated at some point.
And if you interact with the criminal justice system, even if the first time is a pat on the back, the next time something happens, you’re now a second-time offender subject to determinate sentencing. If you’ve been imprisoned for a felony at any point, you are no longer eligible for financial aid to even attend college. Moreover, what jobs can you apply for with a criminal record? So now you’re broke, uneducated and the state that put you in that position won’t help you. Vicious cycle. So that, my friend, is the answer to “I did it, so why can’t you?”
The Take Away
I’m sharing my reply because I realized that she’s not the only one that just doesn’t get it. We need to understand that not every single Black person has experienced the same struggle — we have gaps in our understanding too, no one single Black person speaks for the entire community, and Black people are no less susceptible to internalizing negative stereotypes about ourselves. Stop trying to use the unpopular opinion of the occasional Black person to silence the whole community and our collective struggles.