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July 4th, 2021

9:23 AM

The Stigma of Intelligence

For most of my life I've been called 'smart', 'bright', 'proper'. The last description isn't meant as complementary, instead it's been used as a mockery towards a person such as I. In the dominant society, intelligence is appreciated, valued. In the Black community, it's seen as someone who thinks they're 'better than you', a stigma such as the usage of the word proper to be applied to you like a scarlet letter on your chest. Intelligence carries with it a curse - one where your own people will shun you simply for possessing a mental acumen that's higher than the rest.

It's a stigma that even at this late age, I find it difficult to shake off. If I performed well in school and achieved high grades but keep quiet, does it mean I think I'm better than my classmates? Isn't it a sign of earning an education that will lead me towards a better way of life? Will being intelligent gain me the friends and associates I deserve? Once the intelligent person uses words, language that is not normal to their peers, they will not see you as a person worth knowing. They will see you as someone they will stay away from.

Even in a romantic setting, that stigma is hard to shake off. The intelligent person may like a person of the opposite sex, but the person whom the intelligent person likes is too afraid to move forward because they feel threatened by the intelligent person. They stay away from him/her and either find someone else or choose not to deal with that person altogether.

It's hard to grow up in a community where a trait to be celebrated is looked upon as a sign of disdain or hatred against that person who is intelligent. The irony is in school and in college, difference makers in history are known for their intelligent plans and fiery speech. Who knows if the intelligent person rejected by the rest is destined to be one of those difference makers? We will never know.

I would love to go inside a classroom and observe serious young men and women in study, understanding intelligence is a benefit not a trait to be rejected because it's 'not cool'. The goal of becoming a 'class clown' in school may be fun in school. In the real world, it doesn't get that person far. Intelligence does. It's a shame not too many of our young people understand this.

Intelligence is a value that elevates you to levels of success. It helps you become a well-rounded man or woman. Once we accept that it is something everyone can attain instead of rejecting it, the much better off we will be.

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