I have been thinking about this post for the last week. I know I wanted to write about race and how it relates to me but I didn’t know what I should say. I wanted to distance myself from the ongoing issues people have with race (for example, what ever the fuck is happening in Ferguson). This post just happened to coincide with other events that are happening. This post is what I think about when I put me and my race/nationality/culture into a room. I am placing a heavy emphasis on my. This post is about whatever I’ve gone through. I am not making a statement for any other person of my race, culture, nationality, heritage, etc.
Let’s start with this tweet from Donald Glover
but I am just a black male.
i am a nigga. – Donald Glover
My skin color is black but that’s about it. You can’t really determine what my family’s heritage is from besides the fact that they probably came from a country close to the equator. To most people in America when they think of black people they are basically referring to African Americans. My family isn’t directly from Africa though, my parents were born in Haiti. I was born in Rhode Island just about 20 years ago. Even if my parents were regular African Americans (Americans who’s has family who were African slaves in America) I still wouldn’t see my self as an African American.
In in middle and high school kids would say that I was the whitest black kid they knew. Let’s think about that for a second. White black person – a person of black complexion who acts like a white person in their speech and manner. To me this makes a lot of sense. Considering for my entire education my peers in school were 90% white and I did not live in a predominately black neighborhood (I don’t even know what predominately my neighborhood is). It only makes sense that I would act similar to the people around me rather than the people you see characterized in movies and TV shows. But let’s ignore statements young kids make.
I like computers. I am a computer science major. You don’t see many other black CS majors. I am horribly unathletic and my recent scoliosis surgery doesn’t make me any better at basketball. Fun fact: I “played” (sat on the bench) basketball my freshman year of high school and I ran track (didn’t run at all and was bad at shotput). I played golf all 4 years though. These aren’t the merits of a typical black (remember African American) person. I don’t think I’ve experienced much racism in my life. There was that one time when I took one of those flight joysticks off the shelf in Walmart when I was about 12 and the store lady next to me demanded to know if I was going to purchase it. My dad did end up purchasing the flight stick and I used it to play Flight Simulator X. I could keep listing off the things I do that black people usually aren’t known for doing and I could keep listing off the things I don’t do that black people usually are known for doing but that’s way too easy.
My parents always warned me to be careful because I would be seen as a black person. Not as a regular person. People would assume I am dangerous. This may be true but I am not sure. It does however make me think in my day to day interactions. I am a over 5′ 10″ foot (I have not officially measured since my surgery), 135-150 (losing 25 pounds in less than 3 weeks is probably the healthiest thing you can do ever), black male. And I wear glasses. Basically I hope I look like I won’t hurt you. That doesn’t mean my parents don’t think other people might hurt me though. On numerous occasions my mom reminded me to be careful around my so called friends because when shit goes down they will all leave me to get arrested. One time when I went over a friend’s house during exam week to play Modern Warfare 2 my dad told me not to do that because my friend might hang me in his basement. This might be clear sarcasm but it’s still kind of a weird thing to warn somebody about.
Because of all these things I don’t see myself as a black person. I am just a person. I am not an African American, just an American, mainly because my parents were born in Haiti, but also because I was born here in America, grew up in America, still live in America. During middle and high school due to the fact I was one of the few non-white kids in my school I got to go to numerous trips to students of color conferences where I would discuss what it is like to be a student of color in a majority non student of color school with other students of color from other majority non student of color schools. I remember one time during high school my school brought back some alumni to talk to us about what it was like being a student of color 5-40 years ago at Moses Brown. This was after we watched a movie called The Prep School Negro. The alumni seemed thankful for the education they received but also seemed bitter about how they were treated at the school. You could tell that there was some awkwardness in the air. They said that there were not treated the same as other students. This wasn’t overt but they said that they were always known as the “black kid” in their group of friends. I don’t know if the school brought back the alumni for them to tell us how great the school treated them even though they were black because that seemed to backfire.
So to me, for my own personal self, I don’t see color. As I said I don’t see myself as a black person. If somebody asked me what racism I’ve faced in my life I would tell them about that one time when I wanted to purchase a joystick. If somebody asked me to speak as a black person I would ask them what they think because I see myself as black as most other people. Not that much. This doesn’t mean people might treat me differently. As with the alumni that visited my school I kind of feel out of place sometimes. I sometimes ask myself if I was white would my life be completely different. This is due to me thinking other people treat me differently due to the fact I have black skin. I can’t prove people treat me differently. Maybe if I was white for a month and people didn’t know I used to be black I could gauge how people treated me differently. Maybe if I was white that store lady wouldn’t have asked me to purchase that joystick, maybe if I was white being a CS major wouldn’t be so strange to people, maybe if I was white my unathleticism would have been completely OK, maybe if I was white my relationships with my peers would be different.
I don’t have many feelings of nationalism or feelings of belonging to a group because other people look similar to me. It seems silly. I don’t want other peoples actions to define me in any way. It’s fine if other people truly love their race, heritage, and culture. I just don’t really care about it. I want my own actions to decide what people think of me. I always wonder though how my life would be different if I didn’t have black skin. Maybe I would finally live up to the stereotype that redditors are college white males in a STEM major who have no experience real world events and with girls and are socially awkward.
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