Willie Richardson / June 26, 2019

Victimhood and the Inferiority Complex

Winning the fight against this twisted form of pride takes a lot of self-discipline.

As quiet as it’s kept, many in the black race have suffered some time or another from the Inferiority Complex. The Inferiority Complex makes a person immediately excuse their shortcomings as being due to their race, socioeconomic status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, or social class. Being inferior is always attached to subconscious emotions that make a person feel less than good, although they are more than what they realize.

A few years ago I was chaperoning high-school students on a college tour. I spoke to a young man waiting for his inner-city school doors to open. He looked like excellence. His uniform was neatly maintained and his demeanor was that of a scholar. While his peers were cursing, talking loudly, and air boxing he was calm and mild tempered. I went over and struck up a conversation with him about attending the college tours that day. He said, “No, sir, I won’t be attending. I’ve already been to Tuskegee and Alabama A&M to visit. My mom actually went to A&M.” He was only a high-school sophomore.

Since his attitude stood out, I surmised the only reason he was attending this school was his zip code. I asked, “So why this school?” What he was about to say may shock you, but I didn’t flinch because I know so well the mindset of the typical black experience.

He shared with me that he had an opportunity to attend a local private school that is tops in the nation. He said, “I had a full academic scholarship, but I turned it down.” I pretended to be shocked to make him feel the magnitude of his ill-advised decision. “Wait, what? You’ve got five seconds to give me five reasons why you decided to turn down that private school education!” I counted as he spoke. #1 He said, “To [prove] a black person can come out of this school and make it” #2 He said, “To [prove] these [white folk] wrong about [us] not making it” #3 He went blank and I desperately told him to stop.

I asked him where he got the notion that white people didn’t want him to succeed. He exclaimed, “My first-grade teacher told me I wasn’t going to make it out of high school! She was Caucasian. I looked at him and said "Your teacher didn’t just walk up to you and say that. Did she?” He was staring at me as still as a mannequin as if he knew what was coming. He was quiet and I went on to say, “This is what your teacher said: If you keep cutting up in my class in first grade, then you won’t make it out of high school!” He shamefully dropped his head and looked up at me and nodded “Yes.”

He was ashamed because he knew he lied about her and was living as a victim of the Inferiority Complex. I felt sorry for him because up to this point, no black man had challenged his thinking of how he viewed himself and those who looked different around him. I reached out with both my hands and placed them on both of his shoulders. I looked right in his eyes and said convincingly, “Young man, [white folk] don’t care about what you’re trying to prove. First of all, it’s not even about them, it’s about you!” He looked at me as if he had seen a ghost. It was like tons of weight had been lifted from his shoulders to prove something. I told him he wasn’t being challenged there as he would be at that private school. He just grinned and nodded yes again. He thanked me for having a bold conversation with him and promised to see things differently going forward. Today, he’s excelling with a 4.0 in college.

This young, black scholar had embraced years of victimhood since the first grade not realizing that teacher saw something special in him that was going to waste. By accepting victimhood, he had simultaneously taken on inferiority and his “victimizer” in some way became superior to him and those who looked like him. The moral to the story is this: If black people think white people control them, then they must also believe whites are superior to them. Having a preoccupation with your importance or having an under appreciation for others is summed up in one word: Pride. Pride comes before the fall. It doesn’t matter if you’re white or black.

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