“When we see a black man who is constantly being praised by the Americans, begin to suspect him. When we see a black man get honors and all sorts of decorations and the United States flatters him with fine words and phrases, immediately suspect that person Because our experience has taught us that the Americans do not exalt any black man that is really working for the benefit of the black man.” Malcolm X
Over the past several months, I have noticed a lot of empowering and inspiring stories highlighting Black achievement in volumes I don’t remember in the past. I mean good news, big wins, and long awaited comebacks. I read the stories and am proud. I share the stories and hope to spread inspiration. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I also wonder why mainstream media is embracing blackness so beautifully and aggressively all of a sudden.
In no particular order: Black Miss America, Black Miss Teen America, Black Miss USA, Black Miss Universe, Black Miss World, Black Miss France, Black Little Mermaid, Black Woman 007, Black woman and lesbian mayor of Chicago, Marsai Martin becomes Universal’s youngest producer and will produce feature comedy ‘Queen’, Black Superman possibly in the works, Jamie Foxx making history with first Black to star in Pixar Movie (Soul), Black women owned tea brand heads to New York Stock Exchange, Jay-Z reaching billionaire status, talks of All-Black Panel Show on CNN, Rumors of War Statue unveiled in Richmond VA- former capital of Confederate States of America, Mall of America hiring first Black Santa , New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker has first Black lead, Michael Vick forgiven, Colin Kaepernick’s Saga with the NFL reemerged (then ended), Cynthia Erivo is celebrated for role in Harriet Tubman (who as a subject matter, got a lot of attention lately, $20 bill, tv show, movie, etc.) Kennedy Center Honors inducts first African-American group: Earth Wind & Fire, Law Passed to make sure natural hair isn’t discriminated against, Grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios to rival Hollywood studios, Season 5 of Boondocks reboot with Aaron McGruder, Eddie Murphy returning to SNL, Coming to America II, and out of his “Hollywood Timeout”, Steve Harvey Talk show revival, Byron Allen v Comcast to square off in Supreme Court Kaiser Permanente has a new Black CEO, and Presidential candidates debate reparations for Blacks.
Don’t get me wrong, now. All of these named (and several more unmentioned) wins have been earned with hard work, long hours, and much sacrifice. Each is well-deserved and in many cases, long overdue. While Malcolm X encourages us to suspect the individuals being honored, I am suspicious, however, of the abrupt shift of American Industries honoring and exalting her former slaves in this way.
A transitory look at history will substantiate that we as a people haven’t always gotten the credit we deserved from the majority of the industries in which the aforementioned list represents (entertainment, financial, political, etc). We haven’t always gotten the recognition we deserved. We haven’t always gotten opportunities we deserved. We’ve been held down, pushed out, overlooked and unsung for generations. So while I celebrate and relate to the joyful feeling connected to finally getting “a piece of the pie”, I ponder at what cost and why now? Not to forget to mention the fact that if someone else is giving us a piece of anything, the power dynamics should raise an eyebrow or two—especially if we are interested in true black power.
Carter G. Woodson’s words from his Mis-Education of the Negro still ring true,“Negroes who have been so long inconvenienced and denied opportunities for development are naturally afraid of anything that sounds like discrimination. They are anxious to have everything the white man has even if it is harmful.”
I ultimately believe we’re being thrown hand-me-downs like pigs are thrown slop. And unfortunately for us (and the rest of the world) we are eating them like a gourmet meal. Anybody who knows anything about acquiring what other people have used, know that you only get access to the item once the original owner is done with it, can’t fit it anymore, done playing with it, has no use for it, or transitioning to something new.
Are these highly celebrated accolades leftovers? Why are we getting them now—as we turn the corner into 2020?