On The Pursuit of Happyness

by guest contributor Mrs. J, originally published at Our Kind of Parenting

I was thrilled to find out that Will Smith’s new movie about an African American father who beat the system , found personal success and financial security for himself and his young son was number one at the box office it’s opening weekend (grossing 27 million). No, that’s not the Smart Guy on the movie poster with Will, it’s his baby boy Jaden, looking all grown as he makes his big screen debut with his daddy. As if this movie wasn’t enough of a tear jerker already.

Just the fact that a drama starring black characters that aren’t cooning it up or shooting eachother up could make it to number one is enough to have me bringing the Kleenex to the multiplex. I’m so tired of the maudlin Soul Food wannabees and the buffoonish Soul Plane regurgitations make me hurl. And then we’ve got the stereotypical gangsta violent flicks that played themselves out more than a decade ago. Everybody knows that’s not what black people are all about anyway (or at least I hope so…) Give me a “feel-good” movie starring some black people any day. And no, nothing by Cuba Gooding Jr. will ever count.

We couldn’t find a sitter on Saturday night, but were fortunate to catch the incredibly charismatic, real life inspiration for the film, Christopher Gardner, being interviewed on the Wall Street Journal Report. In addition to Gardner’s personal account of how he made it, I was struck by hearing his story about how he sold shares to a racist Texan who repeatedly called him nigger over the phone before buying options from him. And that his biggest problem is not being able to sleep at night because his “face hurts so much from smiling all day.”

To be perfectly honest, the first question to cross my mind was “Did this brother make it without selling out?” Kinda hard to know without seeing the film. But just on speculation, I’m not sure how much it matters – Gardner obviously had the last laugh. In a previous life, I knew many a college educated brother who were perfectly content to live off mommy and daddy because they “didn’t want to work for The Man.” Where are they now? Not exactly uplifting the race. Last time I checked they were still unemployed, living in their parents’ basements, spending entire days playing video games and smoking weed (sorry, but you know who you are).

Most black professionals, present company included at one point in time, have had to wear Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s proverbial mask at some point. It’s no secret that assimilating into corporate America isn’t easy when you’re black, whether you’re holding a JD-MBA or – in Christopher Gardner’s case – an eviction notice. I can’t help but wonder if complete and utter desperation, as in this particular case, makes sporting that bad boy just a little more bearable.