To Be Young, Gifted, and Unapologetically Black

Many people say to me, “I don’t see color, I just see a person.”

I think it is about time that you start to see color.

I am black.

I am proud to wear it.

It is a badge of honor.

Seeing me as a black man would help you realize how I, along with many others, have to navigate this world.

When a black man is gunned down while he is jogging, you can expect social media to buzz. It’s easy to say, “I’m glad that doesn’t happen where I live.”

Many of us, regardless of color, have said that. Including me.

When you look at me, you see a confident, educated, capable individual on the surface. But inside, I have been suppressing forty years of experience in my skin, and a boatload of instances that suggest that this type of racism is not so rare.

A few years ago (when writing checks was still a thing), a clerk at a local grocery store told me it was against policy to write a check for more than purchase. They cashed checks for my wife all the time. She is Caucasian.

When we first moved to town, an older lady from the community stopped by to welcome us and asked if we had a church.  She suggested one to us that she had “referred another colored family to a few months ago.”

When Covid-19 hit, and officials were recommending that people wear masks, a part of me was more worried about people perceiving me as a threat.

I once looked at a pair of earrings at a department store jewelry counter. After the clerk locked them safely away in the case, she accused me of putting them in my pocket. My girlfriend pointed out her mistake; that was enough to settle it. She didn’t apologize.

I applied for a position for which I had more experience and was better qualified to do than the competition. I didn’t get the job and my boss told me it was because I was “rough around the edges.”

Earlier this year, my wife and I spent a long weekend with friends in Arizona. When we booked the trip, I started researching the social climate of the area we were headed. Finding it to have little diversity, I took my wife with me on my morning walks.

These are just a few of the realities that I have faced as a person of color.

A black man.

And yet, I, like others, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and persevere. It is what my mother and father expect of me.

I often feel bad for my wife, who married the love of her life – not realizing the anxiety she would experience with starting a family with me. She did not know the terror she would feel when she sees a person of color receives racial injustice. She did not envision the sheer horror she would experience towards those injustices as her sons grow older – the crippling uncertainty of their futures.

This is not a “woe is me” post. I need everyone in the room to realize that a person of color can go through life doing everything right:

– following the laws,

– getting the highest marks,

– receiving a degree,

– loving their family and community,

and still, receive “less than” because of their color.

This is not our father’s racism; this is systematic – and it is time we discuss it.

 

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