Why “You Can Be Anything You Want” is More Harmful Than Helpful
Caveat: I know a straight, white, middle-class raised man is not the voice that everyone necessarily needs to be absorbing right now, but I didn’t want to fully sit on the sidelines either as the countries soul is bared and people fight for justice and equality. It feels there’s no perfect way to wade these waters at the moment, but I thought this would contribute positively to the future I hope for our country, and since I live in Mexico City, I guess this is my form of a peaceful protest and my attempt to do something besides absorbing, learning, listening, and sharing shit on instagram. Lastly, I wrote this over 3 months ago, and only hit “publish” today.
Last night my partner and I lit a few candles and were in bed watching Netflix, cozy in the quarantine’s pocket. We ended up putting on a new standup special by Jo Koy, an accomplished standup-legend and proud Filipino. His special was taking place on his home turf, back in the Philippines, and it was more of a celebration of Filipino culture than a typical hour of solo standup. He introduced and shined a light to the world on Filipino break-dancers, music producers, singers, and budding standup stars. It was beautiful, funny, and joyful, and the underlying theme was: “See, we can do this, my fellow Filipino people. We can become famous rappers, producers, dancers, and comedians!” It was a nice sentiment, and he meant it in a positive, uplifting way, but I couldn’t help thinking, “No, you’re helping the bad guys!” every time a segment would end with that seemingly uplifting message.
It’s a sentiment so ingrained in our cultural DNA that you might have caught this special and not even noticed the countless rallying cries that resembled Kevin Garnett’s famous “anything is possible!” after winning his first NBA championship. If he was 5’11” instead of 6’11”, I highly doubt that he would have ever even been in the NBA, let alone victorious and screaming uplifting Instagram quotes into a television camera as a champion.
Here is the rub — we ignore all the variables that account for success, the systems, advantages, and pieces that add up to “making it.” We simply point out a few successes, we point to the ends…