“You don’t talk black.” As if that isn't the most common thing I get told by white students on the daily, even though you cannot speak a color. As a black student in a primarily white suburban area, I tend to find myself facing a lot of covert and overt racism. I feel as though I do belong to this community, but I want to feel more a part of it and not have my race be my identifier. Race is a big issue in today's society and battling racial encounters is something I’ve had to overcome.
Growing up in this small white town and being black I knew I had to give myself a good reputation. For me, that was joining the basketball team in fourth grade when I moved to this town. Going into high school my reputation was a pretty high standard, and by senior year I was that kid who was on homecoming court, the football and track team, enrolled in college classes, and on several leadership teams. I was even the only high school student asked to be on the administration team. There was just one problem with all of that. I was black. Yes, black. Did that mean I was any more or any less of a person because of the color of my skin? To me it didn’t; however, I still found myself feeling that I didn't belong in this community and that I had to hold my standards high even when battling racial encounters.
It wasn’t long after the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement had sparked again before I had a racial encounter. As I woke up one day from my nap, feeling nauseous and barely able to open my eyes, I decided to hop on Snapchat. As I scrolled through my feed I came across a snap story that made my eyes enlarge. This person, whom I called my friend, had made a post that read “New Trend! Let's scream the N-word at a protest and see what people do” as if he did not have a black friend that was going to see that. My blood began to boil. My fingers leading typed across the phone screen so fast that I couldn’t quite process what I was saying at the moment. I texted him to remove me of his story and to never speak to me again. Of course right after came an apology because an apology fixes everything right?
“You're my favorite black person, you know that.” What a backhanded thing to say to someone.
After that situation, there were a few weeks he tried talking to me to apologize, which usually consisted of me walking away or ignoring him. However, he caught me lifting one day and as I was swinging my 10 pound dumbbells above my head I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye. So many thoughts rushing through my head. Our 3 million dollar weight room was blasting rock music through the speakers, needing him to get in close proximity. My stomach got a nasty anxiety type feeling in it that I did not like. “Hey, Marquan, I'm sorry for what I posted, I think you're a dope guy and I like being friends with you and I hope we can still be friends because you're a cool guy.”
I quickly responded, “We're good.” Did I really mean we were good? Of course not, but that was the only thing I could say to get this guy out of my face before I let my 10 pound dumbbell fly right into his skull. Seems as though people only feel remorse when they get caught for something that they wanted to do.
I do not think some people quite understood what it was like being a black guy still living everyday and every moment having to deal with the racism that is still so present in this country. No one knows the pain of hugging your mother for an hour as she cries out to god that her son will not be the next dead black man on the news. Her arms would lay tight around me as I listened to her breath quiver slowly when she breathed out.
“Don’t cry momma it will be okay.”
Her trembling whispering voice, “it just makes you pray differently when your son is black.” This hurt me even more. “When your son is black.” she said. Her voice replays in my head as I think how saddening it is that the woman who birthed me has to pray because of the pigment in her son's skin. To think that she didn’t even know some of the racial things people have said to me she would handle the situation worse. I want to kill people, I want to lay my fist across their face, I want to beat them until they feel what it’s like not to breathe. I want to-- but I can't.
I can’t risk losing everything I have built for myself just to be labeled as “one of the black kids.” It wouldn’t matter that I have diligently worked so hard to get this reputation and it is not just. I'm infuriated, I’m going to school with these white privileged kids and they get a free pass to anything and everything. One false move for the black kid and I am automatically labeled as “one of them” or “ghetto.” Systemic racism is built into the structure of these schools, businesses, and society as a whole. Had I let myself slip away from what I worked so hard for, I would be three times more likely to be suspended, but would the white kid? Not only would I be likely suspended, but I feel that little to no teachers would have my back. Why--because I’m black?
I’m not ashamed of the reputation I have given myself. Do I want to hold myself to a higher standard when battling racial encounters? Of course I shouldn't have to, but I do. I am grateful for the things I’ve gone through because everything has shaped me to be the person I am today. A young man; who is determined to not be set back by anything, a man who will be successful. No matter what racial injustices I have to go through, and I will. But One day a young black boy is not going to have to worry about these issues. Until then I will strive to battle it my best.