By Jeremiah Carter
Young black people are often
advised to be “twice as good.” The charge is given as a way of
acknowledging that being simply good enough will not suffice in a
society that diminishes black people. However the "twice as good" notion
has proven to be quite limiting, particularly in incidents that involve
young black men and police officers.
questions about Michael Brown’s character, following his violent death,
suggest that black men must prove to be perfect even beyond the extent
to which law requires. Over the last couple of weeks, Brown’s rap lyrics
– with questionable content and apparently inappropriate language –
have been highlighted as a way of making a case against him in the court
of public opinion.
One of the ways "twice as good"
is limiting is in the way victims, particularly dead black males, are
defended even by their own supporters. In my estimation and experience,
there seems to be reservations when it comes to defending black males
who never established themselves as virtually angelic. The standards to
which black men are held seem unrealistic.
time, we absorb and disseminate contradictory advice. On the one hand,
we assert that "I Am A Man,” as a response to treatment that suggests we
are sub-human. On the other hand, our “twice as good” mantra sets the
bar at an extra or superhuman level.
The right to
humanity should not be an exclusive one. It is a right to complexity and
the right to make mistakes; and in America, it is a right to a fair
Notebook on Mike Brown and Ferguson
Jeremiah Carter, who graduated from Hampton University in May, is
now a graduate student in the literature program at Southern Illinois
University Edwardsville. He is a contributing writer at the Cultural