Of all of my favorite quotes about success, the G.O.A.T has got to be, “Supporting another’s success won’t ever dampen your own.” Bars!
But no, I’m not sure when the shift happened among millennials, is it when we realized that our college degrees are worthless without technical skills and connection? Or is when we realized those things and stopped deciding to help uplift the people who look like us.
If I learned nothing in this past year, it’s that you can in fact be a person with the most questionable morals, shady business deals, and a bad wig and become a leader of the free world; which I guess is one of the ultimate success stories.
But on a smaller and less evil scale, the idea of success has come to be less about making an impact on the lives of others and pursuing a passion and more about being a workhorse and getting a job that pays the highest salary. Success is subjective, but there tends to be a common thread in all success stories, and that is the idea of having a mentor, someone that you can learn from, who can vouch for your talent and work ethic, and serve as a confidant.
So where are all of the black mentors in the black community? Maybe I’m biased or just out of the loop, but it is no lie that most jobs are secured based off of who you know, and from what I have seen of other races, especially white people, is a greater willingness to put a friend, peer, or colleague in contact with a key person, or to read a blog post you’ve been writing, or art you’ve been creating.
Whereas, I’ve witnessed far too many instances of not supporting black businesses, black artists, or even our friends. So not only does our talent often fly under the radar, so many of us are stuck not knowing how to promote our skills because we are starving for a mentor.
A mentor is defined as a “an experienced and trusted adviser,” it can be your friend who knows the computer program you’ve been trying to learn, it can be a professional in a field that you are trying to break into, a professor, or your grandma’s friend’s cousin.
And yet, when trying to figure out how to brand a blog, social justice initiative, and market myself as a writer there were very few people willing to offer me guidance. There are far too many black people with all of the ambition in the world who cannot find a single person to support their work and guide their progress.
School would be the first place to think of when looking for a mentor, but in 17 years of schooling I had very few. While there may have been a professor or to who told me that I could write and that I could go into many different fields, the conversation stopped and started there. There was no meeting over coffee where I could pick their brain or gain insight from shared experiences; not to mention that there always seemed to be a disparity in who received mentorship and who did not?
So where are all of the mentors?
If I had to give three reasons, just based off of my own opinions, I would say that the lack of mentorship in the black community is due to:
The success of others should not diminish our own light, and yet there are too many instances of people not sharing knowledge because of competition that does not exist. A win for one is a win for all of us as far as I’m concerned, so if sharing your knowledge of video production, or proofreading someone’s novel, or telling someone who is new to your company about your experiences makes a difference then that is no way threatens your own achievements.
If you choose to put money, and your future into the hands of higher education, then you deserve to receive mentorship and advising that will help you realize your strengths, capitalize your passions, and that also offers constructive criticism. It is not a mentor’s job to merely pat you on the back, the same way that you cannnot be a mentee who is unwilling to hustle. But there are far too many “advisers,” who simply collect a paycheck and offer little support or professional development to students whose livelihood can be determined based upon connections and a solid series of mentors. Almost, two years out of college and I’m still looking for a mentor, after a failed program that was unable to match me with an alumni mentor, and a stint in grad school that also came up empty. If academic institutions cannot offer career resources, access to a mentor network, or provide an advisor who will be honest about the fact that now writing jobs expect you to have digital design skills, then they are wasting our time. The institution needs to do better.
Whenever melaninated people speak out about social injustice those voices are often snuffed out with a “oh but you do the same thing to your people,” sort of argument. Most of the time that argument holds not water. Except in this instance. There has long been a schism in the black community between those who are college-educated and those who are not, as if at the root of it all we don’t all face the same issues, and thanks to the woke black person trope, there is a gap between the “woke,” and the “unwoke.” Whatever side you exist on, pride often gets in the way of supporting members of our own community. There is often too much pride in not asking for help, or support, or wise words when you desperately need them, the same way that pride keeps those with valuable know-how and life experiences from sharing it with those who they think are unwilling to receive it.
Given the fact that Lucifer-reincarnate will be taking over the Oval Office in exactly two days, there is no better time than to believe in your worth, and to be someone who can help others believe the same. Yes, many of us know about struggle, and starting from the bottom, and doing so alone. But that should be the exception not the rule.