Nicki Minaj, one of the greatest minds of the 21st century, states in her lyrical masterpiece, “Moment 4 Life”, that she is not “lucky”, she is “blessed”. Frequently, this word “Blessed” is thrown around everywhere in hip hop culture. Big Sean, Chance, Kanye (pronounced GOO-AT), DJ Khaled, all use some variation of the word. You find it in Instagram captions that read, “I’m blessed to have such great parents,” from that one friend who hasn’t stopped calling herself broke since you met her, but her parents bought her a new Mercedes Benz last week. The core of our country’s very own nationalism stands on a phrase that centers on this word: “God Bless America.” So often it is repeated that we fail to hone in on the concepts that surround “bless”. If we stop and think about the actual meaning of the word (of course excluding when this word is used jokingly, i.e. #BlessUp), we find that it serves a rather negative purpose.
Variations of the word “bless” are undoubtedly used in a religious context. You wouldn’t find Emma Watson’s twin, Richard Dawkins, throwing the word around very frequently. In Western-Christian tradition, to be blessed is to acquire a good or a service from the big man himself, usually implying that you are somehow in God’s favor or “mercy”. Meriam-Webster defines “bless” as to “provide (a person, place, etc.) with something good or desirable.” * In contrast, the lack of material or social goods implies that something along the way happened to cause that situation. For example, if a child was born sick or to an impoverished family, religious figures would often declare that child cursed due to the actions of his mother, father, grandfather, etc. The thing that was important is the fact that the somehow God was not to blame, human’s “inherent wretchedness” was (as we will learn/have learned from our friend Augustine of Hippo). In essence, when people use the word “blessed” in a serious manner, they declare that they (or someone around them) did something to be in god’s eye or favor. And here is where the statement begins to get problematic.
To assert one is “blessed” delivers snippets of entitlement, that suggest somehow one deserves what they have. Because one was born in a first world country, to a middle class family that values education, does not mean one is “blessed” (for one did nothing to deserve such honor), it means one just got lucky, randomly chosen. And if the argument is made that it is simply God’s “mercy”, then why do children in Malawi not qualify for the same compassion? As we move towards a more logic-driven world, we can see that the idea that somehow we did anything to deserve what we inherently have or have had is preposterous.
I don’t write to ask everyone to feel guilty about their circumstance, but rather to be conscious. To understand that one is simply “lucky”, randomly assigned to have their social and economic climb be somewhat easier compared to others (and this applies to everyone, for there is always someone that has it harder). I challenge us to rethink our progress. To wonder if we truly would have learned to code at age 12 without our parents being able to afford a computer, or if we could have read every work of Shakespeare ever written had our household not valued the arts. Obviously there is still much work to be done, and simply deeper thinking of our diction may not solve all our problems, but it will definitely change conversations, and hopefully alter our focus to make it more inclusive.
*”Simple Defintion of Bless.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
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