Unapologetically Misunderstood: My Battle with Racism

I’m no stranger to racism as a black man. You may have been hearing this a lot for the past few days, even weeks. But I’m not here to tell you a story to gain sympathy from anyone. I learned a long time ago that was never going to happen. You also won’t get any over-dramatic story either. I noticed that some people have gone overboard with theirs. But at the same time, I can’t prove that either. So, I let it be.

But to continue, my first brush with racism was in the sixth grade. I had an English teacher that always signaled me out from the rest of the group, while the other students were talking, but the moment when I and my friends started. We were immediately told to be quiet and do our work. What was the difference between us and those other students? Simple we were black, and they were white. But we dared not say it was racism, fearing retaliation if such a thing came out of our mouths. However, I remember one day that the teacher called me to his desk after class to discuss my ‘behavior’ and as always, I could never give him a straight answer. Not because I couldn’t, because I didn’t want too. Knowing that his prejudice was always the factor of picking me and my friends out. But that day he had enough of my answers, so he said the following to me, an eleven-year-old kid.  

“People like you will only make it if you have a ball in your hand or a mic. Because you’re too lazy to amount to anything in life. Keep this up and you’ll end up in jail…or worse.”

Many will say that it’s nothing racist about that. But I assure you it is. See that phrase was used most to discourage a black man from amounting to anything. It was a successful tool because we allowed it to get to us. I allowed it to get to me, but that wasn’t the end of my encounter with racism.

Fast forward to the ninth grade and my first high school was not that great to me. I was in the magnet program and I had a hard time making friends. It would seem every few months I would change lunch tables until I was stuck with an odd couple being the third wheel. But it didn’t bother me much, what did bother me was that there was an incident at school one day that the principal had to get involved. After a few names were dropped by an anonymous person. I was called in and asked about the said incident. I wouldn’t talk because I was following the ‘policy’ of my people at the time. Again, the principal got tired of me and he said to me.

“I won’t lie to you, Andre. But I don’t expect you or any other black kid to graduate from this school.”

He didn’t have hope for any black students. He didn’t have hope for me. So, why in my right mind would I stay at a school that didn’t have my best interest? So, when the school year ended, I told my mother that I didn’t want to go back to school and wanted to return to my original one. She would ask me all summer why I changed my mind, and my answer will always be the same. It wouldn’t be until the end of my senior year that I told her what was said and as anyone would guess she was upset, but what could she do?

Finally, in my early twenties, I was hanging out with a white girl whose dad wasn’t quite fond of me. The first time is because I didn’t speak to him in his own house, but before you say anything, I want people to know that she told me not to. As months would go on, I would eventually speak to him, but it still wasn’t good enough. My friend would make constant complaints about me not speaking to her dad, even though I did. She wouldn’t listen to reason. Eventually, I got tired and called her dad out for not liking me for the color of my skin. Of course, she was surprised and was upset that I accused her father of such a thing. But what other reason was there? I understood not talking to him garnered a negative reaction. But after the other ten times and you still have the same complaints. There’s only one reason he still felt that way and it was because of the color of my skin.

Racism is a disease that much is true. It’s the biggest disease in the world and we have ignored it for far too long. Even though I don’t believe that we’ll eradicate it from the face of this planet. I can have hope that things will change. Change for the better and open people’s eyes to what is going on around here.

However, You would like to know why I stay quiet on all these things. That I have every reason to go out and protest and speak out against it more than the next guy. I agree with all those things, but what if I told you that I have in the past. What if you want to find out more? You’ll need to wait until Thursday.

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