Somewhere, someone is talking about “Scandal” and its season three premiere that aired last Thursday. Since the inception of the Shonda Rhimes-created hit, nearly each and every episode gives a wealth of fodder for discussion – and last week’s episode was no different.
In one of the most epic monologues yet on the show, Rowan Pope (Olivia Pope’s father) gave viewers a whole slew of quotables to get us through the week. “Do you have to be so mediocre?” and “I am the hell AND the high water!” had me sliding off the couch and rolling around on the floor in the fetal position. However, it was one quote that immediately took me back to my childhood – and as per my Twitter timeline, I wasn’t the only one who was slapped in the face with nostalgia.
If that isn’t the word of a race-conscious parent, I don’t know what is.
While my own father has never made me flinch at his touch like Olivia did with hers, Papa Pope’s ferocious insistence that his daughter acknowledge her societal deficits rang true. Both of my parents – especially my father – drilled into me from a young age that my Blackness (and later, my existence as a woman) would require me to work harder, smarter, and faster to be on equal footing with my white classmates. There were times when I thought they were paranoid and overreacting, and times when I understood all too well. It wasn’t until that moment on “Scandal” when I started to think: What has the Pope family motto – which at times has been my family’s rallying cry – done to/for me throughout life?
On the positive side of things, it instilled an importance for work ethic. I always loved learning, but the added challenge of excellence was necessary to push through the comfort of complacency. I was a strange child in that I actually loved tests and exams. There was no better feeling than knowing I was smart and prepared, so I looked at each exam as a worthy opponent, not something to fear. I loved to learn, but I loved to be the best – which brings me to my next point.
I learned to develop a healthy relationship with competition. Being involved with sports and attending an arts school that regularly had student auditions meant competition was inevitable. My parents were realists in recognizing that competition was an indelible part of the society we lived in, and chose not to shelter me from it. My parents taught me how to be a proud but gracious winner, and how to handle losses in a positive way. I grew to regard participation ribbons and other such tokens as a salve to soothe those who weren’t winners, and I didn’t need them. If I didn’t win, all I wanted to take home with me was a game plan on how I was going to do better next time. Competition was a part of life, and my family encouraged me to learn how to navigate it, not hide from it.