Words that I believe every person of color should live by.
As a child, I was a part of a select group of black children that had their father around. Looking back on it, many of my close friends did not share that same reality. I honestly believe that having my dad in my life played a huge role in the adult I grew to be.
Of course with my nuclear family still intact, I learned a lot about marriage, relationships, and formed my own idea of a family dynamic. However, being a young black man, there were certain other things my father taught me. One of which was “nothing is free”.
Nothing Is Free
One of the earliest lessons I remember my father teaching me was that nothing is free. Once I was able to do chores or work, it became the norm. If I wanted something, I had to earn it. If I wanted a new toy or game, I had to work for it. If I wanted to go play with my friends on the weekends, I had to clean my room and finish my chores.
This lesson applied not only for physical things, but academic things as well. Whenever I didn’t get the grade I wanted in school, I would hear my father say “you have to work harder if you want it”. This constant reminder is what drives me today.
Black men are still not paid as much as their white counterparts.
Work 3 Times as Hard
The other half of the advice was to “work 3 times as hard”. Growing up, my father constantly reminded me that I would be a Black man in America. I didn’t understand back then, but today I am fully aware of what he was trying to tell me.
As a Black man, I already have 1 strike against me. Even though the world is different from the one my father grew up in, in many ways, it’s still the same. Black men are still not paid as much as their white counterparts.
My dad knew this so he gave it to me straight. In order to have what my white friends had, I would have to work 3 times as hard. This information didn’t register as easily as the previous.
In school, I was always A Honor Roll, in the top 5–10 of my class, and overall a well-liked and spoken of student. I had no idea that school life would be different from work life.
It wasn’t until I started applying for jobs that I understood where he was coming from. I had peers who were less qualified being given opportunities. I saw white peers who were “more connected” advance in their careers.
I had worked hard at earning good grades. I was a part of several organizations. My resume is great. My interview skills are solid. And yet, I still feel the need to go above and beyond in my job and interview process for a chance at the same job as my white peers.
I won’t go into the mental struggle of being a Black Professional Millennial in this post. Just know that when you see my success, I am silently reciting “nothing is free and work 3 times as hard”.