During the turn of the 20th century, there were scholars and revolutionaries on both sides of the color line (Black and White) who were even more divided amongst themselves about the autonomy of Black Americans. You had one side of Black and White scholars who believed that the only way for Black Americans to thrive in America was to allow them to segregate themselves from the rest of the population. That way, none of their culture and ways would be stripped from them. They would be self-sufficient and govern themselves (to an extent, of course) and limit their contact with their White neighbors. On the other side, you had progressive Blacks and empathetic Whites who believed that since Blacks had played a major role in the very construction of this “great nation” then they should reap the same benefits as their Caucasian counterparts. They wanted a fully integrated society where one was judged by the merits of his or her character as opposed to one’s hue of skin. As history will clearly show us, the first group won out for the better part of the century. It wasn’t until after the Civil Rights Era that we started to realize the infinite benefits of the second group’s ideas. This piece will focus on the first group, though, because it was in that group that the Neighborhood Superstar and the Playa Hater were born.
It is naturally embedded in us as human beings to try to be the best at whatever it is that we do. It is human nature to enjoy a pat on the back from time to time. Whether or not either one of us will admit it, we are all (or have been at some point) attention whores. This goes back many centuries. People have always done things to try to draw attention to themselves. But the Black attention whore is a different animal. In the history of man, I don’t think that there has been a race of attention cravers who’ve done it with such style and flash (take Jack Johnson for example). And this is the essence of the Neighborhood Superstar.
Whether they did it willingly or they were forced to, Blacks were generally segregated from the rest of the population. So it became okay to some to excel only to the highest plateau in BLACK America (not America itself). Wealthy was a term used loosely, because looking at it from a broad view, very few (if any) Blacks were wealthy according to the standards of all those who’d owned plantations just a half a century earlier. However, in terms of the people who lived in their neighborhoods, they were indeed rich; a term of endearment still used today, “nigger rich”.
Those who had acquired such wealth were the ones fortunate enough to have access to resources outside of the Black community. And being among the wealthiest in the community was not enough. The fortunate ones had to let everyone in their community know that they were better off than the rest of them and as a consequence of their “wealth” they held more power than them. They had to wear nicer clothes bought from the “White” neighborhoods. They drove finer cars. They lived in nicer houses. Instead of trying to help those less fortunate, they rubbed it in their faces. They took on an attitude of “I got mine. You’ve got to get your own”. Thus, the Neighborhood Superstar was born.
Imagine being one of those people who was a friend of a Neighborhood Superstar before he became a Neighborhood Superstar. When neither of you had anything, you both made sacrifices for each other’s survival and well-being. But as soon as he acquires Neighborhood Superstar status, your friendship means nothing to him. He “buys” new friends, and no longer wants to do the things that you all used to do. Undoubtedly, some discontent toward your former friend will arise within your spirit. The more arrogant and flashy that your ex-comrade becomes, the stronger the discontent becomes. And the Playa Hater (as we know it) is born. I emphasize the “as we know it” because player hating (the bastard child of Hate and Envy) has been going on since Biblical times. Cain is the original player hater. He murdered his brother Abel in a fit of rage because their parents gave Abel more favor. Jacob is the most notorious player hater in history, because of what he did to his brother Esau. He stole this man’s birthright and blessings from their ailing and blind father, Isaac, by tricking him to believe that he was indeed Esau. God later changed Jacob’s name to Israel and an entire nation was born from him (Look at all Esau missed out on). Even those slaves who ratted out the plans of Nat Turner, Denmark Vescey, and various other slaves who tried to organize revolts could be put into a certain class of playa hater: the snitch. But that’s another story entirely.
But the Playa Hater as WE know it, started at the turn of the 20th century in segregated Black societies. Just as the Neighborhood Superstars adopted the attitude of “I got mine. You’ve got to get your own”, the Playa Haters adopted an attitude of their own: “He doesn’t deserve that. I want what he’s got.” And over the years, it (Playa Hatin’) turned into a “crabs in the barrel” syndrome. Every time someone tried to do better for themselves, there was always someone there to look down upon their looming success. Of the two (the Neighborhood Superstar and the Playa Hater), the Playa Hater has expanded itself among many different facets of life. The Playa Hater, today, can be found anywhere from a corporate board room (i.e. an all male staff trying to deny a deserving female an advancement opportunity) to the confines of a relationship (i.e. a woman’s best friend trying to dissuade her from being with a gentleman based solely but not overtly on the fact that that she, herself, is alone).
Even though these two staples of the Black community are a part of our rich culture, they both need to stop. So in closing, I leave words of advice to both the Neighborhood Superstar and the Playa Hater. First to the Playa Hater. To put it simply: STOP HATING!!! All of the energy that you put forth to stop someone else’s joy, could be used to bring joy into your own life. I can almost assure you that you would lead a more meaningful life if you spent the time to help someone rather than hurting them. And finally, to the Neighborhood Superstar, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do better for yourself, but I’d like to share with you this old Chinese proverb to take with you: The nail that sticks out is the one that gets hammered down.
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