I have asked black friends the question ‘what’s right with black people?’… and for some reason it seems to draw a blank. Someone even said – albeit jokingly – “there ain’t nothing right with us!”. We have become so focussed on our pathology that we don’t know what works anymore. Just this week, USA today published an article entitled ‘Goals for Black America Not Met’, based on research from the Eisenhower Foundation which shows that black Americans are still facing major issues to do with poverty and so on.
Frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of hearing about black under achievement and low self esteem and how far down the ladder we are. We shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t exist, but it’s about time our focus changed.
I’m a big fan of the Positive Psychology movement. Dr Nick Baylis, who runs Cambridge University’s Wellbeing Institute and is England’s only positive pyschology lecturer, was my tutor when I did Positive Psychology as part of my Social & Political Science degree. The Positive Psychology movement was born from the idea that psychologists had made a mistake in the study of human behaviour. Martin Seligman, father of the movement, realized that “rather than devoting attention to lives that had gone desperately wrong, psychologists should change tack, focusing instead on people for whom everything was going well. While psychologists knew virtually all there was to know about depression, he said, they knew almost nothing of the secrets of a happy life.” The black community needs its own version of a Positive Psychology movement.
Why don’t we focus on what works? How about we look at black people doing well? How about those achieving success? How about the young people who may have been in gangs or grown up in the projects but have managed to still do well in life? How about the black families which have stayed together and are happy? What can we learn from them? This will take us further towards where we need to be rather than the continual rehashing of negative news that we already know. It’s not just the media either, it’s all of us.
I’m a big believer in focussing on solutions rather than problems – but we can only focus on solutions if we truly understand what they are. This can only be done if we spend more time looking at those who are where we all need or want to be. So rather than looking at what’s wrong, how about we start asking ourselves and each other ‘what’s right with black people?’