Football player/ scholar Garrett Winn and my daughter Celine Foster were named Most Representative Students during the West Bloomfield Honors Convocation which is sort of like being named seniors of the year.
Both were Summa Cum Laude, which means you had a 4.0 grade point average and above and they drew the praise of black parents and grand parents. Both are black and for the older generation it gave them a sense of pride because it chipped away at an annoying stereotype that black people are not smart.
One lady approached Celine and said: “I was clapping for you as if you were my own daughter. This was huge.”
Sadly this is an issue. If you are black in America you have been told at some point that you are not smart enough and that you don’t belong. And some of that comes from other black people.
In a diverse school like West Bloomfield this was a big deal to some people. Winn is going to play football at the Naval Academy and Celine is going to study at Stanford.
Celine finished her high school career with a 4.39 grade point average, scored high in the ACT, wrote a brilliant essay that the Stanford admissions director praised, but she still was told by some folks the only reason she got into Stanford, Michigan and three Ivy League schools was because she is black.
Celine is a clown because she is sometimes messy but she works her ass off and is smart and personable. She is also the best writer in the family.
According to some folks I’ve never earned a job in sports journalism. I had to hear the same thing even when I got a prep job at The Detroit Free Press when I was 25 years old.
I heard the same when I was paired with Mike Valenti at 97.1 FM. I am not the only one. I have swapped stories with ESPN’s Mike Wilbon, the late Bryan Burwell and Drew Sharp. We were all told the same as we worked our way up from preps, to the NBA and later as columnists.
“You only got this job because you are black. You are taking away from a more qualified candidate.”
Would that better candidate have identified that the Freep was covering preps in its zone edition the wrong way and fight to change it? Would that better candidate had covered the Bad Boy Pistons better and earned their trust?
And would that better candidate been able to break a number of stories over the years because he or she earned the trust of athletes and coaches? I doubt it.
It used to annoy me but now I find it comical. I thought that issue was dead until Celine told me several people have told her the color of her skin rather than the quality of her work got her into key schools.
One girl caught Celine in one of those moods when she told her she s not quality enough for Cornell, Brown and Dartmouth and the only reason she got in was because she was black.
“I don’t see you going to any of the Jewish kids, the white kids or the Asian kids when you don’t understand your school work,” Celine told her. “You come to me.”
I was told not to go into journalism because it is not what blacks do. That came from my high school mentor who was black. Thankfully I ignored her and had a pretty good career at the Free Press, News and two radio stations.
The bottom line is if you believe in yourself and know you are qualified, you belong no matter what people say.
I am proud of my career just as I am proud of Celine. I got my job because I was the right person. She got into Stanford because she is smart and the right fit for the school.