Black Excellence

Welcome to Black History Month! The time of the year where everyone pretends to care about the struggles of Black people just to move on the second March 1 hits (until Juneteenth, that is). Now, I could talk about white people trying to turn the fade into the “Travis Kelce,” (he/him) or Nicki Minaj (she/her) finally experiencing her fall from grace, but I would rather address something more pressing. This Black History Month, I want to discuss Black excellence.

Just last week during the Grammys, Taylor Swift (she/her) won her fourth album of the year award. In that time span, only one Black artist has won the award: Jon Batiste (he/him) in 2021. I think this is indicative of a larger conversation, not just in music but in greater society; Black excellence is not celebrated or embraced even when compared to white mediocrity. 

Over the past 50 years, Black people have pushed the paradigm of various entertainment industries. Rap and R&B went from fringe genres to essentially being pop music and topping most major charts for the past 10 years. Black actors and directors are truly excelling in film, with every Jordan Peele (he/him) movie being a major event and the world rallying around Zendaya (she/her) and Ayo Edebiri (she/her). Not only are independent Black fashion creators thriving, but designer brands are looking to Black rappers and singers for the next fashion trends.

Exiting entertainment, Black college graduation rates are slowly on the rise since 2012, according to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute. There has also been a rise of Black politicians like Maxwell Frost (he/him) and Justin Pearson (he/him). Black literature is finally being recognized and read in schools. But that’s exactly the problem isn’t it?

With every step forward there are two steps back. Every time there is Black success and celebration, it is repressed with a safer, whiter victory. We as Black people need to be reminded that our success is important, and the only way I believe this cycle ever gets broken is amplification.

The uproar around all these names I have mentioned is not a coincidence. In recent years, social media has allowed an amplification never seen before and the common trend is that Black success is being highlighted more and more often. But it will only ever truly be enough if we continue to point out Black excellence. So when you rewatch Usher’s (he/him) halftime show next week or find yourself reveling in a Viola Davis (she/her) performance just remember: this is not normal and it should be celebrated.

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