Hold Your Applause

At the risk of eliminating myself from ever receiving one, Applause! Magazine's Imagemaker Awards are another example of bestowing kudos on the average. Black folks seem to find it necessary to do t

Share on Nextdoor

At the risk of eliminating myself from ever receiving one, Applause! Magazine's Imagemaker Awards are another example of bestowing kudos on the average. Black folks seem to find it necessary to do this with abundance and with a vengeance.

Why is it that we think it's phenomenal when blacks own property, support the arts, are disc jockeys or are high-ranking executives in some corporate structure? These things are not extraordinary. In fact, they border on the mundane.

It could be overcompensation for being disenfranchised from mainstream notoriety. It smacks of that old-school Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland "let's put on a show!" mentality.

A bunch of us get together and decide to honor the homemakers, preachers, teachers, landlords, judges and entrepreneurs among us. And for what?

For making homes, preaching, teaching, renting out property and starting businesses. In other words, for doing what we said we were going to do once we took up the task at hand.

Further, it kind of makes those less than virtuous among us do their work with an eye to such awards. They do things hoping (and perhaps even knowing) they'll be recognized for their deeds, and that's nothing short of grotesque because work — the work that improves, propels and uplifts — is work we should all be doing.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, "There's black folks and there's niggas. Niggas think it's a big deal 'cause they ain't never been to jail. Nigga, you ain't supposed to go to jail!"

But you can't blame this kind of blind, self-congratulatory behavior on us alone. It's a reaction to being set aside and tokenized all to hell by majority culture. (Note: See the Oscars, any year, for major exclusions of minorities. But thanks, Massah, for the Grammys, 'cause y'all knows we can sang and dance!)

Ask any Negro worth his salt and he'll tell you that being recognized by one of his own doesn't quite carry the umph as being hailed by a white man. But, hey, the Negro will take it because if he waits for the white man to recognize his deeds he might die incognegro.

What's the lesson here? Do your job, whatever it is, and do it well, knowing each day you did your best. Put your head on your pillow at night and rest assured you didn't bring shame or degradation on your family name. In the morning, wake up and look in the mirror and say to yourself you will try it again, only this time with feeling, and God will bless you with riches you won't have room for.

Those riches might not be a mantle overflowing with synthetic trophies or a wall brimming with framed awards. Your blessings might come in the form of prosperous children, a life free of ill health or perhaps you'll simply live a long time. Who knows?

This is not to say that, as human beings, we don't enjoy winning. People like to win. Americans die to win.

I myself have more writing awards than I ever dreamed I'd have in my lifetime, because I never thought I'd ever get even one. That's because what I do for a living — no, what I do to live — isn't a competitive sport, so I do it as though no jury or judge will ever read it.

And that's what regular folk — the doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers, housewives and others — among us should do: Do your thing. But do it because it's your purpose and not because you're competing with your neighbor or because you want to get dressed up and go to the Aronoff Center to be honored for being fundamentally who you are.

See, life isn't a sport. We came here naked, and we'll leave the same way.

And, anyway, who are you without the awards? Hopefully, the same person worthy of them but content just the same.

contact Kathy y. wilson: [email protected]

Scroll to read more Opinion articles

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.