Life Choices · News and Society · Recreation and Sports

False Illusion of Black Success [RB]

As a Black male, father, husband, [former] university lecturer, and business owner, I am deeply concerned about the state of affairs in the Black community as it relates to economic self-empowerment and self-determination. 

There seems to be an ever-growing and popularized notion in many Black households that athletics is the avenue to securing long-term economic security. Rather than teach their children to teach themselves about entrepreneurship, mutual fund & real estate investing, debt avoidance, cooperative economics and brand building, parents are betting the farm in the hope that their children will one day have lucrative careers as professional entertainersand become the next Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Beyoncé, Taraji P. Henson, Idris Elba, Ezekiel Elliot or Dak Prescott.

Three out of my four children actively participated in high school sports (basketball and track and field) and as told by coaches and scouts, were good enough to earn full rides to top colleges/universities. On many occasions, I was approached by teachers and coaches who sought to “educate” me about the “value” of getting my children involved full-time in athletics.

These well-meaning educators threw around bait words like scholarships, tuition-free, school of your choice, or opportunity of a lifetime. As an academician and entrepreneur, those words fell flat and were meaningless to my economic senses. To the dismay and disappointment of those coaches, I told them emphatically that my children’s participation in sports should only be viewed as an extracurricular athletic activity and nothing more, and that my children were sufficiently prepared and equipped to seek other avenues to thrive economically.

Unfortunately, this approach is not one that many Black parents choose to adopt in that they have convinced themselves or have been convinced by others that athletics (and performance & entertainment) is the way for them and their children to escape a life of financial uncertainty. 

Being a successful Black person in America should not be synonymous with serving as anyone’s sporting or entertainment spectacle.

Here are some facts to consider. The probability of your son or daughter making it to the pros is less than 1%. The odds of your child getting struck by lightning in his/her lifetime is greater than the chances of him or her becoming a professional athlete. According to a study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the lower the education and household income, the more likely for those parents to encourage their children to pursue athletic careers.

In other words, the hope that their child will one day make it to the pros is often a poor person’s dreamor should I say, nightmare. Conversely, in households where the median income is above $50k, those parents are more inclined to guide their children toward academics or high-earning jobs, which have a much greater probability of yielding successful financial outcomes.

The fact that some Black families elect to push their children toward sports careers is not necessarily a bad thing. Nonetheless, if the goal is to build sustained economic security and independence, then pursuing sports, performance or entertainment careers is NOT the path to take.

As a Black community, we have to recast and redefine what success is, and looks like. Being a successful Black person in America should not be synonymous with serving as anyone’s sporting or entertainment spectacle.

The winning symbols of Black success should be the Black startup founder of a private equity firm with billions in cumulative capital commitments or the Black attorney arguing a case before the Supreme Court or the Black military officer commanding an aviation squadron or the Black luxury vehicle mechanic who operates his own shop or the Black pâtissier who supplies pastries, desserts, bread and other baked goods to large retail chains or the Black educator facilitating meaningful learning experiences.

Encouraging our youth to immerse themselves in organized sports in the hope of becoming professional athletes is not the best long-term economic plan—it is a pipe dream-a practically unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme.

Sociologists and Black thinkers see the push of Blacks toward sports, performance and entertainment careers as: (1) the rebirth of systemic economic disempowerment; (2) a way of maintaining social class structures that ensure the continuous re-centering of white supremacy; and (3) conformity to norms and symbols of oppression.

A crucial cultural difference is that Jewish parents are not pushing their kids toward sports; rather, they are raising future economists and finance experts. Asian families are busy developing mathematicians, coders and engineers. It is a historical fact that the economic system in the United States was not created with Black people in mind. Even so, this very real obstacle does not mean that Black people are destined to a life of financial constraints and economic insecurity. 

The economic forces of production and distribution can be tapped into by anyone. No social group has a monopoly on information, creativity and innovation. No one is preventing you or your children from reading a book on wealth-building. The “evil White person” or “the rigged system” is not stopping you from building a high-revenue and profitable business and enduring legacy. Economic security and access to opportunities are ripe for anyone’s picking—for anyone who is willing to put in the time, work and effort.


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25 thoughts on “False Illusion of Black Success [RB]

  1. I agree with your post. It’s insulting that anyone is conditioned toward athletics simply because of race.

    “Encouraging our youth to immerse themselves in organized sports in the hope of becoming professional athletes is not the best long-term economic plan—it is a pipe dream-a practically unattainable or fanciful hope or scheme.”

    So perfectly stated.

    I understand how sports appear exciting to youth because we glorify athletes with their multi-million dollar contracts, yet we fail to teach our children that everyone is replaceable; there will always be someone who is faster, taller, stronger. Academics is key. I want to see more black inventors, educators, business owners, doctors, authors. Not only do we need to teach this to our children, we need to re-educate our educators. I want our youth to break the mold and the stereotypes!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cherilyn, you captured the essence of my thoughts in your opening line. No person or group of people should be pegged into a little hole as though they’re incapable of becoming much more than society’s definition of success. Thank you for sharing. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m simply amazed to learn that it’s black people who are always into drugs, sports and entertainment. I’m so shocked and in total disbelief to see this as a systemic misguidance by even the educators!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Berni, thanks for sharing. I would counter by saying that it’s not Black people who are “‘always’ into drugs…” Social dysfunction and pathology do not discriminate– as they are variables that are present within every people group and society. And many Blacks choose sports because they are led to believe that athletics & entertainment are the quickest and often the only viable paths to wealth creation.


  3. Totally agree. I had a couple of people tell me that about my son playing football a couple of weeks ago. He’s 8. He’s big. I don’t care. He said he wants to be a scientist and since my mother is a chemist I’m excited as heck. Education matters more to me than sports. Not money or scholarships.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tikeetha, yes, yes and yes! 🙂 I absolutely love that you are actively parenting and thinking ahead about your son’s future in terms of science and academics. Keep up the excellent effort!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. He’s also my only child and I know the statistics on head injuries and he’s not at all interested in football. He likes having fun, but is a straight A student in science. So, other than letting him play soccer for exercise, I push academics. He is aware that college is a requirement and that we expect that he put his best foot forward. I make enough money to send him to college without going the sports route.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Josiah,

    Great article and thank you for saying it out loud. I feel the same. I have adult children and had the same challenges when they were in school. My ex husband is also involved in academia, graduated from a few good universities and has never been involved in sports or wants to. My children while built for sporting activities do not express any interest in that lifestyle either, thank God. Often times these sporting “careers” are feel good, short term, get rich quick “schemes” to dupe the individuals into falling into the trap of making money for someone else. Sure they benefit, but there is usually someone or some corporation capitalizing on their hard work, while they get the meager scraps. If the benefits were to be long lasting, more athletes would be better off today than they are. Making investments into their futures, their children and their community.

    In our community, poverty is cyclical. We have to make more informed financial, and strategic plans to include savings for long term goals and building wealth.

    Again thanks for such a super article. Love it.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crystal, you have captured the essence of the post with the following.

      “Often times these sporting ‘careers’ are feel good, short term, get rich quick ‘schemes’ to dupe the individuals into falling into the trap of making money for someone else.”

      That’s the part so many parents are not seeing, which is how these corporations (e.g., NCAA and the likes) are literally modern-day plantations exploiting workers for the sole purpose of maintaining the economic status quo…keeping their family legacies alive, at the expense of skilled dreamers (athletes).

      Thank you for your engagement!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see! We have to do better by black boys and girls. They will never see themselves in the position of architect or ceo if we teach them that their only option for financial freedom is to be an entertainer or athlete. Though these are options (however slim the chances may be) they should not be the ONLY options for success or financial independence

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, parents should be proactive in creating winning symbols of economic self-sufficiency and self-determination for their children. These symbols could be entrepreneurship, mutual fund & real estate investing, and other forms of wealth creation.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciate that your post was directed specifically toward the Black community, and it’s always good for people to encourage their own communities to greater heights, but since I am not a part of that demographic, I can’t really say more than that in that regard, however, from my own position, I would have to agree with Wendy by stating that there are many points in this article that are true across the entire ‘lower income’ spectrum, not racially exclusive. Things like not pinning all of your future hopes on sports, a reminder that sports and entertainment is a narrow path which very few people traverse successfully, and that the color of your skin (or where you are in relation to the poverty line) doesn’t dictate the areas in life which you are ‘allowed’ to be successful.

    This was a really excellent article. I know I wasn’t your ‘target audience’, but I believe that a truly good post will resonate across divisions like race, religion, age, and ‘class’ (using that unfortunate term VERY loosely).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amanda, thank you for sharing your thoughts. For this post, my target audience was minorities – specifically, Black people – a people group that has been historically and systemically denied basic human rights and liberties.

      I always find it interesting when pro-Black conversations are had, how quickly sympathizers of other movements and worldviews chime in and offer their opinions without a clear understanding of the issues that face the Black community.

      When European Jews talk about their history and what their people have been through, I don’t see the same eagerness to “correct” their speech or tell them that they should be more inclusive in their analyses.

      I make no apologies now, and never will, for bringing attention to issues that matter to Black people – people whom I love and deeply care about.

      Perhaps if you’d taken a bit more time to carefully and critically explore my blog posts you’d realize that the essence of my writing (and worldview) centers on relationship with human beings!

      This however does not mean that I won’t on occasions speak on other sensitive topics.


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