The Price of Black Ambition
October 9, 2014 11:05 AM   Subscribe

2014 might well be "the year of Roxane Gay," but even as Ms. Gay experiences unprecedented personal success, the price of black ambition is never far from her mind.
I am thinking about success, ambition, and blackness and how breaking through while black is tempered by so much burden. Nothing exemplifies black success and ambition like Black History Month, a celebratory month I've come to dread as a time when people take an uncanny interest in sharing black-history facts with me to show how they are not racist. It's the month where we segregate some of history's most significant contributors into black history instead of fully integrating them into American history. Each February, we hold up civil-rights heroes and the black innovators and writers and artists who have made so much possible for this generation. We say, look at what the best of us have achieved. We conjure W. E. B. Du Bois, who once wrote, "The Negro race, like all races, is going to be saved by its exceptional men." We ask much of our exceptional men and women. We must be exceptional if we are to be anything at all.

Roxane Gay previously: one, two, three, four.
posted by divined by radio (4 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
We must be exceptional if we are to be anything at all.

I have never seen the entire problem of racism wrapped up so neatly in a single sentence.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 AM on October 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Not only is Roxane Gay incredibly sharp and incisive and insightful and just generally speaking amazing and eloquent, but she has this particular wry turn-of-phrase that makes her essays an incredible pleasure to read:
The concept of a big break often implies that once you’ve achieved a certain milestone, everything falls into place. Life orders itself according to your whims. There is no more struggle, there is nothing left to want. There is no more rejection. This is a lovely, lovely fantasy bearing no resemblance to reality. And yet. I have noticed that my e-mails to certain key people in my professional life are answered with astonishing speed where they once were answered at a sedate and leisurely pace. I enjoy that.
I'm very glad she's getting some semblance of a moment, however long that may last, however much more she may desire.
posted by Phire at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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