A Kenyan's view on Black In America
I had been asking myself this question quite a lot in the weeks leading up to the premier of CNN Presents: Black in America. The truth is I have always wanted to explore this topic since my early childhood. Although I am black I have never truly experienced a stereotypical “black lifestyle”. I live in the suburbs surrounded mostly by Caucasians’ and I’m used to being the unique black kid in the class and people just seem to see me as an equal. Similar to some of the more successful African-Americans I saw on the show, I have heard a great deal from my black peers that I am too white. In the elementary school that I attended, I was usually the only black kid in class so I veered away from African-American culture. My parlance and dialect closely imitated that of Midwestern Americans. Prior to watching Black in America, being black simply meant proving oneself by working harder than my classmates. Watching the show seemed to give me a bit of a clearer picture however many more questions have popped into my head on the matter. There were many statistics on the show that were truly mind blowing and many stories that were just unbelievable.
The story that blew me away the most was that of two brothers growing up in the same household in the same dirty streets with completely different fates. One went to Harvard, wrote many books, and became a preacher, and the other got caught up in the “black lifestyle” and became imprisoned. It seemed like a Hollywood pitch to me more than reality. I started to wonder how that’s possible at all, they both had about the same opportunities, the same support and everything but both end up on completely different sides of the totem poll. For more information about this click here.
After seeing the following statistic in the same article I was no longer surprised: “In 2000, there were 791,600 black men in jail or prison, while only 603,032 were enrolled in colleges or universities.”(CNN.com) When I heard this I started to think how someone get caught up in this lifestyle. Then I watched more and more of the show and started to ask myself “How does an individual not get caught up in all of this?” The truth is it seems like the children growing up in the “hood” are constantly being bombarded from all sides. Things like: bad role models, no father-figures, mothers who work many jobs, not much money, streets full of gang banging and just straight up violence and the media which makes some feel like the only way out is thug life, rapping or athletics. All those things are examples of things that can get kids off-track and make them think that they’re brains are of no use to them.
In closing, I would like to go back to the question I started this paper with: What does it mean to be black in America? It means what you want it to mean! Wake up people! As people we need to follow the words’ of Barack Obama and change but that change starts inside us. We need to stop making excuses for ourselves.