Young, Black and Educated: When did it become UN-cool to be smart?

by Chadwick Roberson

Girl in science class

Welcome back my friends. It’s been a while since I wrote my last article, so I wanted to come back on the scene with a vengeance about a topic that I believe will have several people scratching their heads: “When did it become un-cool to be smart?” I would like to share one of my favorite quotes before I begin by Dr. Benjamin E. Mays.

“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life doesn’t lie in you not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in you having no goal to reach. It isn’t a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is certainly a calamity not to dream. It is not a disaster to be unable to capture your ideal, but it is a disaster to have no ideal to capture. It is not a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for. Not failure, but low aim is sin.”

One of my mentors gave me this quote during my senior year in college and I continue to read it on a daily basis. I truly believe Dr. Mays was not only speaking about having a dream in life and pursuing that dream, but I also think he was trying to make a point about educating yourself as well. By educating yourself, you will notice many more doors will start to open along the way. I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few months with several young people regarding their academics and possible career interests. What I quickly realized is that a large group of them believed that being educated or “smart” wasn’t cool. Most of the people I was speaking to were either Black or Latino. What really brought me to my knees was when a college student confessed that he purposely doesn’t try hard so he’s accepted into the popular “clique” of guys. I used to think the same until I had someone pull me aside and really break things down for me.

I’m trying to understand how we went from not being able to better ourselves through education to refusing it all together. The prison system and the increased violence in certain areas all point to what the lack of education will result in. As a member of the New York Urban League Young Professionals, one of our biggest initiatives is providing equal opportunity and education to all people. As a young professional, I believe we have a duty to inform those who will be coming after us about the importance of education. I would like to challenge each of you to take the time to encourage our young people and let them know that they can achieve greatness if they want it. Has anyone experienced this lack of confidence and timid activity when it comes to education? I would love to hear your story.

Remember – Not failure, but low aim is sin.

About the Author, Chadwick Roberson

chadwick-robersonChadwick Roberson is a Prime Brokerage Client Services Specialist in JP Morgan’s Investment Bank in New York. He serves as the primary contact for hedge funds and asset managers regarding their credit, rates and foreign exchange OTC trading business. He’s been a member of the New York Urban League Young Professionals since 2009. Prior to joining NYULYP, he was a member of the Black Executive Exchange Program (B.E.E.P)—the college arm of the National Urban League where he served as the Media Relations and Marketing Coordinator. His commitment to serving others and community involvement has blessed him with the opportunity to mentor young people from across the country.

Raised in Dallas, Texas he attended Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Chadwick is also a member of the Advisory Council for the Southern University College of Business.


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