Over on my blog, I’m doing a series entitled Ladies First, and it’s not too late to get in on the action. For this installment, let me descend further into my heroine addiction and discuss the awesome that isMonica Dawson from the TV series Heroes.
When it comes to Heroes, *sighs*…… I actually watched the series until the end of season 3 and then I had to move on. Between eliminating excellent characters, shoddy writing (or lack of writing for that matter), and plotholes you could steer planets through (as a buddy so accurately stated) I could only be patient and loyal for so long until I could takes no more.
One of the few gems of the series came in the form of a new character introduced in season 2: Monica Dawson aka “St. Joan.” The cousin of Micah, this New Orleans native’s storyline touched me on a deeper level than I surmise the writers ever intended.
Bright, ambitious, beautiful, fiercely kind, Monica is a young woman with dreams and goals. Though grounded and sensible, her dreams lies within the stars and she’s not afraid of hard work to see them become a reality. In fact, she welcome the challenge. For instance, working at a fast food restaurant, she applies to be a manager, and while already over-qualified, she has to contend with legions of people (friends and boss alike) eager to line up and tell her why she can’t have the job, why she shouldn’t apply for the job and in essence, remember her place, as a woman and a person of color. Which is why her muscle mimicry ability to imitate any physical motion she witnesses was poetic on too many levels.
You see, Monica Dawson’s story represents the black experience, particularly for those of us who commit the ultimate sin and dare to be ambitious and dare to strive for greatness. You see, too many young black kids have to deal with legions upon legions upon legions upon legions upon legions of white folks shooting down their dreams and sabotaging them at a young age. It’s more common than most people realize and yes I speak from personal experience.
When you’re a minority (whether it’s based on gender, ethnicity, orientation, etc.), you’re treated as a second class citizen. There’s legions of ignorant assholes lining up to “put you in your place.” And when you’re eight years old and a minority, it’s hard to develop a positive sense of self because you have the entire world telling you that you’re inferior because your skin is brown and your hair is coarse. You’re told to ignore those attitudes but it’s kind of hard to ignore when you’re eight years old and your classmates are calling you the n-word daily and reminding you that you’re inferior because your ancestors were slaves.
And it didn’t stop there. Racist whites resented me because I refused to be their form of ethnic entertainment. They were threatened not only because I was “uppity,” “elitist,” and threatened to debunk the myth of there being a master race and we’re all either formidable or not based on our merits as people and not our race. On the flipside, I was reviled by self-loathing blacks who bought into the lie and was considered by them to be an Oreo because apparently it’s written somewhere that blacks who are articulate (he speaks so well), intelligent and ambitious, listening to “white people music” or simply define themselves by their character and not solely by their race are clearly aspiring to be white and as such are abdicating their Negro Card. It’s like being a person without a country. Sadly it wasn’t until college and meeting other awesome progressive black peeps online that I learned that I wasn’t an anomaly or some abberation of nature.
And imagine having to deal with that daily, especially if you live in a small town or in the South. Then you turn to the media and virtually every representation of people who look like you are either in some marginal token sidekick role or refinforcing every denigrating racist stereotype about minorities (i.e. BET). Three things usually happen with minorities who face this daily: 1) you will either allow yourself to be bamboozled and play the role of the negative stereotype. 2) It’ll empower you and you will strive to be better. 3) It’ll drive you insane. I think in my case it was the latter two.
Precocious personified, I was 13 going on 50 and was driven like none other. However despite the grades, the awards and the other accolades, it was most disheartening to constantly see lazy entitled white classmates spoon-fed opportunity after opportunity which they pissed away. Yet when I reached out to teachers and showed them my plans (we’re talking detailed plans and everything), many of them acted nonplussed and couldn’t be bothered.
“Maybe we should be more realistic about our goals in life,” too many of them would say. “You know they’re doing wonderful things at McDonald’s and the custodial service would be right up your alley. But you are tall and lanky, if you work hard enough, you could get into the NBA.”
Bill Cosby said it best, “When a white man falls off of his chair drunk, he’s just a drunk but when a black man falls off of his chair drunk, it’s the whole damn Negro Race.” Or better example is that being a minority is like being a part of the House of Gryffindor. The failure of one means a failure for the entire minority, but a victory means there was some kind of chicanery or unforseen anomaly involved.
In high school, I attended this academic magnet school before I got a scholarship to attend a private school which I graduated from. At the first high school, there was this one white teacher who would constantly give me grades lower than what I earned on my homework. When I asked why she gave me a 95 or 90 instead of a 100, she would roll her eyes, act nonplussed and put out for me questioning her about my grade, and would then change it. What’s the big deal you ask? Simple. If I earn 100, I expect to get 100. Not 90, not 95, not 99, not 99.9, 100. If I didn’t earn it, I don’t want it. But if I earned it, trust I will be collecting.
I also remember when I was 14, there was this white female co-worker who couldn’t understand why my Mother wouldn’t discourage me from pursuing computer animation rather than more “realistic goals.”
“What am I supposed to tell my son?” my Mother asked her, “Not to pursue his dreams?”
Grade tampering, derailing is just the tip of the iceberg for too many black children. And then they wonder why we get discouraged, don’t apply ourselves and don’t bother. Oh and to that co-worker, allow me to display the following . . .
[raises bachelor degrees in English and computer animation, demo reel, freelance work, demo reels of the college students he taught, their freelance work, awards, and two middle fingers to boot]
I tell you all of this so you can understand why I have such a deep appreciation for Monica Dawson. In powers and character she’s an allegory to the testament of us ambitious POCs; to quote Annie Oakley:
Anything you can do,
I can do better.
I can do anything
Better than you.