Are Sports & Music the Only Options for Black Children?
Thoughts from the Publisher -
Whenever I go to speak at an elementary school, I ask the children what they want to be and without fail the majority of the children want to be singers, rappers, and athletes. The same consistent response from Black children from all over the country began to disturb me on many levels. My concerns were validated by a recent study by Northeastern's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. The study found that 66 percent of African American males between the ages of 13 and 16 believed they could earn a living playing professional sports, more than double the percentage of white males. The reality is there is a 0.0001% chance a high school athlete will play a pro sport and a 0.00002% chance of playing in the NBA. Our Black children are being set-up to fail.
The real question is why are the majority of our children focusing on singing, rapping, and athletics as the only path to success? To answer that question we must look at what the entertainment industry and pro athletics represent to our children. Both choices represent success, money, and power in the minds of children. The only role models who are consistently shown to our children on a daily basis that represent achievement, wealth, and clout are entertainers and athletes. A child looking for ways to rise from poverty or to have an impact on society would see sports and music as their only options based on the over powering emphasis placed on athletes and entertainers. Our children see their successes daily on BET or ESPN. They try to duplicate the only consistent African American role models portrayed in the media. As a community, we have done a poor job of teaching our children that there are many ways to be powerful, to have money and be successful.
Our children very rarely, if ever, hear about Gregory Jackson (featured in last month's newsletter), a man who runs a billion dollar car dealership or Don Barden, the first African American to own a casino in Las Vegas. Mr. Barden's company brings in $372 million dollars a year. Dr. Ben Carson (brain surgeon) is another pioneer. He is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan where his childhood journey was filled with poverty. He struggled with poor grades and a violent temper. After his mother, who only had a third-grade education, challenged him to strive for excellence, Ben rose from the bottom to the top of his class. His achievements earned him academic scholarships to college and medical school. Dr. Carson's story could be used to motivate many young Black people suffering from similar issues of poor grades and violent tempers.
If we want our children to do more than play the lottery of pro sports and music, we must work to provide them with new role models that represent many different types of success. As African Americans we have no shortage of successful people in all walks of life (see the quick links section). As a community and as individuals, we have to do a better job of providing our children with a variety of role models. To my teachers and parents, please take the time to give Black History Month a new energy by giving our children many different examples of successful African Americans. Don't fall back on the same five or six Black History figures children see every year. If we allow this trend of idolizing rappers, athletes, and singers to continue we will have millions of children with failed dreams and no real education or plan to fall back on. If that time does come, the ugly truth will be, that we will only have ourselves to blame.