One of my favorite scenes from the show, Scandal, is when the audience first learns who Olivia’s father is. He scolds her for her behavior that has gotten her into a scandal of her own. Then he reminds her of one of the lessons he drilled into her as a child. “How many times have I told you…you have to be what?” After her father yells for her to answer, Olivia finally responds. “Twice as good”
Most young, Black, children have heard their parents say this line. “You have to be twice as good, to get half of what they have.” I heard it from my mother and grandfather. I never doubted the validity of the statement, but the reality of its truth is only now resonating.
As someone who works with children, I see the full spectrum of academic achievement. Lately, while working with clients with less than perfect grades or difficulties focusing, I realized that their plight is very different from my cousin who shared the same issues. It is important to note, at the time of this writing, none of my clients are of color. I look at what I saw growing up with other kids and see the challenges that lie ahead for Black children with average grades.
This month many children return to school and to different expectations.
However, while working with clients with the same grades, I see the advantages they have. They will not have to face the added responsibility of breaking a stereotype. They will not have to worry about getting past an interviewer’s preconceived notions about their race. They will not have to think about how ethnic their name sounds or reads on an application. If my client and my cousin seek the same opening, with the same average grades, chances are my client gets in, while my cousin slips through the cracks.
Click here for a great video explaining how this works.
Success does not come easy for most people, no matter the race. The unfortunate reality is that the playing field is not level. It starts from day one, on the field of education. On this playing field, average is not the best for anyone and it is the absolute worst for Black children. I get it now. To level the playing field as a Black student, we must be excellent in all that we do. While excellence can be a goal for other races, it must be a standard for Black people. It is our excellence that will break stereotypes, get us past preconceived notions and make people see beyond our name.
I absolutely encourage pursuing excellence. It just ticks me off that it takes excellence for a black person to get what the average white person has.