It’s lamentable when I turn on the radio and hear so many young men talking about what they have, did or will do. This show and tell false bravado seems to permeate the airwaves. Attention-seeking behavior rarely appreciates the level of appreciation it receives. It’s never enough. Modern day hip-hop culture has helped to norm this approach to life for many of our young. Now this begs a question about a certain segment of our culture, the poor and marginalized youth who seem to use self-glorification as a way to build their persona due to the fact that most visible means of support are missing from their lives, and the question is this: why? Why do so many feel compelled to act in this manner? Dr. Ryan T Howell hits the nail on the head when he wrote this article ‘What Drives Us to Get Our Bling On?’ (Psychology Today): “According to the urban dictionary, the term ‘bling’ came in to the modern vocabulary in the 1990s, possibly imported from Jamaica by American rappers, and meant to indicate either the imagined play of light bouncing off shiny jewelry, or the sound of the metally bits of jewelry ‘blinging’ against itself.
Whatever the specifics of its origin, it turns out to be no accident that a term meant to describe and draw attention to shiny, expensive possessions grew out of low-income, inner-city environments. As a new study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology demonstrated, the ostentatious display of expensive personal adornments is most likely to be practiced by people who perceive themselves to be of low status.”
As a Black male raised in an athletics-oriented family, I remember a gnawing desire to distinguish myself and be good at something. Muhammad Ali was my idol so I learned to talk trash, play the dozens and stay witty. Most of this was fun, but some of it was insecurity and false bravado. Fortunately I had a strong father who curbed a lot of this. I learned from his example that ‘self hype’ was meaningless. He said, “Let someone else toot your horn. If you are really worth something, they will.” Sadly, many of our youth don’t have a strong male figure in their lives to curb the excessive showmanship that constantly competes with peers in the form of possessions, women and trash talk. Stuck in a state of perpetual adolescence, the music reflects the wounds of children screaming for affirmation, even when they are well into adulthood.
This social commentary is about a chronic insecurity that has caused many of our young, disadvantaged youth of today to substitute gimmickry, fashion, sexual prowess, material possessions and catch phrases in the place of substance and gravitas. The unfortunate thing is this: once that behavior sets in it proves difficult to change and continues well into adulthood. The cries for attention can be concealed in religiosity, business, sports, entertainment, athletics and just about every other platform. Sadly, no amount of applause, bling or recognition can fill that void. Bling is to fool’s gold what character is to a good name. This is what we need to teach. This is what we need to live.