Black Gen Z

Cheer Not Sneer: Black Gen Z Success – by Elwood Watson

Anyone familiar with the rituals of college life knows that we are in the midst of college acceptance and rejection season. Recently, Lamar High School student Micheal Brown of Houston, Texas made national headlines when he gained acceptance to all 20 colleges and universities he applied to, including four Ivy League institutions: Harvard, Yale, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania. Stanford, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins and 13 other top-notch colleges and universities said “welcome,” as well.

The story doesn’t stop there. Each institution awarded him a full scholarship – a remarkable accomplishment, indeed! Videos of the young Brown yelling ecstatically as he was surrounded by equally ecstatic friends upon learning the wonderful news made headlines across the globe.

When I first got wind of the story, I immediately went to social and print media publications to peruse initial reactions. Indeed, a story of this magnitude was bound to attract considerable attention and reaction. I was elated to see such a hard-working young man achieve such a well-deserved milestone.

As it turns out, it seems that most other people were happy, as well. The young Mr. Brown was showered with numerous congratulations and well wishes from friends and strangers both domestically and globally. Congratulations poured in from numerous celebrities, reporters, academics, readers and others. Former president Bill Clinton gave a shout-out and saluted the young man for his impressive accomplishments.

That said, unfortunately, there were others who wanted to rain on Brown’s parade. Rather than join in the ample chorus of good will that was directed toward the teen, a group of Washington. D.C. Fox News affiliate anchors – Holly Morris and Allison Seymour along with podcast host and contributor Sarah Fraser –attacked and belittled Brown, referring to his decision to apply to 20 schools as “ridiculous,” “obnoxious” and “showing off.”

Fraser’s rationale (if you want to call it that) for making such ill-tempered remarks was due to the fact that, in her opinion, he was “wait-listing other kids!” As she saw it, Brown had no business applying to so many schools and forcing other kids to be placed on waiting lists. Shame on him! Lady! Please! Get Outta Here!
Morris and Seymour were equally irrational in their comments. I am assuming the fact that he earned a 4.68 GPA and a score of 1540 out of 1600 was lost on them.

Predictably, Black Twitter and other avenues of social media went on the predicted war path and took the anchors to task for their arrogance and ignorance. Special contempt was reserved for anchor Seymour, who is Black. Many observers of social media suspected racial animus was involved. Given FOX News demographics, such an assumption is not out of the question.

I was appalled to see three adults, regardless of race or gender, attacking and insulting a teenager for achieving a highly unlikely goal where the odds of success are likely futile, at best. A sad commentary on their part, for sure.

Morris has stood steadfast by her position and Seymour has checked out from social media for the time being. Fraser eventually spoke with the young teenager and offered her apology. Brown confirmed that a conversation with Fraser had taken place.

This is all good, but such a situation should have never occurred in the first place. Grown adults taking potshots at teenagers and young people in general is tasteless and devoid of any sense of class and decency. Ask Laura Ingraham, another Fox News host. Indeed, FOX needs to get its act together and check themselves on targeting and attacking young people. Once again, I blame them all, but Ms. Seymour should have known better! What was she thinking?
The fact is that in a current-day America, far too many Black children and teenagers (this is the case for a number of poor White communities, as well) are growing up in environments where vices such as drugs, HIV and crime are rampant. Abject poverty, broken homes, intense health disparities and echoes of hopelessness and despair fill the air.

Amid such sobering realities, Brown is a shining reflection, testament and stark reminder that there is indeed hope and promise in many Black communities and that all is not lost. Let’s hope that he and others like him will continue to rise, ignore the detractors and naysayers and serve as a positive inspiration to their peers.

Elwood Watson

Elwood Watson, Ph.D. Is a professor of History, African American Studies and Gender Studies at East Tennessee State University. His most recent co-authored book is Violence Against Black Bodies:An Intersectional Analysis of Why Black Lives Continue to Matter.(Routledge Press, 2017)

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