When you are black, you are all too aware of the fact that you are black. Sounds stupid and circular but seriously when you’re black you know you are black! What I mean by this is that you learn very quickly all the limitations that come with being black, it is a hard reality to escape. As a black child growing up in the U.K it was something I was always aware off. However, until my early teenage years it wasn’t something I could articulate properly. Moreover, until only recently I couldn’t really say it was something I understood.
Being black is “this something” that’s supposedly meant to keep you grounded. This something that reminds you that you have to work 10 times as hard as your white counterparts to be afforded the same opportunities as them; this something is being told you are trying to “sound white” because you do not talk in slang and can actually articulate yourself properly; this something is “the angry black women.” The stereotypes are endless and this perspective is tiresome and all too familiar to black people. But there is one statement (or stereotype) that I have grown to despise. This something that tells you: “yoU CanT dO X bEcAUsE YoU ARe BlAcK…”
It’s a statement that’s grounded in reality. It is not idealistic. It is not wrong. It is a truth. That is why when I recently got into a conversation with some of my friends about the possibility of Stormzy becoming a billionaire eventually. I wasn’t particularly shocked by their objections to my statement. However, I was somewhat taken back by their prime reason for objecting. They all stated that they very much doubted he could hit the figure because he was black. The truth is I understood exactly why they said what they said. Moreover, they weren’t being cynical and in all actuality it was their attempt at “being realistic.” However, the conversation urged me to think about how we as young black individuals view our position in the world.
Truth, glass ceilings do exist and they are all the more poignant when you are a black person trying to achieve the exceptional. False, you do not have to accept what may be true and limit yourself to the expectations of the world we exist in. For many us who yearn to be great it is necessary that we submerge ourselves in the thoughts that nothing is impossible. On the other hand, I’m not naïve enough to assume that race is not a factor that could limit or hinder a person’s ability to excel. My view is simply that it is more advantageous and necessary for black people to have a perspective of blackness that yells “black is this something that is excellent.” It is not a question of why Stormzy can’t become a billionaire because he is black, but rather Stormzy MUST become a billionaire because he is black.
I don’t believe that black people should take the back seat in recognising the potential for each other to be great and achieve the unimaginable. Earlier I stated that there is truth in the statement that you can’t do X because you are black. However, it is only “a truth.” It is not the only truth. More importantly it is a vague and meaningless proposition. We have more than enough examples of black individuals who have excelled and broken through the glass ceiling. As such there is no reason for us to accept a more reductive and negative perspective of what a black person can or can’t do.
Society expects black people to simply survive and be grateful for it. Pursuing anything beyond survival frightens many and challenges the status quo. But I believe that this is exactly what we must do. It is what me must encourage.
Impossible is nothing, especially when you are black.
Words by @StayBalanced_