“What if the Negro people be wooed from strife for righteousness, from a love of knowing, to regard dollars as the be-all and end-all of life?”
—Of the Wings of Atalanta, Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois
According to Dyson, prominent Black people like Jay-Z and Lebron James embody “…the fruitful outcome of the opportunity given to black talent. It is a proud and effective affirmation of Black excellence.” (p.36) The premise of the entire book is Black Excellence. And thus, the entire book is como se dice…basura.
Black Excellence is a label we bestow upon a person of African descent who successfully “bright hustles” themselves into wealth, a presumed escape of White contempt and Black struggle. However, this label devalues the lives and aims of Black people who have not done so. If we are Black Excellence, because we are in law school, what of our cousins who work for UPS? What of our fathers, who are educated (whether by streets or by schools), but not employed? Black excellence ties and double knots the inherent value of Black people to our bank accounts and our worth to our productivity as measured by White institutions like the Grammys, the NBA, and the American Bar Association.
The institution of slavery smiles as it looks on between the lines of laws and prison bars. He smiles, because the premise of slavery is also that our value is deeply connected to our labor, productivity, and creativity. In the alternative, we must view ourselves as excellent, because we are Black and for no other reason. Our excellence is paid for in blood by our ancestors, the way Jesus paid for the sins of Christians in blood on Golgotha. No other payment is needed to be excellent, to be worthy of a title higher than “those who are left behind”.