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Do We Put Black Leaders on Too High of a Pedestal?

As it is Black History month, we are reminded of all of the great leaders our race boasts about: MLK, Malcolm X, WEB Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Barrack Obama, Ida B. Wells, and the list goes on. I can remember as a young student learning about these great figures and admiring them, yet always having a feeling that I could not amount to their greatness. I always felt as though they were demi-gods who were untouchable. Their stories were awe-inspiring, their biographies were tear jerking and yet, I have always felt a great distance from these great leaders.

It seemed that no matter how much I learned about the hardships they grew up in and how they rose above negativity and prejudice, I could never achieve half of what they had. I know I couldn’t be the only student in the room feeling this admiration followed by some impossible longing. It seems that all historical figures, black or white, must have had some super-human quality that pushed them to great heights. But, I feel with the black figures, there had to have been an even stronger mental muscle to fight through racial prejudice.

My fear is that children everywhere will have this same feeling of inadequacy when learning about the notable figures of our race. Speaking for myself, my sense of defeat that I could never achieve what they did caused me to settle with what I was comfortable doing. But, the fact is that these leaders pushed their limits at times in order to fight for what they thought was right. I worry that young people believe someone else will take care of society’s problems; someone else will go beyond their self-interest for the interests of others; and someone else will flex that extra muscle to get things done.

I personally am tired of waiting for other people to help fix the problems I see around me daily. If everyone has the mentality that “someone else will fix it”, no one will get things done! The prominent Black leaders certainly didn’t wait to see who could solve the problem before they had to get up to do anything. I know that everyone cannot achieve all the seemingly impossible things our great leaders did, but I know there are small steps we can make to feel closer to these leaders. I genuinely believe that the closer we feel to these Black figures, the more likely we are to act as they would in our daily life. My challenge to myself and others is to go out of the way, past our comfort zones, to right a wrong we know is taking place.