There are uses to adversity, and they don't reveal themselves until tested. Whether it's serious illness, financial hardship, or the simple constraint of parents who speak limited English, difficulty can tap unsuspected strengths. It doesn't always, of course: I've seen life beat people down until they can't get up. But I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with.It reminded me of a magnificent article by Eric Wattree titled Why I Love Being Black (h/t to Extreme Liberal for tweeting a link). I'm only going to quote a bit of it here. But I hope that everyone will take a few minutes and go read the whole thing.
I absolutely LOVE being Black - and I'm not just saying that because it's expected of me. While I have the ultimate respect for the unique character of every race and ethnicity, if I'm reincarnated a thousand times, I want to come back Black each and every one of them.When I first read Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father, he had just been elected as the U.S. Senator from Illinois. I remember thinking that the value in the book was that it was one young man's unique story of what it means to grow up in America as a black man. It's not every young black man's story, but it pointed out the struggle. And as Wattree suggests, its about how he emerged on the other side as the amazing leader we all see today.
Being Black in America gives one an education and perspective on life that you can't get anywhere else. That's not widely recognized, because public attention is often focused on the most dysfunctional in the Black community. But contrary to popular belief, that might not be an altogether bad thing, because it allows the excellence within the Black community time to incubate, untainted by the public eye. That's what allowed Barack Obama to explode upon the world stage as a fully developed powerhouse, and there are hordes of others just like him who are currently incubating in Black cocoons in suburbs and inner cities all over America...
So this is an exciting time for Black people, because we recognize that the world is about to discover what we already know - that there is nothing in the human experience more impressive than watching the development of a Black child, who's been dragged through the pits of Hell and the brutal experience of “American Exceptionalism,” then emerge on the other side as a well adjusted, uniquely eclectic, resolute, and learned product of his or her environment.
These are society's unsung heroes, and there are many more to come. They've been tested by fire, and they've prevailed. By the time they've reached thirty, they've faced down more adversity than the average American at eighty. So simply having survived America unscathed, by definition, makes them special.
So when I come into contact with the "strivers" in the Black community, I may not say it, but my heart whispers, "Thank you for your service." Because, in my heart, I know that these are the people who have been selected by nature, and circumstance, to blaze the trail of a new reality and move America forward - and considering America's history, these young people represent the very height of irony. But as the old folks used to say, "God works in mysterious ways."
Wattree's article also hits on something I've seen in my own personal life. At the non-profit where I work we tend to hire young people like he's describing. And I see in them every day those who, in smaller ways, are blazing the trail of a new reality and moving America forward.
So I'll simply suggest that I agree with Justice Sotomayor and Mr. Wattree...there are hordes or others just like them currently incubating in the Black/Brown cocoons in suburbs and inner cities all over America. That's exactly what scares the nativists racists we're hearing from so much these days. And its also exactly what gives me hope for our future...there's something inside so strong.