Black in America. It’s something that is talked about a lot and can be/usually is a very charged subject. Let me know throw this out there, I’m black - just wanted to make sure I cleared that up for you before I moved on.
I remember growing up my Dad talking to me about being a African American male and how I might be treated differently. When he told me that, I couldn’t help but think how long ago slavery was and wonder how that could still be the case. I don’t think I have ever been the victim of explicit, overt racism and if I was I was probably to naive to realize it. But there are a few things that I’ve noticed growing up and now that I’m an “adult” (using the term lightly here):
Basketball I grew up playing in a lot of the top basketball tournaments around the country ever since I was 10 years old. I was always encouraged in my academics and often on these basketball trips I would bring along my summer reading (I was nerdy, so what?). Needless to say I was the only one who did that on my all black team and as a result was relentlessly made fun of for it. Obviously this is probably a natural reaction by young boys to someone who is doing something different but I think there is more to it than that. I was also made fun of because I spoke “properly”. Granted I didn’t speak with a Southern drawl like most everyone else but again, reading and speaking correctly wasn’t cool.
Token Black Guy That’s usually me at a bar or party. I live in NYC and I can’t think of a time when I’ve been to a party that was an equal amount of black and white people at it. I’ve been to majority all black parties and majority all white parties, but haven’t been to many that are in between. I don’t mind being the token black guy at a bar and most times I don’t even notice it. I just wonder why it is still the case that parties are seemingly “segregated.” I grew up in Atlanta and when I went out down there the partying division was even more apparent. NYC is a little better than ATL but I still see room for improvement.
White Girlfriend My wonderful girlfriend is from Norway and is white. Clearly, I have no problem with that. It seems by the looks that we sometimes get that others might. It isn’t often, but on a few rare instances we have noticed some little bit longer than normal looks. Growing up, I did feel some slight pressure to date “within my race.” It wasn’t explicit but rather when family and friends spoke about specifically black males athletes dating white females - they said it with disdain as if he “sold out” or something and is deserting his race. I don’t think you can control who you love or fall in love with and I don’t think succumbing to peer pressure is a good way to find love either.
“Acting Black” Has Hip-Hop become so engrained into American culture that acting black means baggy clothing and speaking ebonics? I’ve heard people say to me before, “Khaliq, you don’t act black” or “Khaliq you lost your black card” (not the Amex). What exactly does that mean? Is there a certain way I’m supposed to act to maintain my “blackness?” Does being black mean not going to a boarding school, Ivy League school, going to the Hamptons, or skiing in the Alps? Is that reserved only for non-black people and if black people do that then are suddenly not black anymore? If a black person doesn’t listen to Hip-Hop, does that make im or her less black?
Obviously I’m simplifying things a bit, and this is an incredibly complex and complicated issue that I briefly touched on. However, I think it is important to address these things and gradually I think things will improve. I’ll finish with a few quotes that I found interesting:
None of us is responsible for the complexion of his skin. This fact of nature offers no clue to the character or quality of the person underneath.
I’m black, I don’t feel burdened by it and I don’t think it’s a huge responsibility. It’s part of who I am. It does not define me.
- Oprah Winfrey