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Michael W. Waters Headshot

Stay Schemien': P. Diddy, Justin Combs, and the Media's Curious Portrayal of Black Achievement

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Two years ago, in celebration of his son Justin Dior Combs' sixteenth birthday, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs purchased for him a $360,000 silver Maybach. The media promptly attacked Mr. Combs for his benevolence towards his child. Mr. Combs was accused of setting a poor example for Justin by giving him such an extravagant gift at such a young age.

Furthermore, the media offered a grim outlook of Justin's future based on that gift. Justin would never know the benefit of hard work. Justin would be irreparably spoiled-rotten. Justin would be content just to live off his father's name and money.

They were wrong. Dead wrong! (Biggie Smalls reference intended.)

Instead of becoming the spoiled, lazy, uninspired young man of the media's misguided dreams, Justin has emerged as a young man with his head on straight. He graduated with a 3.75 GPA from a prestigious private school. He also showed athletic prowess and undoubtedly committed hundreds of hours to studying film, weight training, and off-season workouts to maximize his natural gifts. And as a result his tremendous effort, both in the classroom and on the playing field, the University of California at Los Angeles offered Justin a full scholarship to play football for the Bruins.

Bravo, young man!

In Justin, the media had the opportunity to celebrate a notable achievement. Unlike 50% of young people in many parts of this country who drop out of high school each year, Justin Combs stayed the course. Unlike thousands of young people who never progress in their education beyond high school, Justin Combs will. Unlike thousands of youth from well-heeled families who are of the spoiled, lazy, and uninspired variety, Justin Combs has steered clear from trouble, a tremendous achievement given the fact that he has come of age under a microscope.

Instead of celebrating Justin's achievements, the media has found cause and opportunity to attack this family all over again. What a poor example Mr. Combs is now setting for Justin! With his wealth, Mr. Combs should just pay for his son's tuition out-of-pocket. How dare Mr. Combs allow his son to take money that could be used to send some poor, struggling kid to college.

UCLA responded. Justin's scholarship will not keep some poor, struggling kid from receiving an education. The money for Justin's scholarship, as well as over two hundred other scholarships awarded to student-athletes by UCLA this year, comes from a fund all together separate, one set aside specifically for student-athletes, a fund supported in large-part by athletic department receipts. Case closed, right?

You're wrong. You're dead wrong!

The attacks continued. The ethical thing for Mr. Combs to do is to give a gift to the school's general fund if Justin accepts the scholarship. Anything less than one million dollars would be an insult given Mr. Combs wealth.

The unmitigated gall of the media (and admittedly, many within the public realm) to question the integrity of Justin Combs' acceptance of this earned scholarship. Is Justin the first child of privilege to be offered and to accept a scholarship? Hardly! Will he be the last? Absolutely not!

In Justin Combs, we find a young man who has studied, competed, worked hard, and has been fairly rewarded for his efforts. He could have adopted the mindset of many heirs of wealth; sit back, enjoy your life of privilege, and wait until you can fully cash in on your inheritance. Instead, he became the young man that any parent would justifiably be proud of.

What a curious portrayal of Justin's achievements by the media. Since when did being rich exclude you from receiving perks? Receiving perks in one of the main perks of being rich. Rich people are often beneficiaries at others' expense. Corporate CEO bonuses and tax breaks for the wealthy are just a few examples of the perks of the wealthy. Justin Combs did not receive his scholarship because he was rich. He earned it. Yet the media has portrayed him, and his father, in the same light as Wall Street CEO's who accept major bonuses while simultaneously laying off thousands.

Something far more sinister is at work here. Mr. Combs earned his wealth making people dance, making them look good, and through wise marketing and investments. Diddy has been wildly successful, and unfortunately, he is being made to pay the price for his successes. This is often the case when it comes to the media's portrayal of Black achievement. There is often an asterisk assigned to the achievement, to diminish it, even though there is no evidence of impropriety.

Let's be clear. This is not about Justin Combs. This is not about UCLA. This is about Diddy! And this is about the media's often curious portrayal of Black achievement, a portrayal that finds no inconsistency in attacking you on account of your wealth for purchasing your son a car he did not earn and for not taking from him a scholarship that he did earn.

No one has the right to deny this young man of his achievement or this father of his pride in that achievement. And since none of us were with Diddy while he was "shootin' in the gym" (Read working hard and earning profits), we have no right to tell him how to spend his money. If you do...

You're dead wrong!