Race is No Excuse for Failure

Let’s agree that being black in America is different from being black anywhere else in the world.

With a long history of prejudice and unfairness, the U.S.’s treatment of African-Americans has affected every facet of human achievement: from education to employment. That’s a fact.

But I wonder how much of the black population’s current problems can be traced back to discrimination.

A professor of mine made an interesting statement about the nature of black immigrants in the U.S; that they enter the country without deep wounds and feelings of being slighted. That was profound.

I’ve met several second-generation American citizens born to Caribbean parents and most of them believed in some form of success or advancement in this country, otherwise, they wouldn’t have emigrated. As a child of the Caribbean, I can understand the mindset.

In fact, while race permeates every facet of life, I argue that it cannot obliterate, what I will call, the will to win. Yes, a tragically disproportionate number of black men are in state and federal prisons. Yes, way too many black children grow up in single-parent homes – way too many. Yes, discrimination lingers.

Now, think about President Barack Obama’s humble beginnings, his law and teaching careers and then his ascendancy to the Oval Office. You might say, “Well, he’s different. He didn’t grow up where profiling was a daily worry. He wasn’t a product of the projects.” And I say to that, “Exactly.”

President Obama wasn’t programmed to believe that he was inherently set on a losing path. He proves many problems facing the community are not innate; they’re learned. People learn helplessness. People learn low self-esteem and self-condemnation. It’s a different time.

Even as segregation loomed, Jackie Robinson and Chuck Berry paved trails for African-Americans in sports and music. And these guys lived in an era when the law allowed people to treat them unfairly.

It’s easier now than ever to change your future. It’s never going to be easy but focusing on the negative helps no one.

Poor programming is the reason behind many problems in society. It’s a failing of all of us. I believe human beings are a lot more powerful than we give ourselves credit for.

No, I don’t have delusions that we can extract everyone from crime-infested neighborhoods in an afternoon and hold hands in a utopia of fair treatment and social equality forever.

But we can at least do that mentally. We, as people, can stop letting circumstances destroy us.

So, I say, know your history, Black America, and transcend it.