There is an unfortunate characteristic of life in America that is embraced by far too many Americans. It is that academic genius is not the domain of African Americans. People do acknowledge genius connected with popular culture, especially sports and entertainment.
We all know about Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Brown, Venus and Serena Williams, Jackie Robinson, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kanye West, Tiger Woods, Common, New Edition, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Dorothy Dandridge, John Legend, and many more too numerous to name who are considered outstanding in their fields.
The truth of the matter is that African Americans have excelled in every field of endeavor they have entered. In spite of this, people tend to relegate all African Americans to the bottom of the intelligence ladder, and this includes other African Americans!
When people talk about outstanding contributors to fields other than entertainment and sports, it is often assumed that the individuals are not Black. Often when people speak of people who have excelled in the physical or social sciences, there are those who are surprised to find that Blacks are among those numbers!
Moreover, whenever a discussion around the Black community ensues, the majority of African Americans and possibly ALL whites and Asians assume that everyone is languishing at the bottom; that everyone comes from depressed circumstances. Though it IS true that over 70% of African American youth are raised in broken homes, it is NOT true that there are no successes. In fact, in spite of overwhelming odds, many are achieving at phenomenal levels.
This may be due to the fact that diamonds are created under pressure.
The basic problem we face is negative PROPAGANDA; there is a widespread belief that Black people are incompetent, even though it is obvious that Blacks are capable of dominating every field that is focused on. There are even Black people who live in middle class or upscale communities who surprisingly think that all Black communities are on the skids, though they themselves may not have experienced those circumstances.
Once again, the problem is FOCUS – the focus of almost everyone – Black, white, Asian, Latino or other, automatically zeros in on Blacks at the bottom. They are not paying attention to our successes and triumphs. They give disproportionate attention to our challenges. We do not celebrate our inherent greatness; we wait for the broader community (think white) to bring attention to our gifted scientists, visual artists, mathematicians, architects, and more!
Following are some examples of African American excellence that need to be widely touted.
Recently, in Chicago, a 12-year-old Chicagoan just graduated with her SECOND college degree. Dorothy Jean Tillman received her bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College. She previously held an associate’s degree, and is planning to get a master’s in environmental engineering! Last year, 14-year-old Carson Huey-You graduated from Texas Christian University (TCU) with a physics degree. He also completed a double minor in math and Chinese and enrolled in the school at the age of 11. His younger brother, Cannan, started classes at the age of 11 at TCU. He plans to major in astrophysics and engineering.
Further, 18-year-old Raven Osbourne, an Indiana native, graduated from high school and college within weeks of each other. In 2013, Thessalonika Arzu-Embry, an Illinois resident, graduated from Chicago State University at the age of 14. She maintained a 3.9 GPA with a major in psychology. At the age of 22, Cortlan Wickliff became the second youngest Black man to finish Harvard University Law School. He was admitted into college at the age of 14, first completing studies at the University of North Texas, and then graduating from Rice University. He’s also pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering from Texas A&M University.
This is just a drop in the proverbial bucket of Black excellence! We should be singing their praises.
Instead, focus is on the troublemakers and laggards, the bottom feeders. We need to shift our focus to achievers and institution builders. This does not mean that we ignore our problems; it just means that we need to give equal time and attention to our giants, and there are many of them. A Luta Continua