Black History Month is an important time to celebrate the influence African-Americans had on history, but it’s also important to recognize that this history isn’t just “black history,” it’s everyone’s history.
While we’ve come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, we have far to go and it’s so important to me that I continue my family’s legacy of progression.
My grandmother is the strongest person I know. She lived through hardships I can’t imagine and made so many sacrifices in order for her children and her children’s children to benefit and lead a better life. Because of her sacrifices and the sacrifices of so many others, I’m able to pursue an education and live out my dreams. That’s why, in addition to being a WWE Superstar, I am actively working on attaining my Ph.D. Despite the hardships my grandmother faced, she is one of the most positive people I’ve ever met. She always has a smile on her face and that has had a profound effect on me. I always look for the positive in life and never stop trying to better myself.
Back in high school, there was a wrestler who was a few years older than me and the star athlete of the team. After he graduated, I won the first big tournament of the year. I was so excited and commented to my coach that I felt just like that star athlete that graduated. He said, “Why? You should feel like Austin Watson. You should never compare yourself to anyone around you.” That stuck with me. It taught me to be proud of who I am and my own achievements, whether that’s winning a match or not conforming to anyone else’s idea of who I am or should be. That’s something I really try to pass along to the kids I meet as a WWE Superstar.
Growing up, I didn’t have great social skills, but I found that I was able to better communicate and find friends through video games. That’s actually what brought me out of my shell and lead me to pursue sports. Of course, being a young, black “nerd” who liked to play video games wasn’t considered “cool,” and I got picked on. In adolescence, you look to your peers who are “cool” and “popular” and you let them define who you think you should be rather than celebrate what makes you unique. Being a gamer is what makes me unique and fun! There is no need to be ashamed of who you are and what makes you happy.
Regardless of race, it is important to live by your own standards and not those set for you by society. We are all individual people, not groups labeled according to color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. I hope that we can use Black History Month as a reminder to build bridges rather than boxes.