I didn’t start out with the goal of becoming a Rhodes Scholar. As a kid, I didn’t even know what a Rhodes Scholar was. If I had known, I would have seen it as most people around me did: a dream too big for a kid from Compton, California. But that wouldn’t have stopped me from dreaming it. I’ve always dreamed big. For some people, that’s been a problem.
You see, in underserved inner-city communities like Compton, people don’t always like dreamers. Gangs look at a dreamer and think, He’ll never be one of us. And if he isn’t one of us, he’s a problem. Bad teachers look at a dreamer and think, That boy needs to know his place. The wealthy look at a dreamer and think, He’ll never succeed outside of shooting a basketball or rapping over a beat. Sometimes even neighbors and family members think dreamers are up to no good, because who would dare have big dreams in such a place?
They all think those things, but the truth goes deeper. Dreamers who reach high and strive to rise illustrate the stark realities of those who are left feeling like it’s better to just stay down than to climb and risk falling. Kids trapped in the same circumstances start off as dreamers too. Every kid I knew in elementary school had big dreams. But the dreams slowly faded away as the reality of dilapidated schools, gang violence, the unbalanced criminal justice system, and the lack of family support networks began to set in. Who can blame those kids when their environment is molded by oppression, systems ingrained long before their grandparents were even a thought? Living within the confines of what others tell you is possible is all they have ever known. A dreamer can also make outsiders think he is a threat to the status quo. It’s hard for a dreamer to find his place in this world. Any dreams coming from an inner-city neighborhood are tentative and can easily die from malnourishment. They are all dreams too big as far as a lot of people are concerned.
I’ve never let that stop me.