Do we glorify the struggle?
February 28, 2016 at 12:30 am
Black history month is coming to a close, but one thing we can count on for the remaining days this year is the continuation of the black struggle narrative. Given the nature of our experience in the U.S. from slavery through Jim Crow to modern-day institutionalized racism, it’s absolutely justifiable that so much of the African-American story is centered in struggle. We have only been ‘free’ for 52 years if one considers the current reality of institutionalized racism free. It’s no wonder that coping, overcoming and surviving are major themes in our culture.
The word struggle permeates black contemporary dialogue, from hip-hop to politics to pathetic plates of food . The struggle is often seen as a badge of honor and a source of pride. I, too, embrace this legacy with dignity as a nod to the strength and resilience deeply rooted in people of African descent. My personal icons and role models read like a list of war heroes, each having overcome trauma, discrimination and marginalization to make their mark on the world.
There is no shortage of struggle testimonials in the black community. It’s part of our cultural identity. I would put mine up against anyone’s…and maybe that’s a problem. If struggle is the yardstick by which we measure worth, then what incentive do we have to overcome it? If the perceived absence of tribulation is considered soft and invites disrespect, then perhaps we are going about honoring our legacy the wrong way.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who was completely crushed at the reaction she got from her family after she and her husband agreed that she would leave her job to become a stay-at-home mom. As a product of a single parent household where her mother worked two jobs to support the family, she was made to feel guilty for embracing what they perceived to be a life of privilege. She has endured major side-eye and sarcasm, like “Hmm…must be nice.” At family gatherings, conversations completely unrelated to her were punctuated with “Yeah, it’s a struggle…but you wouldn’t know anything about that.” All of this to drive home the point that somehow her decision to prioritize her children as the central focus of her life made her bougie and betrayed the legacy of strong black women who sweat, struggle, and sometimes rear the children of white women in order to take care of their own families.
The idea that we should embrace struggle, even when better options are available, is critically flawed. Our ancestors had no other choice but to endure adversity, their survival depended on it and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking pride in the legacy of a people who have defied insurmountable odds and prevailed in the face of crippling adversity. But honoring the struggle is completely different from relishing it.
The fact is, no matter our level of success, the struggle that comes along with melanin is very real. There is enough opposition from outside the community without perpetuating it from within. So, as grateful as I am that “momma made miracles every Thanksgiving,” I am equally determined that my unborn children won’t have to endure that reality. I will raise them to be kind, compassionate and generous as well as unapologetically black and privileged.
Weigh in #BlavityFamily. Do you think we glorify #TheStruggle? Comment below.