Thoughts of a Token Black Kid

Before I start, I want to preface with the fact that just because there may be grammatical errors in this does not negate the truth to the things I will say. I only say this because I’ve seen that happen when someone of color tries to argue something that offends and questions the comfort afforded for those who look like 99% of our previous presidents. I also just wrote a paper that is actually for a grade so I have no intention of making an outline to make sure my case is perfectly laid for everyone. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I typically don’t talk about race because most of my friends are white. I learned during college that even really smart and caring people can find it hard to understand that racism and prejudice still exist. They were taught that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement (ha good one) when in reality it still exists. When I brought up examples, they argued that I was just making it up and stretching the truth to make it appear that I had been negatively stereotyped. After all, no one blatantly said they initially thought I was stupid. But you can ask any blonde white girl that it’s not that hard to know when someone thinks you’re dumb for no good reason at all. It just simply isn’t. And the problem now isn’t that I can’t walk into a diner with a bunch of white people, it’s that my identity and general safety are constantly put into question because people are still judged by the color of their skin not solely on the content of their character. In fact, that is still only a dream.

You don’t have to look very far to see that racism still exists in extremes. Black men keep getting killed by cops innocently, but instead of marking it as a mistake and an error, it is justified. People make mistakes, people make deadly mistakes. But arguing that it’s okay because he sold weed at some point or he had a troubled past or recently he flashed up a gang sign in a picture (which was actually just a peace sign sideways) is flat out wrong. That’s like trying to say that it’s not that big of a deal if someone kills someone by drunk driving if the person who died was a bad person. NO. The person driving drunk could very well be a good person, but at the end of the day, they made a mistake, it cost someone their life, and it can’t just be shrugged off let alone deemed okay under the circumstances. I shouldn’t have to hope that the worst thing that happens when I get pulled over for speeding is getting a ticket. I shouldn’t have to be afraid something worse could happen to my brother and I. I deserve a speeding ticket and nothing more.

The problem is that black people are seen negatively by society whether people like to believe so or not. And this is not confined to the old Confederate states. It’s everywhere. I went to the University of Texas where the majority of people there were white (or Asian). And specifically remember when Obama won his first election, my grandma told me to stay in my dorm room and lock the door (and this is in 2008). It just didn’t feel safe because there were a lot of mad white people that day. So instead of getting dinner at JCL, I stayed in my room and ate what groceries I had in there and read others reactions on Facebook. I remember reading people I went to school with who grew up in suburban America (which is completely free of racism and prejudice…) say some pretty awful things. They said a nigger could run the country. To summarize, they essentially said we are dumb and incompetent and good for nothing but their entertainment and fantasy football leagues.

And if you are white and reading this, you might still be thinking, “Oh, that’s not me. There’s not a racist thought or drop of blood in me. I mean I’m friends with…” Just stop right there my friend. I refuse to be your token black friend. I spent most of college in a group of great people. Probably the best large group of people you will ever meet in your entire life. Maybe the best on the face of the earth. Even there, the negative stereotypes exist. If I had a dollar for every time from middle school to now that I have been deemed “white” or “not black”, I would have way too much spending money. And the thing is, the simple joke about me being “white” seems harmless, but in reality it is not and thus has plagued my life for a very long time.

When I moved to Texas right before first grade, I was nervous. I didn’t know anyone. Everyone had probably grown up together (in what little short time that was) and were really close like I was with my old friends back in Mobile, AL. So when I showed up to school fearful of not fitting in, I was quickly aware I was one of 3 black kids out of 80-100. I started listening to N’SYNC and Backstreet Boys to fit in. I wanted to dress a certain way to fit in. I just wanted to be like the other kids. And when my parents got a divorce early in elementary school while all of my friend’s parents were still together, I tried to fit in even harder because I didn’t want to be seen as a black kid with stereotypical family problems. I tried to do well in school and prove that I was smart. I never got in trouble because I didn’t want to be deemed a troublemaker. And even though I still had a hard time feeling like I completely fit in (mostly because that is just a general struggle of mine), elementary school kids are generally nice.

But things get shaken up as you get older. People started calling me out for liking the same things most of the white kids liked. I wasn’t black because I wore “white” clothes, listened to “white” music, and talked “white”. I wasn’t black on the inside. I was an Oreo. The thing that frustrated me about that was that since when did white people get to own most music or clothing styles? I get that y’all are the majority, but does that mean black people have to be pigeonholed? Am I seriously confined to listen to rap and R&B, a lot of which talks about big booty b*****s, drugs, and violence I can’t relate to? Am I confined to two clothing brands (at the time, FUBU and South Pole) and some Timberlands or Air Force One’s so that my ethnicity is not questioned? Do I have to talk like a thug to not be critiqued?

That people is why me being called “white” or “not black” is a problem and sign of the underlying issues and views deep within. I’m not called these things only because I have similarities with my white counterparts, but also because I don’t fit the stereotype of a black male. And I hate the idea of that because the stereotype of a black male is pretty negative. I would not be deemed “white” if you could see my underwear while I walk to class, if I said, “Naw what I’m sayin, dog” or used the N word casually, or if I could quote more rap bars than the average “super thug” suburban white kid. (Disclaimer: knowing rap lyrics doesn’t make you more black or gangsta or cool. That’s in case you weren’t sure. I’ve legitimately got into a mini argument with a roommate in college one summer because they said they were blacker than me because they knew more rap than I did. Seriously?!?! I may be colorblind, but I’m looking at my arm right now and I just don’t think so.) The stereotype is a lose-lose situation. I have to be a certain amount of “black” to not be discredited, but also a certain amount of “white” or I wouldn’t even be friends with the people I’m friends with. I either fit the stereotype of a black male that requires me to be uneducated, unsuccessful, lazy, and a bunch of other negative things or I’m not truly black. So that’s essentially what is said when I’m told I’m not black. I’m either a poor, lazy, black troublemaker or I’m actually white. Why are white people the only people who get to be successful and hard-working and educated? Why? Because society says so. Because deep down even really great people have been taught to think this way. And because too many people think that because they don’t have to deal with it that it’s not a problem. Just as the plight of women sometimes easily get overlooked until something happens that hits closer to home, the same is true for African-Americans. The problem is that for many white people it well never hit that close to home because it simply can’t.

Where am I going with this? I’m saying that a big part of the problem is that too many people don’t think there is a problem. Many people will never know Jesus because they don’t think they need a Savior. Why go looking for a solution when you don’t think there’s a problem? That’s how the devil wins. If he can make us think we don’t need anything, he no longer has to put in the effort to keep us away from those things. We’ll do that ourselves. But the reality is, we are all bad people. We are all sinners and fall way short of the glory of God. Shoot, we fall short of the general values of society in our abundance of selfishness. We need to take a lesson from MJ and look at the man (or woman) in the mirror. We need to ask ourselves to change our ways because we are all at fault.

White people need to stop thinking a certain way. They need to realize that they can be victim to a way of thinking forged a long time ago. That it doesn’t make them evil and nasty people, but that they should be aware of their own prejudices and make an effort to stop theirs and also defend against the prejudice of others. After all, black people weren’t the only ones who marched with MLK. We just have to remember the march and fight never fully ended.

Oh and if you are black and have been reading this with a smirk, amen, or soft golf clap, brace yourself. Black people are the problem too because everyone is the problem. A lot of black people combat racism by being racist themselves. They are racist against white people. Shoot, they’re racist against black people too. They think that black people who work hard or don’t fit the stereotype are “white” (See white and black people are both the same and have a lot in common. They can do good things and be generally good people and they can also be ignorant. But no party is off the hook because the other party does the same thing.) They think that those Oreos think they’re better than them which simply isn’t true. And too many black people use racism as an excuse for their own mistakes. If you get fired for being late to work too many times, it’s not because you’re black and your manager is racist. It’s because you decided to be dumb and be late to work too many times. I’ve seen too many black guys try to get a job while wearing a tall tee and there jeans near their knees. And maybe you shouldn’t be judged by the way you dress but by whether or not you would be a good employee, but you really aren’t helping yourself. And stop trying to look “hard” or like a thug because it’s cool in high school. It’s not. And you don’t end a stereotype by making it seem true. You make it hard for the rest of us. Instead, work hard in school, in sports, in everything that you do. Not everyone can be a doctor or a musician or an engineer or the president, but you can be successful and good at whatever you do if you work hard at it and don’t try to take shortcuts. The system might put you at a disadvantage but that doesn’t mean you have to let it win. It’s been beaten before and it can be beaten again.

So readers, I did not write this so I could get a bunch of likes on Facebook or to piss off a bunch of white people and make them feel uncomfortable. In fact the main reason I typically don’t say anything about it is because I don’t want my friends to feel like they have to treat me any differently than anyone else. I just want to be me and be treated as such. I only wrote this to vent my frustration and hope that others will realize that things need to change. We don’t need fight and fix each other. We need to fight and fix ignorance.