African Americans and the Glorification of “Struggle”

I recently came across a blog post on ThyBlackMan alluding to the concern that hip hop music and at large the culture of hip hop promotes African Americans to live beyond their means. Frequently, skipping out on education or meaningful employment, thus repeating a dangerous cycle of obtaining means for both themselves and their families by “hustling”.

This is a conversation that has raged on for some time, and I am starting to see some parallels between the glorification of the struggle within the black/AA community and music, television and social media.

Growing up, the struggle was the last thing I knew, I was fortunate enough to attend the only private school in my city, have educated and financially stable parents and a strong  support system at large. Opportunities that I soon came to learn many of my peers did not have.

Privilege can be both blinding and crippling, as when you don’t have to want for just about anything you can have a false reality. My parents worked fairly hard to expose me to all walks of life, ensuring that I was always appreciative and humble.

Even in times when I was least expecting it.

My transition from private to public school in the 7th grade was the first time I truly got a “taste of reality”. To save you from a long flash back of my middle school torment, I was profusely bullied for being privileged. Let’s be honest, I was an easy target because I was nice and had nice things. Kids can be cruel, but looking back that experience taught me something.. Fake it till you make it. 


Yet, that’s what I had to do, in order to get my black/AA peers to even think about kicking it with me. I had to ditch the Devin I once knew and become someone who was relatable . So I changed the way I talked, dressed, and even treated others. What’s now interesting is how prevalent that is within mainstream media, music, and even social media.

We unknowingly hear and see it all the time, rappers, celebrities, and so forth promoting how they came from nothing and are where they are now (often focusing on material processions), even when a great deal of them did not or the story line is excessively  dramatized for audience appeal. What’s interesting is that within the black/AA community, coming from the struggle is like a badge of honor. You are looked down on or not taken as seriously if you lack the credentials of struggle.

But why?

Certainly, it’s extremely admirable to see someone overcome adversity, but why are we glorifying poverty as if it’s not a part of a racist system at large to keep people of color, especially the black/AA community oppressed?

The other day I read an article titled: Escaping Poverty and Securing Middle Class Status: How Race and Socioeconomic Status Shape Mobility Prospects for African Americans During the Transition to Adulthood — yeah it’s a mouth full, but it pointed out some interesting information regarding social mobility, and just how challenging that can be. From issues such as minimum wage, healthcare, access to healthy foods, and so forth there’s quite a bit keeping those in poverty in poverty.

“The hustlin’ glorified in today’s popular hip-hop music is characterized as a lifestyle that will continue forever. There should be a disclaimer played before popular hip hop songs that states emphatically that hustlin’ is not suitable for everyone and could lead to poverty. For many poor children and young adults it has and it will.” – Brandale Randolph.

It’s a dangerous cycle that I am observing, many of us are so often looking for this fast come up, that we do so by means that may be of risk to ourselves and/or our family.

What’s to blame? Who’s to blame? Is is it the appeal in nice things we see plastered on Instagram? Is it the rapper who’s casually throwing money on women in music videos? Is it the cars, the bling, the access to travel?

Whatever it is, we all are responsible for debunking some of the myths associated with wealth and obtaining it.

As always,

Devin J.


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