Tuesday, November 29, 2005

black folks still experiencing "firsts"

70% of the nfl is black, yet out of 32 teams, only five are headed up by black coaches. out of those five, none has been a head coach in the super bowl. this year we might see a change in the weather.

tony dungy, head coach of the indy colts, is poised to become not only the first black head coach to make it to the super bowl, he is set to be the first one to WIN it. the colts are 11-0, placing them as only the sixth team since 1970 to start a season 11-0 and the first team since the super bowl winning denver broncos of 1998 to do so.

why is this significant?

because his success will confirm that black men can be successful coaches in the nfl and therefore, will make it easier for others to follow in his steps.

because in the year 2005, black folks are still experiencing "firsts" within our race. pioneers are being born everyday and there are still plenty of opportunities for us to start the paths behind which succeeding generations will follow. in an american society that prides itself on being "politically correct" (laughable, isn't it?), many of us have taken our intergration into society as proof we have "arrived" and therefore, effort on our parts to blaze new trails is unnecessary. however, all one has to do is look at the lack of the depiction of the breadth and depth of our experiences on television to see that not only have we NOT arrived, we're still standing on the subway platform.

unfortunately, many of us are still in positions where we're constantly proving ourselves others. we're still proving that black folks are capable of accomplishing what other folk have deemed we can't. as the token negro in my place of employment, i am faced with this task everyday. there are still moments when my supervisors look at me in awe because a completed task was done in a way which surpassed their expectations, which isn't saying much, considering how low they were from the start. so their surprise is not an ego-stroke. to the contrary, their surprise is an insult and is symptomatic of a society that has chosen to bury its disrespect of difference under a mountain of politically-correct verbage. it's the equivalent of them being impressed at my ability to wipe my ass and flush the toilet.

in other words, just because they let me in, doesn't mean they expected much. it's almost as if they'd resigned themselves to the fact that the hiring of a black woman meant they would get the very basic level of performance necessary not to fuck shit up.

so i recognize the importance of my being in this position. it's not just about being one of only two blacks in my department. it's also about raising their level of expectations for the generations of black folks who will follow me because they recognize we CAN do. it's about getting them to expect and respect what i bring to the table both as a human being AND as a black woman. i am a pioneer here.

a pioneer isn't just the cat who lead the civil rights movement or the sista whose refusal to go to the back of the bus was documented as the beginning of that movement. it's not just the brotha who became the first black person to sit on the supreme court, nor is it the sista who became the first black secretary of state.

and the term "pioneer" isn't just a reflection of positive action, it's a reflection of negative action as well.

christopher columbus was a pioneer for spain, but the trails he blazed led to the destruction of an entire population of indigenous people in america.

a pioneer could be the person who survives the daily struggle and still finds motivation for waking up the next day. this person is busting down barriers currently preventing the world from acknowledging a person's worth based on his or her humanity and not his or her fiscal contribution simply by being responsible and making a way for him or herself in a manner that is positive.

or a pioneer can be the person who never sees the importance of his or her existence in the world and therefore, makes decisions that ultimately make it more difficult for those after him or her to find success on their own merits.

so that cat who is never late for his job picking up garbage is a pioneer.
the sista who decided to teach for pennies instead of taking a corporate job that would have had her living in luxury is a pioneer.
the kid who, despite his lack of aptitude in math, still studies hard and makes good grades in it is a pioneer.

but so is the rapper who uses misogynistic lyrics or the politician who takes bribes or the person who keeps losing his or her job because they can't seem to get to work on time.

every day is brand new, with new opportunities to blaze trails, both good and bad. our existence here will either make it easier or more difficult for the ones coming after us. it's really that simple.

so i ain't mad at the fact that if dungy wins the super bowl, he'll be the first black coach to do so in the almost hundred years of the nfl's existence. the fact is, there will never be a time when black folk won't be experiencing "firsts".

but i won't be mad if we have even more black folk being the "last" to do something fucked up.