Many times growing up as a black male in suburban and urban environments, I found myself competing against others that looked like me. I would “compete” for the smallest wins to the biggest: who had the best looks, more girls, the most friends, and of course, who the flashiest person in school was.
As black males like me grow and progress through the educational stages, we tend to learn and develop our self-concept from our peers. Over time however, I learned that I was not alone, as this is common within the black community.
I have found that we are in a constant state of competition. Competition within our community include but are not limited to topics such as job status and satisfaction, amount of monetary funds, highest level of education, and/or socio-economic status.
This competition then translated into my everyday adult life.
I found myself at 22 years old, still trying to compete with my peers as well as others that looked like me. I paid less attention to my own attributes and intrinsic motivations and more attention to what would allow me to gain notoriety in social settings. Although some competition is healthy, we (black males) tend to get hung up in this stage of life.
Sigmund Freud postulated in his theory of psychosexual development that no individual can move on through the stages until the previous stage has been completed. For example, an individual cannot be in the phallic stage until they have completed the oral stage of development. In this theory, individuals that did not correctly pass through these stages had continuous negative behaviors such as individuals who are “thumb suckers” throughout their life, people that constantly needed things in their mouth (e.g. gum), and even habitual cigarette smokers. I would like to propose that we as brothers are stuck in a stage of competition for too long and that it hinders us having the most holistic lives possible.
Once I recognized this and stopped competing, I felt free. I opened up to brothers that looked like you and I, and found so much support.
There are brothers that have previously accomplished what I am aiming to, and brothers that I realize I can assist to help cultivate their dreams and goals. There are also brothers that are enduring the same struggle that I am; finding myself and my niche in this tough society. There are brothers that are already fathers and want to help support us in parenthood. I have discovered so many different avenues of support that it almost makes me feel fatuous that I waited so long to unlock a treasure so vast.
There are enough outside forces that limit, distract, and deter the black man no matter what age. We should not be complimenting that system further, but instead we should be fighting against it. Less of the crabs in a barrel mentality, and more of a “let me help you brother because I see you are trying” mentality. So my desire is that, instead of an individuality of self-concept, let us begin to build others how we would like to see ourselves and watch us explode, allowing nothing to hold us back. Let us stop competing and begin creating.
Marcus Mason M.A. is a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor for a private practice in the state of Maryland. He is also the Director of School Engagement with a District of Columbia Public School. He is currently a graduate student in a doctoral program with a program of study in counseling psychology. Although always on the move and constantly working to progress today’s youth, he loves spending time with his family and hitting the weights.