FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Reflections on “Black Excellence”

Black History Month came and went with little celebration due to coverage of the impeachment trial and 2020 presidential primaries.

As disappointing as this has been, it did have one surprising highlight: a video compiled by Google celebrating black history makers who received the most online searches in the history of the internet.

Dr. Maya Angelou, for example, was the most searched female poet. Serena Williams was the most searched tennis player. Oprah Winfrey was the most searched talk show host, while Malcolm X was the most searched autobiography.

Their recognition was significant; these four black Americans were the most searched individuals, without race as a qualifier. Beyoncé, for example, had the most searched “performance” on Google, not the most searched “African American” performance.

The short month of February is never enough time to adequately capture just how much black people have done for this country, and how much we have contributed to American society.

Black history month is not just a time to replay the speeches of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. We must also remember a movement that saw legions of black people overcome America’s original sin.

It is through our perseverance and contributions that black communities have coined the phrase “black excellence,” a phrase that defines the hardships black people have defied, and the accomplishments black people have achieved.

The meaning behind black excellence is extensive, dating back to a time when black Americans, as a writer for Essence put it, “pushed back against racist caricatures of Blackness as not only ignorant, but incapable of true leadership.”

Such caricatures are why black people have been raised with the narrative that in order to reach success and be offered a seat at the table, we must work twice as hard.

In many ways, this narrative has been harmful to the black community, perpetuating the myth that our acceptance in American society is contingent on how hard we work. But it is also a narrative that instilled in us an innate determination to push through adversity, beating the odds that are forever stacked against us.

Just as black history can’t be revered in only 28 days, black excellence is not solely attributed to those extraordinary individuals, athletes, poets, and artists who have reached celebrity status. Black excellence happens every day.

It is in the way black organizers and activists continue the fight for criminal justice reform in a country where the rate of incarceration for blacks is five times more than that of whites. It is in the insistence that black lives matter when the risk for being killed by police is more pronounced for black men. It is through our cultural contributions — music, fashion, the arts — too often appropriated for their excellence.

That we are still able to thrive in a county with racist ideas encoded into its rule of law, and where median white wealth is still 41 times median black wealth, is all symbolic of black excellence.

After 246 years of slavery and another 89 years of segregation and Jim Crow, we have only had 66 years of formal civil liberties and protections. Even these remain under threat in 2020.

And yet, as Dr. Maya Angelou said in the title of one of her most famous poems, “Still, I’ll rise.”

Black excellence isn’t just about what black people have achieved. It is who we have become as a result.

That’s why I’m proud to be Black, and I do not need a month on the calendar to remind me of my excellence. The legacy of black people — our humanity and resistance to oppression — will always be worthy of celebration.

More articles by:
July 02, 2020
Quincy Saul
Who Made the Plague?
July 01, 2020
Melvin Goodman
De-Militarizing the United States
Kenneth Surin
UK’s Labour Leader Sacks the Most Left-Wing Member of His Shadow Cabinet
Ruth Fowler
Then as Farce: the Commodification of Black Lives Matter
Kent Paterson
Crisis After Crisis on the Border
Rick Baum
The Pandemic and Wealth Inequality
Michael Welton
“Into the World of Bad Spirits”: Slavery and Plantation Culture
James W. Carden
The Return of the Anti-Antiwar Left
Dan Wakefield
Charles Webb Enters Heaven
Julian Vigo
A Call for Radical Humanism: the Left Needs to Return to Class Analyses of Power
Binoy Kampmark
A Trendy Rage: Boycotting Facebook and the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign
Michael D. Knox – Linda Pentz Gunter
As Monuments to War Generals Come Down, Let’s Replace Them with Monuments to Peace
Cesar Chelala
Attorney General William Barr’s Insomnia
Raphael Tsavkko Garcia
Is Bolsonaro Plotting a Self-Coup?
Mandy Smithberger
COVID-19 Means Good Times for the Pentagon
Joe Emersberger
On Pablo Celi, Ecuador’s super shady “Auditor General”
June 30, 2020
James Bovard
Bill Clinton’s Serbian War Atrocities Exposed in New Indictment
Bianca Sierra Wolff – Lisa Knox
ICE is Leaving Immigrants to Die in Detention, and Retaliating When They Speak Out
Don Fitz
Should NYC’s Wall Street Be Renamed “Eric Garner St.?”
Chris Hedges
My Student Comes Home
Richard C. Gross
Obamacare Vulnerable
John Feffer
The Hatchet Man’s Tale: Why Bolton Matters
Thomas Knapp
Afghanistan Bounties: Pot, Meet Kettle (and Turn Off the Stove!)
Charles Reitz
Anti-Racist Engagement in the Kansas Free State Struggle, 1854-64: Horace Greeley, German 48-ers, and the Civil War Journalism of Karl Marx, 1861-62
Howard Lisnoff
A Student Murdered in Cold Blood and a Kids’ Bike Ride Through Queens, New York
David Swanson
Hey Congress, Move the Money
Aparna Karthikeyan
Memories of Pox, Plague, and Pandemics in Tamil Nadu
John Kendall Hawkins
Democracy Chasers in a Badly Injured Nation
Binoy Kampmark
Wasteful, Secret and Vicious: the Absurd Prosecution of Witness K and Bernard Collaery
Norman Solomon
Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee Could Defy “the Madness of Militarism” as Co-Chairs of the Democratic Convention’s Biggest Delegation
Jon Hochschartner
Imagining a Vegan Superman
Arianna Amehae
ESPN to Follow “Somebody’s Daughter” in Bringing International Attention to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Tragedy
CounterPunch News Service
An Osprey Forest in Humboldt County is Being Defended by Treesiters
June 29, 2020
Patrick Cockburn
The Blundering British Political Class has Shown the Same Incompetence in Both Fighting Wars and Coronavirus
Robert Hunziker
Arctic Heat Overwhelms Green Infighting Issues
Kathy Kelly
Battleground States
Eileen Appelbaum
The Pandemic Shows the Importance of Funding Early Childcare and Education Infrastructure
Gregory Elich
Will South Korea’s Moon Defy Trump and Improve Relations with North Korea?
Dean Baker
On the Recession, Stimulus and Economic Recovery
Sam Pizzigati
Defund the CEOs
Mitchel Cohen
Bolton and the Pandemic
Paul A. Passavant
Protest and the Post-Legitimation State
Ralph Nader
Congress Must Hold President Trump Accountable!
George Wuerthner
Missouri River Breaks: How BLM Neglect Threatens a Wild and Scenic River and National Monument
John Feffer
The De-Trumpification of America
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail