A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Monthly Archives: August 2011

What If “The Fresh Prince” Had Been An Honor Roll Student?

Today, I was reminded of a time I came of age (geez, I say this and sound “old”) while speaking with a younger cousin of mine. The conversation started out innocently enough where I simply asked if he found that he was enjoying his school year thus far. All of 11 years old, he emphatically responded with “No.”

No.

That’s it. A simple word, yet it seemed to hold the weight of something much heavier. Inquisitively, I asked him for details. I’ll note here that like most boys, my younger Cousin doesn’t bring his problems to me. Why would he want to present himself as “weak” to (his words here) a family member with the Lady Parts? As other Black men in my family, he wants to be seen as strong, so I knew that the words following his audible sigh were sure to be unexpected.

“I’m not cool because I’m smart. They pick on me because I’m smart. Why can’t I be cool and smart?”

I’m going to make a provocative statement and people can take it or leave it — but kids, especially Black boys, can’t be cool AND smart because parents don’t encourage that behavior.

Now, to me, this kid is possibly one of the coolest people I know. He’s a borderline genius and he’s humble about it. He’s not one of those “I know the answer to everything so let me answer the question that you didn’t ask” type of children. He’s also the kind of person that helps out those when they need help. He’s athletic but he’s a bit on the short side; and he’d rather just be himself rather than conforming to some trend.

Take it or leave it — that’s been his attitude until now. Now, he’s wondering, “Why don’t they like me?” and as someone who dealt with that, I know how dangerous it can be to navigate “life as you know it.”

In a day and age where parents already have to worry about their Black boys being tracked into slower classes, being reprimanded more than non-Black peers, or being tracked into the juvenile justice system via zero-tolerance polices, no one is seriously discussing what we value in our culture and it’s impact on what is already a challenging time.

As a culture (I cringe a bit when I type this), we focus too much on toughening our boys physically; yet we hesitate when it comes to encouraging our boys to strengthen their intellectual prowess. As a culture, we’re ready to cheer on our boys for their physical displays of excellence through sports such as basketball and football; yet we cringe when they inquire about chess, checkers, writing competitions, or unorthodox sports. As a culture, we focus on our bigger boys and reward them for their luck in the genetic draw while we disregard or neglect our boys who are shorter in stature or slighter in build.

But it leads me to the question of, “What if the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air had been an honor roll student?”

I bring him up because like most people my age (I’m 25), I’m aware of his character and what he meant. He was the cool kid on the show (and in life) and I can only wonder how my male friends who faithfully watched the show would have approached school if they made it look like Will Smith’s character loved school? I even wonder about Eddie Winslow, the free-spirited but not-so-bright foil of Steve Urkel’s character on Family Matters. I even think about how wonderful it would have been had they shown Theo, the academically-challenged only son of the successful Huxtables, overcoming the limitations of his dyslexia and exceeding the academic standards that were set for him.

What would be different today had a generation of young men grown up watching the Cool Kids also exhibit characteristics of the Smart Kids?

Possibly nothing. But the idealist person that I am thinks that maybe something today would be a bit different. Maybe more of our young men would have become Scholar-Athletes. Maybe more would have found a way to balance the commercialized rap/hip-hop culture that became so prevalent to us as pre-teens and teens with the academic geniuses that many of them were capable of being. Maybe this group would have reached back to help out the younger boys behind them, thus starting an academic culture that was accepting of the Smart Kid Only or the Smart Kid Hybrid.

Maybe and then maybe not because as I think about this, I go back to my original point — it’s up to the parents to encourage accepting the Smart Kids at school and it starts with accepting the Smart Kids at home.

I just hope that my Cousin, and young boys like him, can find a way to navigate through school without succumbing to the pressure of “dumbing it down.”

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Beyoncé Did It Right! Ladies Take Notes?

In the wake of Beyoncé’s big reveal of her pregnancy on last night’s VMAs, there was much talk on Twitter (amongst other social networking platforms) about the expectant singer and her husband. As a fan, I enjoyed Beyoncé’s performance and then took to Twitter to bask in it with other fans.

It didn’t last long.

Before I knew it, some tweet about what Beyoncé “did right” was being retweeted onto my TL. I saw it no less than 5 times (from 3 different “original” accounts) in the span of 3 minutes. It said simply:

“Beyoncé dated, married, then got pregnant….LADIES #takenotes.”

Do you all want to know how offended I was? Don’t worry…I’ll tell you.

There were multiple layers to why I was offended. To begin with, Beyoncé is obviously a Black woman and there was an undertone as to the fact that Black women ALONE were doing “it” wrong. It being “bearing children.” But that’s not all. Upon my RTing the very biased statement while adding my two cents: “Bey was courted, proposed/married to, then got pregnant. Men take notes!” some woman took my tweet and ran in a preachy direction with it. Her subject — what women need to start doing. Unfortunately, a quick search of “Beyoncé pregnant” showed that she wasn’t the only woman bashing single Black mothers. Finally, I was rubbed the wrong way by the seemingly “Good Black Men” who were agreeing with the Black Women Bashing.

Are you serious?

So let’s point out something obvious here: Black women are bearing children alone because most of their partners, who happen to be Black men, make the decision to leave the picture.

Barring trips to fertility specialists (which many women can’t afford), it has been proven time and again that women do NOT make children alone. We do not impregnate ourselves. So why aren’t men being chastised for not stepping up to the marriage plate? Because it’s easy to blame the woman for her decision in choosing a “mate” (or simply exercising her sexual freedom to have sex) and then making the decision to not abort the fetus upon finding out she’s expecting a child.

Why aren’t we holding our Men accountable?

People say a bit too freely, “She should have known better” or “She should have waited until she saw a solid sign of commitment from him before opening her legs.” Valid points but what if that man showed a solid sign of commitment? What if he was monogamous  and committed to their relationship? What if he talked of a future with this woman? Or what if the “Good Black Men” began to hint that there were other women who would do what she wouldn’t when she said she didn’t want to sleep with him? Many men do it. We know they do…yet and still, we blame the woman for an out-of-wedlock child.

It’s a modern-day version of the Scarlet Letter.

Too many people agreed with the Beyoncé did it right sentiment and gave no credit to Jay-Z. That sickened me. But I understand that we have this issue with not allowing Black men to be intellectually competent in choosing a mate. If he marries what we deem a “good woman” it’s because someone somewhere else pointed it out to him. If he gets with a woman who is not a “good woman,” then good for him for not being trapped with that (if they happen to have kids, we pity the guy and pray the children have more sense than their no-good Mama). I think the issue is that for us to call Black men out about their behavior, we’d have to point out all of the “good” Black men that haven’t stepped up to the plate. These men exist. They are successful, unmarried, with a brood of children but we don’t make men the villains unless it happens to be an episode of Maury and the child is CLEARLY his. The question why still remains.

With respect to Black romantic relationships, it’s possible that Black men get such a bad rap in this country and our society that we’ve moved from holding them accountable in our community for their actions to providing them with excuses as to why they behave the way they do. Sadly, it always comes back to how a Black woman couldn’t do something right to keep him or make him want to say “I Do.”

I’ve said all of that to say that people need to sit back and evaluate their prejudices against women — especially single mothers who happen to be Black. Remember, they didn’t do it alone.