There is a very interesting story out today in the New York Times which describes how more than one million people in America of Hispanic decent now refer to themselves as ‘white.’ There may be good reason for People to do this, but this is no new trend.
A vast majority of those coming from Cuba, in Florida, describe themselves likewise as white. This is about the desire to assimilate, and other factors of society, race and existence itself. Most of these are issues are actually not for me to opine about. I am not Hispanic.
But this I can say with authority — Black Americans and other ethnicities with ‘dark’ skin cannot simply switch their racial status, census form or not, nor can they easily assimilate (visually and culturally).
Jews can do this.
Germans and Polish can do this.
Italians and the Spanish can do this.
My friends from Eastern European nations can do this.
Many of my friends from Asian nations actually pay for skin lighteners, so they can be whiter. I’m not kidding. They advertise this boldly on billboards in their main airports throughout Asia.
My real point here is not the pyscho-socio issues that are underneath this phenomena. I am talking about something very basic. The need for African-Americans in particular simply to excel.
You cannot escape your skin color. Even President Barack Obama, who has a Caucasian mother and was raised in the most diverse settings on the planet, is simply considered by the world to be Black. If you look a Black, the world says you are Black. Period.
You cannot escape your skin color when you are African-American, Black, dark or whatever you want to call it — so you might as well embrace it. I do. And then be down right better than everyone else around you in whatever your chosen endeavor.
When you are Black, you have to be twice as good, twice as smart, twice as well dressed, twice as prepared and twice as excellence driven. You have to get up earlier, get more education, and when necessary to to bed later too. Don’t be mad about it. Just consider it a God given opportunity to be excellence driven. Those that came before you did it.
Black America, which came out of slavery, literally in the 20th century produced countless very serious and world class leaders, speakers, thinkers, inventors, innovators and educators. Leaders that became world renown and world respected. Not as simply Black leaders, but great ones. Up from nothing.
These men and women made smart sexy, and took no short cuts to the success. They just did it. They didn’t complain about, and they had even less ability to run away from whomever they were, than we do today.
When you are getting run out of town, get in front of the crowd and make like a parade. Just do it.
News flash — if you had decided to cruise through life, then know this — you cannot be Black for a living, not even for one more day. You cannot even afford to just be what some call a Black leader. You must be a great leader, who happens to also he Black. And of course, proud of it.
And fully able to operate at and on every level. Just like the 20th century and 19th century Black folks that came before you.
Now, let’s go…
John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest book, due out , is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM, and will be published by Berrett Koehler Publishing. Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, .