The new civil right: The right to fail…

My family went to the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington this weekend. It was a lovely experience as we walked and listened and saw all the different types of people that lived in this country sitting and standing next to us with their kids, in wheel chairs and in tee shirts with various slogans on them. An older white woman gave me the thumbs up as I took my three year old to the bathroom in the grass next to the tidal pool. Another older Asian woman shared her crackers with the kids, while a Persian and white couple allowed my children to watch movies on their phone. And of course, there were many black people who I saw from my church, my job, from mothers groups…it was great.

But the next day, I really understood what the original march and entire civil rights movement did when I watched Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. He had the youngest billionaire inventor of Spanx on his show. He then Proceeded to be astonished by this woman who had no business background(as he said ad infinitum) and created this empire with a entrance cost of $5000. That wasn’t the civil rights part, it’s coming soon.She said that what allowed her to deal with all the initial rejection was that her father raised her to embrace failure, and to find one thing a week to fail. This allowed her to try different things with out the stigma of having to be good all the time, so she didn’t attach negativity to failure.Here’s the civil rights part. I thought this was an excellent idea and said to my daughter, the same thing. “Let’s try to just fail at some things and enjoy the process!”  We’ll see if I can keep it up, but I hope it allows her to take risks without pressure. We all know that we learn tons from our failures. Far more than our successes .

The civil rights part? I can now tell my daughter to go out and fail a little. That was not an option as I was growing up. Nor was it an option for my mother, my grandparents, their parents…. You had to be great; better by a high percentage point than your white counterparts in order for you to have just theopportunity to succeed. You had to be a representation of the greatness if your race… all the time.  Failure was to be kept hush hush because that just might imply that you were not qualified; the larger implication draped around you that your entire race was not  really qualified for … well, anything that utitlized brain power.

This was not a my family thing. Every black family I know has this mantra imprinted on their skulls. But now, after all the struggles, though we have a ways to go, my child does not have to be a standard bearer for her entire race when she walks out of our house. I can encourage her to try and fail, not because as my dad said, “the school of hard knocks is a tough school, but you’ll learn something…” but because she, like everybody else can use the basic lesson of just try it out and see; maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. But think of what she’ll see and experience. Hopefully she’ll gain the fortitude to persevere in the face of rejection just like the Spanx founder, and have the optimism to know that failures can lead to success when you learn from them.

My daughters will finally have the right to fail.

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