by Ben Arthur |
Most African-American males grow up wanting to be either a professional athlete or a famous entertainer.
Can we really blame them though?
The appeal is there. African-Americans have experienced enormous amounts of success in the entertainment industry, from sports to music to acting. The NFL and NBA, two of the most popular professional sports leagues in the U.S., are nearly 70 and 75 percent black, respectively. Many of the music industry’s most recognizable faces are African-American: Jay-Z, Chris Brown and Lil Wayne just to name a few. Even the acting business is star-studded with prominent black figures. Will Smith, Forest Whitaker and Denzel Washington are considered to be three of the best that the industry has to offer.
Black youth in American society need to be inspired to believe that they can succeed in other areas of life. Rarely do I hear of African-American lawyers, doctors or engineers doing great things in the media.
As an African-American male, I too have fallen into the stigma. As a child, I measured my future success on whether or not I would make it into the NBA. Sports were one of a small handful of areas of society in which I saw African-Americans make a consistent, positive impact.
I grew up in Bellevue, Washington, an upper-middle class Seattle suburb. Both my parents are healthcare professionals: My dad is a pharmacist and my mom is a dentist. Even with all the resources available to me because of my living situation, I still believed that only way to truly “make it” was to be a professional athlete.
By no means am I saying that African-American boys shouldn’t pursue careers in sports or entertainment. If the passion is there, by all means, they should go for it. Some were simply born with the gifts necessary to succeed in these areas. What I’m saying is that we need to empower our African-American youth, boys and girls, into believing that they can make it big in other careers as well.
This process can only start with better education. We need to show our black youth that others like them have grown up to succeed in politics, business, medicine, engineering and other professional fields. Tell them that Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox, American Express, and Merck & Co. have black CEOs. Explain to them how there are African-American leaders not named Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. who have made a huge difference in the American quality of life.
Let’s show our black youth that even if they’re not the most athletic person in the world or don’t have an amazing singing voice, they can still make it.
Ben Arthur is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @KingArthur_425