I watched this video today and was saddened. Unlike the brotha in the video, who was disheartened by what he considers to be the complete lack of unity on the part of Black folks, I was bothered by the idea we often oppress ourselves by the way we speak on who we are and what we do. Take a moment to watch the video before reading: Black People Why Can’t We Do What Everyone Else Is Doing
Though I certainly understand the sentiment behind this brotha’s story, I have a mixed response. I am incredibly tired of the narrative Black folks assign to themselves with this broad brush. “We’re the ONLY race who doesn’t (fill in the blank with something positive)” or “We’re the ONLY race who DOES (fill in the blank with something negative).” It bothers me greatly because 1) the narrative isn’t fully true or fair 2) the narrative sets a tone for how folks believe they are supposed to behave instead of setting one of expectations to do better 3) the narrative stereotypes other folks.
Listen, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have a solid covering of friends and family who come through for me in the clutch EVERY DAMN TIME. If it’s an emergency, help implementing a plan, a request for input, a ride, some food, help moving, or just his/her subject matter expertise, they come through and I do the same for them. And guess what? 99% of my folks are Black. No, we aren’t an anomaly. I chalk what I have up to the kind of person I strive to be and the effort I make to surround myself with like and BETTER-minded folks so I have the opportunity to grow from our relationships and so do they.
“Black folks don’t come together?” Really? Well then what are we doing in Missouri, California, New York, Florida, online, in print, in television, in film, in books, and on lecture circuits? These aren’t solo missions. We don’t write, speak, create, love, feed the hungry, tutor the academically challenged, counsel the downtrodden, and teach our communities alone. We build together. We fight oppression together. We create and foster families together. We plant gardens together. We build homes together. And without question, there is always room for improvement in our endeavors, but we are not the disjointed, hateful, envious, lackluster, ambitionless folks we are so mistakenly quick to purport ourselves to be. We are fighters, believers, thinkers, creators, and lovers and we don’t have to live three families to a two bedroom apartment to be those things. We are not less than and even though some of us don’t get it and opt to not get on board with the plan, we are still brilliant.
So, I get it. I get what this brotha saw when he looked at his neighbor’s house and his people who came through to help him be great. I get what he thinks he doesn’t have for himself. I get it he doesn’t feel he has what his new neighbor has. I get he’s hurt because he has bought into the narrative Black folks do absolutely nothing as a team. It is certainly true as humans, we can be self-involved, indifferent, removed, and just plain mean at times, so I fully agree we all can and should be better in the interest of our survival and progression. However, I challenge him to think about what he really sees around him. To think about each time he’s seen folks who look like him reach out to others and help. To consider when he’s been in the clutch and his folks came through for him. To think of every time he’s seen donations of time, money, and talent going into the realization of some Black person’s dream. I challenge him to help change the narrative. I challenge him to rave about the times his folks helped him. Consider the times Black folks got together in the interest of greatness. And when I say him – I’m talking about all of us.