Get Up & Grow

"We're adults. When did that happen? And how do we make it stop? "

The Big Deal…Celebrating Excellence in Black Students

Black KingsRecently, I saw this picture posted on Facebook by another Black women teaching English here in Korea. The caption explained that there were the young men of Chicago Urban Prep, a  school in an area of Chicago that is considered to be “bad”.  The story is that for the third time in the school’s history, 100% of their graduating class  has been accepted to a 4-year university. Yes, you read that right. Every one of these young men has been accepted to a university.  This is something that no other public school in the country has done. This all male, all Black school has done this for the third time.

I was beyond excited about this. I posted this picture and story next to my desk at work.  I can’t begin to explain how proud I am and this feeling has lasted for days. When I read some of the comments under the story on the internet, I was not surprised to find people who had negative things to say. There were people who were excited as well. Some of the comments I read were things like ” Why aren’t there programs like this for students who aren’t black?”, ” This isn’t a good thing because college isn’t for everyone.” ,   “What’s the big deal?” and  ” Why do Blacks always get these types of opportunities?”

What’s the big deal?! Really? You need to be told what the big deal is? The big deal is that Black students…esp. males, don’t always get these types of opportunities.  When minority students in these types of neighborhoods fail, most people act like that’s all they expect of them because they are minorities with low socio-economic status. Let’s not pretend that there aren’t stereotypes out there about minorities not being as intelligent and capable as White people.  Many times, these students are assumed to be future gang members, prisoners, and general trouble makers. It is rare that someone takes them and holds them to higher standards.

I celebrate these young men because I believe that Black men ( like all other men) are Kings and these students are living up to that title.  All people are born with the potential to be great but in some cases, they are held back because society tells them that they can’t do it…they don’t have the money…the resources….the intelligence. The worst part of it all is that they ALLOW themselves to be held back because they start to BELIEVE these lies.

This story came about at a crucial time for me. I am working and living in a country that knows very little about who I am as a Black woman. The people stare at anyone who is different and the students snicker and make African jokes in class at anyone in the book or on the screen who is Black. I have allowed myself to be become frustrated and hurt by their ignorance.  For me, this story represents the true spirit of my people that many do not get to see or understand because of the way we are portrayed in the media. The only movies I see around here with Black people are things like The Help ( which I’m sure is a lovely movie but it’s about Black people being servants and I’d love for people to see us as more.) and The Blindside. ( Again, lovely movie but Blacks are seen here as nothing more than poor thugs and there is already a general thought that Black people can only achieve things through the help of White people. I’m serious…there are people here that think and say that.) Not to mention the fact that if The Help had been a book written by a Black woman instead of a White woman nobody ( Americans included) would have taken any notice of it. Before you get all upset at that statement…take a look at the Black authors out there who have been telling these stories for years and nobody ever approached them with movie deals. Their actors did not get nominated for prestigious awards.

Bottom line is even if you don’t want to admit it, there IS such thing as White privilege…it pretty much prevails EVERYWHERE. This affects all minorities, not just Black people and it’s unfortunate. I live in a place where White teachers are preferred over minorities and the people here strive to live up to European standards of beauty. Please don’t try to tell me that White priviledge does not exist.

But, this story..amoung others…gives me hope when I start to feel that being Black is perhaps the worst card I could have been dealt.

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April 4, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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