|Reblogged from come correct|
Not everyone grows up having a role model in the traditional sense. I think that’s especially relevant for people of color with backgrounds and ambitions that society would say are at odds with one another. I think it’s also especially relevant for people of our generation, for as Shirley T said during our welcoming exercises, most of us will grow up to have jobs that don’t exist yet. Whatever slices of me you want to put under the microscope, I am a person who has to forge her own path. There wasn’t anyone I could look at IRL as a kid and say, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up.
In elementary school, during handwriting class, I remember that writing a letter to your role model was an oft-repeated exercise. It was always a struggle for me. The first time, I wrote my letter to my future self, telling her that she inspired me to work really hard and do well in school and at home. My teacher made me rewrite my letter, saying that I hadn’t understood the exercise. I tried to argue with her that thinking about wanting to be successful in the future is what motivated me to do well, which is how she had described who we should think of as our role model, but she was unmoved. I wrote my letter to my mom instead. The next year, I tried writing my letter to Tia from Sister, Sister, but my teacher again said that didn’t count, and instead I wrote to my dad. I alternated between them until this was no longer a thing we did, but it never felt right.
Why is it a problem that I latched onto persons who were mostly theoretical as models upon which to base my life? I think that Tia, Moesha, and all of the women of the Huxtable household are perfectly good roles for a young black girl to model herself on. I may not have had their family structure or their means as I was growing up, but I could tell as I sat riveted to episode after episode that their quality of life was what I wanted for my future. At the same time, I think it is a bad and perhaps quite dangerous thing to tell a child that their motivation is illegitimate if it comes from within. We live in a quite different time now, where a little black boy can look at the President of the United States and reasonably think, ‘Maybe that could be me someday.’ I only had the Huxtables, Tia and Tamara, and Moesha. But I never wanted to be President. I wanted to do well in school and manage my relationships effectively and go to college and lead a comfortable life, and that model for me was a future reality made of lots of bits of fantasy.
And look where I am now.