“I was a success the minute I left Chicago’s South Side without a crack habit, a bullet in my head or a baby on my hip.”
I was immediately bothered when I heard this statement on a TV show that is now in syndication on TV One, but used to air on Showtime some years back. The statement was made by Teri, one of the characters on the Soul Food series. In this scene, Teri, an African American woman, was defending her decision to leave her position at a law firm, stating that her success isn’t defined by her job, it’s defined by the fact that she got out of the ‘hood without being murdered, pregnant or drugged-up. For some reason, I had a huge problem with that.
Let me be clear, I agree that our success is not defined by our position at work, but as an African American who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, I took the suggestion of this quote a bit personal. I get it, growing up in the ‘hood is hard. But does that mean that those of us who did should expect less of ourselves because of it?
I don’t want to be naïve, I know that the educational and exposure opportunities for children like me are different, and I know those are huge factors in success levels. But I believe that if we have low expectations for ourselves, we’ll never work to reach higher. We’re going to just stop right at the low bar we’ve set.
How do we personally and realistically acknowledge the inequities in communities like Chicago’s South Side, without lessening expectations because of it?
I grew up singing a song in church called, “Think Big.” (No, that’s not me singing on the clip. )The repeating line says: “I might as well think big if I’m gonna think at all.” I guess that’s all I’m saying.
I read a study about a coach’s expectancy with athletes. Athletes whose coaches have low expectations of them, just focus on technical stuff – just enough to get by in the game. But those whose coaches have high expectations of them, focus on their communication and overall development – the stuff that leaders are made of.
I came across another article that discussed a recent increase in students with disabilities attending college. Apparently the growth is due in part to changes in federal laws that have increased the expectations of these students in elementary and secondary school.
Here are a few quotes about expectations that resonate with me:
“We tend to live up to our expectations.” (Earl Nightingale)
“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are correct.” (Henry Ford)
“Your self-expectations are usually self-fulfilling prophecies.” (Unknown)
I love the Soul Food series. I actually used to schedule my classes around it in undergrad (true story, lol). So, this is not my attempt to bash Soul Food. It’s my attempt to have a real conversation about expectation levels, and a Soul Food quote just happened to be what sparked my thinking about this.
“I was a success the minute I left Chicago’s south side without a crack habit, a bullet in my head or a baby on my hip.”
So, am I overreacting? (I do that sometimes, lol.) Or does this comment insinuate low expectations for urban youth?
Do you think there is a level of truth in what’s she’s saying?
And moving beyond the context of this quote, how do we set expectations (goals) for ourselves while still considering the realities of our resources?
- Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say (classroomconscious.wordpress.com)
- Widest Achievement Gap Due to Low Income (uzimacommunityblog.wordpress.com)
- Urban Prep Again Sending All Grads To College (chicago.cbslocal.com)