I love being Black in America many might be surprised by this but I live by this mantra. “It’s tough being Black in America. But please do not pity me.” I love my Blackness in every way and I would never, ever want to have any other skin color nor do I wish I was born a different race. My life is different than most black Americans since I am rich, wealthy and I have status. But being black and successful in America is blessing and a curse, because you now face a different layer of the American Social Conditioning Apparatus
My legitimacy is always questioned. People find it impossible to believe I am accomplished, educated, successful, no criminal history, etc. Even when I get on elevators wearing $5,000 suits, $100,000 timepieces, immaculately dressed, White Women(purse clutch must be a fetish) still clutch their purses simply because a black man entered their space. People don’t believe it when you are products of happily married parents you must come from a single parent home and a life of struggle. Your intelligence and work is always scrutinized differently than others. Being black in America means there is a large segment of society that believe you are incapable of being intelligent.
Being black in America means you will never be fully embraced as countrymen and the rules of life in America will always be different for you.
People don’t believe it when we feel that we have been victims of implicit bias, prejudice and racism. When we express our anger and discomfort we are dismissed as being “overly sensitive.”
People don’t believe that some of us are highly successful and we are not athletes and entertainers. If I am getting out of one of my luxury cars people assume because I am tall I must be an athlete. People associate being black in America with crime and poverty regardless of your status. If you are black then must be poor, uneducated, undisciplined and violent.
People don’t believe that we are good businessmen and women. And they definitely don’t believe that we will make good on our promises, possess honesty, integrity, or good faith.
There is an unfortunate belief in the Black community that if you dress a certain way, i.e. wear a suit instead of baggy jeans, a v-neck sweater instead of a hoodie, and a collared shirt with a tie instead of a t-shirt you will be immune from racism. This is rooted in a belief called, “Respectability Politics” or “Look at us, we are normal law abiding citizens just like you white people.”
Don’t believe the hype, I have been called a multitude of racial slurs, pulled over multiple times I wear fine bespoke suits daily and I am always dressed immaculately.
A black man in a hoodie becomes a “code red” threat and there is an immediate assumption that you are a violent criminal. A Black man in a suit is viewed no differently than a black man in a hoodie.
Being Black in America means you have to listen to white Americans laud the message of MLK, Equality, Justice, togetherness and unity. We believe in true Justice and equality but our institutions reflect differently. We do not have equal access to housing, financial loans, health care, education, employment etc.
Being black in America means that justice is not blind for you. The judicial system and law enforcement administer a different, harsher kind of Justice for you. If Brock Turner was a Black man there is no way he gets a 6 month sentence for a similar crime. A Black man raping a white woman would receive life in prison.
Unfortunately this message always comes after someone in Black America has suffered some terrible injustice and Black America has to mourn powerlessly because true equality and justice is not the reality but a bunch of platitudes to calm the masses.
Some Black people don’t have interests in talking and discussing racism, or talking about police brutality. Some don’t even believe it is a problem; case in point a discussion I had with a fellow African American. He and I talked about the murder of Eric Garner. I said, “The police had no right to kill an unarmed man that was not doing anything.” He says, “Well he shouldn’t have resisted.” I replied, “Garner was not resisting.” My then-friend followed up with, “Well, police never mess with me. I don’t give them a reason.” I was shocked and just shook my head.
I define Anti-Blackness as disdain and distancing yourself from anything that can be considered Black. This belief is held throughout the world. In every ethnicity, the darker the person the more discrimination he or she faces. Unfortunately, this also pops up in communities such as Puerto Rican, Dominican, Cuban, and Brazilian, as many will deny their African roots. What many don’t understand is that during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, many boats carrying Black slaves went to other places besides the United States: Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Brazil. Also, I have seen Anti-Blackness manifest in many African communities in the United States. Some African immigrants will try and distance themselves from American-born Blacks, saying that we are lazy, criminals, and have no morals.
– Jay L. Faulkner
I am one of those people who “talk white”, meaning I speak professionally and properly when in a professional setting. I have on several occasions spoken to potential employers on the telephone and they sounded very interested to meet me in person. But upon arriving for the in-person interview, I would introduce myself and they would let out an obviously surprised “Oh!”. Apparently I was not at all what they expected. I would always know at that moment that I would not get the job.
Once I got off a trolley in downtown Philadelphia and accidentally bumped into an older white woman. She immediately said “Here! Take my purse! Just don’t hurt me!” I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that she thought I was going to rob her.
When walking down the street, if a white woman is walking in my direction, they often cross the street or clutch their purse more tightly as I approach.
I guess I’m numb to it now, because I expect it. I think that’s the sad part. There is nothing post-racial about our society. Racism and prejudice have just become more subtle, more nuanced.
On the other hand, most of my clients are white, and they welcome me into their homes, let me work on their computers with full access to their data, and a few have even left me alone in their homes while I worked and they ran errands. They give me an amazing amount of trust. So to me racism is not universal; it really depends on someone’s experiences and upbringing.
– Brian Lipscomb
The worst part of being black in America is not being believed. Your legitimacy is always questioned. People don’t believe it when we have money. People don’t believe it when we are walking down the street with a hoodie on that most of us have no intention of hurting anyone. People don’t believe it when we are a product of happily married parents. People don’t believe it when we feel that we have been victims of covert racism. People don’t believe that the money we have has been obtained legally. People don’t believe that we do good business. And they definitely don’t believe that we will make good on our promises. Empathy or the benefit of the doubt is never something that a black person can bank on receiving. When you make a mistake, society at large will not see you as some “crazy kiddo figuring life out.” You are an irredeemable thug. Ultimately, the most emotionally draining aspect of being black is having to jump through hoops to prove that you are a normal, trustworthy human being, when other people can just show up, say who they are and be taken at face value. Even as I type this I am 99% sure someone will pop up in the comments questioning the legitimacy of my black experience, but they would only be further proving my point. Ha!
– Marissa Russell
Before answering this, I just want to say that I love being black, I love America, and I love being black in America. Most of the time I am just another person in this great country. But, in the recent words of one of my close friends, “Every now and then you get a reminder that you are black in America.”
I got a reminder just two weeks ago on Christmas Eve. My best friend, who was in town from Atlanta, wanted to go to a local mall just to hang out. He invited me and another good friend to meet up with him.
So that’s the setting: three clean-cut, college-educated black men in their 30s at a nice outdoor mall the day before Christmas. We were dressed fairly conservatively, wearing sweaters, jeans and dress shoes. We were all done with our Christmas shopping, so we were just strolling around the mall to be around people, enjoy some snacks, catch up with each other, and just feel the winter air.
After a few hours, we decided to leave. While walking out, we noticed that people were standing outside one of the businesses as though something had just happened. Mall security was busy taking witness accounts. We went in for a closer look. We overheard a witness say that a man was beaten up. Tragic, but honestly, it’s the kind of crime that is common around the holidays, especially in malls.
We headed to the parking lot. I arrived at my car first, so I said my goodbyes and they walked towards their cars. But before they could go thirty feet, several police cars sped in and surrounded us, lights shining bright on our faces. We had no idea what was happening. An officer started barking orders at us. “Turn around!” “Hands up” “Show me your hands!” They made us come over.
They then started giving us conflicting orders. One officer would say, “Put your hands up.” We put them up. The other would say “Put your hands down.” We put them down. But then one would say “Who told you to put your hands down?! Get your hands up!” Back up go our hands. I felt like I was doing the Hokey Pokey dance.
They asked us questions about where we were at a specific time. We had an alibi: we were at the Yard House and had the receipts to prove it. But that wasn’t enough. The questions continued. We asked if this was about the assault that happened. The questioning officer then acted as though our knowledge that a crime had occurred was an admission of guilt. He threw accusations at us and began a very aggressive line of questioning, hoping to get us to confess to being involved or catch us in a lie.
They repeatedly made us show them the front and backs of our hands. The idea is that if we had been in a fight, our hands would have been bloodied or bruised. Our hands were clean. But that didn’t stop them from making us show our hands several more times, as though the blood and bruises would suddenly appear.
After an unnecessarily long questioning, they finally left us. No apologies. No “Merry Christmas.” Just gone. That was when one of my buddies, shaking his head, said, “Every now and then you get a reminder that you are black in America.”
I later shared this story on my Facebook and told some friends and family. The reaction to this was surprisingly insightful. Without fail, my white friends heard the story of our harassment and they were all upset and outraged. They felt that we should file a complaint with the PD. My black and Hispanic friends weren’t surprised at all and just shrugged it off. And this is a simple difference in the experiences of races. My white friends have never had to deal with police harassment, and most never will. My black and brown friends, unfortunately, are all too familiar with police harassment. In a few cases, they have experienced police brutality. Something like this happens to me maybe once a year. If ever a crime is committed and the witness description turns up the words “black male,” every brother within twenty miles will have to answer for the crime, regardless of age or specific appearance.
Harassment by authority extends beyond the police. In a post-9/11 world, it’s pretty well known that anyone who looks remotely Middle Eastern will get harassed by TSA when trying to board an airplane. What most people don’t realize is that pre-9/11, it was black people who got that treatment. Every time I tried to get on an airplane, I was the one who got “additional screening,” sometimes to the point I felt kinda violated. I had no criminal record, but this was a regular thing. I thought I was alone until I ended up on a flight with a college friend and the same thing happened to him. He told me how he had experienced the same thing since he was a teenager. He rang off an endless list of friends who went through the same thing on a regular basis. It was depressing, but I guess it was also good to know that I wasn’t alone.
I want to make it clear that I don’t hate the police or any other branch of law enforcement. I find that most police officers are just decent people who have a tough job. But man, it would be nice if I didn’t have to hold my breath whenever I see a police cruiser with its sirens on. Most of the time it will pass me by. But every now and then…
– Aaron Ellis