A few weeks ago, my boys and I were driving down to see the Rock the Bells concert and, as anticipated, we were stuck in traffic. Bumper to bumper traffic. Traffic that had us going at a consistent 5 mph for an hour and a 1/2. Funny thing was that the traffic wasn’t for our concert, it was for a country music festival one town over. Yes, you read it right. The slew of cars, pick up trucks and gas guzzling SUVs practically parked on the highway were not for A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Mos Def or the Cool Kids, but for Kenny Chesney. Who the hell is Kenny Chesney? Just a country singer who’s put out 13 albums, all of which have gone gold or better, has sold out every venue he’s been to and has been to the White House. The White House dog. They won’t even let your favorite rapper stand outside the White House to take a picture.
So after finally breaking through the highway turned parking lot filled with tons cars that had “Honk If You Love Kenny” written on them and contained women with cowboy hats and bikinis on, we had an open road. Wide open. I could’ve swerved from side to side on a four lane highway and not even hit a tumbleweed. I hope you’re getting the picture, but if not I’ll just say it bluntly. The crowd going to the Rock the Bells concert was nowhere close to the amount of people heading to see Kenny and Friends. Not to mention, they party way harder than us. Check this out…
So I started thinking, what exactly is “doing it big” in the grand scheme of things? Maybe our perspective’s too small. Maybe Black America’s bar for success is just a little too low compared to what is considered success for mainstream America. Why do you say that Seattle? Well I’m glad you asked.
Hip Hop is Dead, Long Live Kenny Chesney
Besides Kenny Chesney, popular American artists (particularly country and Christian artists) make ridiculous bank compared to successful hip hop artists. You may not know this. I know I didn’t. Rappers may garner a lot of attention from mainstream media, but since when does popularity actually mean you’re getting a check? Besides, half of the riches we see aren’t real, sorry to break it to you. Even if they were, chains, cars and houses are not assets. Businesses, artwork and stocks are. Even the Jigga man knows the deal. Besides being not being a businessman but a business, man; he’s been known to compare himself to American icons like Frank Sinatra and other popular American artists. Not even putting himself in the league of other mainstream rappers out right now. And for good reason, have you listened to the radio lately? Smh.
He’s Really Smart for a Black Kid
If music’s not your thing, well then how about something universal like education. In particular, scholarships. For those of you that have completed college, are in it right now or are currently applying, you’ve probably looked online or through one of those huge books for scholarships. And if you’re Black, you were steered toward the African American sponsored ones. That is if you weren’t also left-handed or 1/16 Native American. Did anyone else notice that the requirements for attaining an African American scholarship were severely lower than any other one? When I was applying the average GPA requirement for an African American scholarship was 2.5, while a standard scholarship was 3.0 or above. Also, and I can say this off personal experience, you may also be turned down for being too much over the standard. I’m not knocking these institutions, they provide a great service for Black students, but what example are they setting?
He’s a Great Black (Insert Career)
That term has always irked me, even more when Black people go along with it. Although venues for celebrating success like the NAACP Image Awards and countless other Black career award shows are great, to me, it’s not enough to be the best within one slice of life. I highly doubt icons like Sydney Poitier, Denzel Washington and even Will Smith set out to be Great Black Actors. They sought to be the best, period. So, why should I settle for being a Great Black anything? I want to be the best as well, not just the best out of my race. After all, I am competing with writers of other races for jobs, credibility and awards. As far as I know, that’s the same regardless of what career path you choose. Employers aren’t going to hire anyone because they’re best Black candidate they saw.
While our predecessors wanted us to rise above and build up our community, I highly doubt they wanted us to only stay within it. Hence why schools are integrated and there is no longer any validity to the term – separate, but equal. Throughout my life, I always heard the lesson of “you have to work ten times harder” than the next man. To show your peers of other races that you can, in fact, run with them and even lead the pack. And while it’s great to have attainable goals, we have to begin to run with the larger pack here in America and eventually lead it. I personally think that happens when we stop settling and start abiding by the standards that everyone else is living up to.
But enough of me talking, what do you think?