In case you haven’t heard, Justin Combs, son of Sean Combs, aka P.Diddy, has received a $54,000 athletic scholarship to UCLA. Because of P. Diddy’s vast wealth, a lot of people are up in arms about UCLA’s decision. Many folks think that because his dad is rich, though Justin “worked hard,” he should waive the scholarship and have his father fund his education. Other folks think that he should keep the money because he “earned it.” In other words, he is “entitled” to this scholarship. UCLA has defended its decision by pointing out that Justin’s scholarship is based on athletic achievement and that it is completely funded by the athletic department, rather than by state dollars. In other words, the athletic department has its own money and can use that money to do whatever the fuck it wants.
Honestly, I don’t really care about whether Justin ends up relinquishing the scholarship or not. The political economy of college athletics is a beast that I’m just not willing to confront. I’m more interested in how both sides of the fray are unquestioning of this idea of entitlement and how it plays into the fiction of Diddy.
This fiction is most apparent in Steve Perry’s recent CNN segment. In it, Perry explicitly says that P.Diddy “earned” his millions through his “own sweat.” It’s always weird to hear a Black man endorse bootstrapping (last time I checked Timberlands had laces and not straps) but coming from Perry, who has a history of endorsing meritocracy, this argument isn’t surprising. Perry eventually goes on to say that questioning the narrative of Diddy’s “self-made” success is “hate.” Implicitly, questioning Justin’s “earnings” is also hate.
Well I guess I’m a hater then. Accordingly, as a hater, I am obligated to point out that Diddy is not self-made. His success is the product of his efforts, his privileges and his fortune (in both senses of the word). It’s really important to emphasize his privileges because unlike many other rappers, Diddy went to college. Sure, he dropped out, but making it into college doesn’t indicate some innate smartness. Diddy also went to a private high school. There is undoubtedly a correlation between his family having money and him having access to higher education. The same goes for his son. Yes, Justin graduated with a 3.75 GPA that he probably worked to achieve and maintain, but the tools that enabled that success have been accessible since he was born. Neither Diddy nor his son are self-made. They have both been been crafted by the trifold forces of their ambitions, their privileges and their luck. To say that their success is the result of ambition is stupid and absurd.
To clarify, I’m not arguing for some absolute determinism where social conditions always dictate everyone’s ultimate fate. I’m just saying that this kid didn’t “earn” the scholarship in the sense that he pulled up his bootstraps and went to work. Nah son. His boots were designed by an NYU graduate, made in America and sold in a store where only rich ass people (aka his Dad) can afford to shop. Never forget.