It’s concerning and I’ll tell you what, I have a headache. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I’m drained. I honestly can’t imagine how it can be justified anymore. It’s becoming an uncanny trend where our law enforcement is quick to pull the trigger on our citizens of color but saves individuals that commit acts of terror on US soil – people who sincerely hate our country and everything we stand for.
I’ve lived in Washington, DC for almost two years now. I’m originally from suburban Raleigh, NC. I grew up with the privilege of having both parents present, played tennis at numerous country clubs, taught tennis at one of the most prestigious country clubs in North Carolina, went to a predominantly white university after high school, and here I am today living in the nation’s capital.
I am exactly how I described it: privileged. There is no doubt in my mind about that. My environment has been sheltered. To say that I’ve walked a mile in the shoes of a struggling black individual would be a fallacy.
I support Colin Kaepernick and if you don’t, you are missing the point. I don’t want to beat a dead horse but the man has clearly stated his objective, yet the rhetoric is still focused on him disrespecting our military and the flag that represents our country. That’s not it. That’s. Not. It.
I’m going to summarize this as best as I can. A majority of my friends are white. I am politically independent but have a somewhat conservative view point. I drink American craft-made beers because I love this country. I respect capitalism because it is the very concept that makes success stories out of virtually anyone.
Our flag is a symbol. It is exactly that – a symbol. A symbol that represents the many different views of which it protects. Not everyone will see it from the same vantage point as you, and that’s all right. The problem we are facing in America is an unjust system where cops are getting away with killing black citizens with no repercussions. In fact, they receive paid leave.
Before the evolution of video cameras on phones, a journalist, police officer, or media’s word were all we had. Before video evidence, these situations were often avoided and there was a metaphorical blanket covering the actual truths of the matter. But we can’t hide from it now. It’s on our TV’s, it’s on our phones, it’s on our tablets, and it’s in our face – all the time.
I mention my background earlier because that has been my reality and experience. I’ve never known what it was like to live without both of my parents. I’ve never had to rely on anyone or anything outside of my immediate family. I’ll never know what it’s like to not go to college. And thankfully, I’ve never known what it’s like to not have a mother or father come home to me after school.
We need to understand that those are realities. I want to give you a quick story of my college experience. I graduated with a degree in education. I interned at numerous Title 1 schools in the New Hanover county area in Wilmington, NC. For those that don’t know what a Title 1 school is, it is a school where the students come from little to no income, rely on free or reduced lunch every day, and most of the time do not have a stable household with two parents, if their parents are even still caring for them. The majority of these students are black or a minority. That’s not an opinion, that’s a fact.
This is important because having two parents is a crucial factor for young children. Your parents are an immediate influence in your life and the first people you look to or resort to in a time of need. Without a mother or father figure guiding your adolescent mind, you have no choice but to resort to alternate avenues that will fulfill that need. Positive or negative, a child with no influence wouldn’t know wrong from right.
I would teach these students on a weekly basis. I would then go to my part-time job at the country club. From one side of the city to the next, I would see the drastic lifestyle differences between both groups of children. It was literally day and night. One demographic was poor, the other wealthy. One demographic with primarily unstable parenting and environments, the other, not as prevalent. But when I looked at those kids in the eyes, from both demographics, I saw the same potential. I saw the same excitement from equal positive outcomes.
The harsh reality is that the poor-end of the spectrum has already been subjected to a negative connotation that predates their existence. Essentially, starting two steps behind the group of children on the privileged side of the spectrum. The definition of prejudice, as defined by Dictionary.com, is: the unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand without knowledge, thought, or reason. By that definition, it can be a passed down ideal formed off of a small or limited amount of experiences (i.e. one). Prejudice is a learned trait, and when we never take a step out of our comfortable situations, then we have no other vantage point to empathize with.
It doesn’t make sense to end the life of a person when we have no idea what may be a daily routine for them. I mention DC because I’ve seen things here that I never would have seen outside of my sheltered circumstances.
Everyday I see homeless people, black and white, helpless. I see black males and females as old as my mother and father drained of life because they have nowhere to go. You might think that some chose the path that led them to where they are, but some are born into a vicious cycle where their positions have been almost impossible to escape. A community of people born into a cycle where literally nothing is given to them, violence is tattooed, drugs are an outlet, and a purposeful life is nothing more than a dream.
I see this and can’t help but wonder how I managed to be so privileged. It’s also important that you understand the stereotypical unified agreement of the perception of what being black has been made out to be. I classify myself as black. My parents grew up in a working class family in a small southern town in Virginia. I knew that my skin and hair differed from a white person but at the same time, I knew that I wasn’t quite as dark as my black counterparts. I saw that in my parents as well.
All through my adolescence I was asked my ethnicity and would always respond with black, because I knew that there were different shades of black and thought that it was implied. People never really believed me. I’d get pulled over by police officers for speeding and on my ticket they would check my race as “other.” It frustrated and confused me.
I grew older and learned that I have traces of other races spanning back to my great grandfather. I knew that I wasn’t genetically 100% black after that. The most common description for my ethnicity is that I was the “white black guy.” When I hear that, I don’t take it as a complement, but rather an insult to the black population.
I want you to really think about that. You can spin it any way you want. The fact of the matter is that it is the biggest negative generalization. It gives off the impression that the “white” supersedes “black” in the “white black guy” statement; ultimately it translates to black being the inferior and that there is a negative stereotype associated with it. And because I don’t fit the narrative or stereotype of what some have determined as being black, I am somehow null and void of the race. The ironic part is that I received it from black folks as well. We’re better than that mentality. We as black people can’t play victim when we facilitate to a mentality that contradicts the bigger argument – which is that we are all created equal.
But I’m not mad about it. I forgive everyone who’s said that to me because in the grand scheme, it boils down to misinformation and the inability to see another’s vantage point. Colin Kapernick’s whole protest is for you to understand a new vantage point. For you to open your eyes to the injustice that has been happening to people of color in this country. For you to break the stereotype of the preconceived classification of black. For you to comprehend that a serial murderer who killed innocent children was taken into custody unscathed and received fast food, over men of color who are pulled over for routine traffic stops and killed on site.
For you to recognize that blatant discrimination and prejudice was only 50+ years ago and that it doesn’t just disappear over a time period like that. For you to get uncomfortable and actually have a dialogue sharing your perspective to help others understand your vantage point. I use the words “vantage point” frequently because it’s necessary. Its come to a point where it’s unclear what else to do. The community is frustrated and would like to be heard. But tearing down communities is the worst way to do it; and I know that they are outliers who are conducting this havoc. Use your mind. If you ever want to understand why people do the things they do, step out of the uniform environment you are accustom to and take on another one. It’s come to a point where I wake up and feel pain knowing that all of this is still going on in America.
We can do so much better than this.
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