Why Being Black and Proud Will Make You Happy

March 9, 2011  |  

Remember the theme song to the 70s black television sitcom Good Times?

Temporary lay-offs.

Good Times.

Easy credit rip-offs.

Good Times.

Scratchin’ and survivin’.

Good Times.

Hangin’ in the Chow line.

Good Times.

Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em

Good Times.

There has always been a running joke about the lyrics in the Good Times’ theme song. But, what was so great about black folks in the projects struggling to survive? If anything, those aforementioned situations sound downright like a miserable existence.

However, a new study, which appears in the current issue of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology—a research journal published by the American Psychological Association—may be able to help shed some light on why being black and poor can mean good times. According to researchers at Michigan State University, African American people who identify more strongly with their racial identity are generally happier than those who don’t.

It has been a long-held belief that a person’s happiness depends upon a number of external factors, including making lots of money, having nice material things, being a parent, falling in love or achieving some heights in one’s own career. However, this new research suggest that those who are black-centered — or in other words, thought that being black was an important part of who they are — felt more fulfilled with their life as a whole.

This new research supports previous studies, including a Pew Research Center study, which suggests that material things like money are less of a factor in determining happiness for blacks than it is for whites. It’s also a conclusion that has been championed throughout black-nationalism and Afrocentric circles for years, extending back to the black pride movement of the 60s when black folks picked Afros and pumped black fist in the air as a sign of racial identity and solidarity.

Of course, racial pride should not to be confused with racial supremacy and superiority, which is mostly bred out of fear of the “others” and one’s own disempowerment. To the contrary, black pride is similar to what Italians feel when marching in parades and waving Italy’s flags on Columbus Day, or Irish Americans feel when discussing the trials and tribulations of Ireland. It’s about celebrating one’s own cultural, physical and sociopolitical contributions to society while relying on the emotional significance and personal empowerment that comes from being associated with said racial group.

That’s why it should come as little surprise that black secondary-aged students seem to succeed more in Afrocentric-focused educational environments and that the top eight colleges producing African-Americans who get PhDs. in science and engineering over the previous decade were Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
If anything, this new research gives weight to the idea that being black doesn’t necessarily have to be a burdensome experience and that there is hope, strength, fraternity – and yes, good times – for those who have yet to declare that they are black and proud.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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