Black History Month Week 2— Are you ready? Because I want to talk about something that ties into an entire culture of people, a term that I use a lot; one that I never quite defined for you. I want to talk about what it means say black excellence.
I’ve mentioned this term countless times, I know that, but I never quite said what it means. In our society or even on Urban Dictionary, you’ll find that we define it as what we see. We see things like an athlete on scholarship, a girl accepted to every Ivy, Will Smith, Oprah, or even the upcoming Black Panther Movie. When people think of the term black excellence, this is the direction they go.
But does that mean this is all the phrase may ever encompass?
Absolutely not— like I said in my posts on this concept last year, black excellence is so much more than one person or one achievement or one underprivileged black student earning their way into a great University or program.
Just because I’m here at Cal Poly as the 1% does not mean that those of us in this representation here are the definition of the term.
I share this sentiment with Kiri Rupiah, Mail & Guardian’s social media editor when she says “I don’t see the value of being the only black person in the room.” That is not what black excellence is, that is inequality or under representation, a lack of equal opportunity… That is not excellent. No where close.
Living a life worth living is where the real merit comes from.
Consider the simple state of existence— getting up, eating when you can, and going back to sleep. This is what I like to call being. But working, parenting, studying, living, this is what I call excellence. It is achieving what matters as an African American who is making something of themselves.
Take a single mother: she is black excellence in the way that she is pulling it off by herself. Or an adult deciding they want more, so they go back to school part time for a GED or higher degree: they are black excellence in believing in their worth of deserving something more. How about the und
erprivileged, those who often consider themselves the underachieving? They are excellence in their determination to keep going in spite of circumstance, or opportunity, or how many times they are told the word no. They are still going.
There are far too many ways to be brilliant to define it only in terms of fame or money; in what society sees as worth. At some point, it comes to how we define the achievement of working towards something, any goal of merit.
Consider how far black people have come, from the allowance of getting educated, of literacy, to the voices and the platforms we are now seeing African American people uphold. As much as I wish I could say we were out of “firsts” by now, it is still a great thing to see people striving to go after each and every one of those achievements until we break the standards and the barriers that seem to hold us back; no matter how many misdirected steps we attempt towards equality.
When I say the words black excellence, I am talking about the things that I see in my culture beyond skin color, beyond stereotype. I see hard work and a challenge to
adversity. I see beauty in the struggle or sometimes, just another struggle to overcome. I think we need to stop seeing terms of culture as derogatory, but simply as an appreciation of what makes us different. It doesn’t mean black people are better, as a disparagement of others. No, this excellence is the celebration of who we are. Of who I am.
Because I am excellent. The black single mother is excellent. The struggling black student or the worker or the human being just barely getting by, all of them— all of us— are excellent.
Because we are still going.
And that is incredible.