Unless you‘re Black you really don’t understand what it means to be Black in America. If you were born here, you grew up hearing messages from the larger society that you are less than, because your skin is of a darker hue. If you came here from somewhere, you soon realize that you're supposed to behave like you’re less than . . . . But does the society determine who you are? Don’t let it.
Yes, I’m Black and I’m good with that. I wasn’t born in the U.S.; I came here as an adult, just out of college. I knew who I was and I was confident of myself. I still am. I saw the world as my playing field. So I just got in the game and started playing. But has it been tough? It certainly has. There are too many things that White folk don’t think about but we have to learn and be concerned about as Black adolescents and adults. Fortunately, I’ve got great support over the years, especially from my local church in New York that educated me on many of the issues we face as Blacks in this society. Because of who I am: a Black man, I sense a pressure that I have to be more careful how I look, dress, and conduct myself, even in my own neighborhood (about 90 percent White). When I first moved to my subdivision, as I was out on my morning walk, just about dawn, I observed a home owner, who appeared to circle back so he could see where I was going, since I had just passed by his driveway when he was backing out. When he circled around the loop, he didn’t go back home, he merely drove slowly by (from the opposite direction) and looked at me, but didn’t wave. Of course, I don’t know what he was thinking or why he did that, but that’s how being Black in America tends to make you think. And there are numerous incidents to verify why the pressure, sometimes fear, becomes our reality.
Create Your Personal Self-talk
In order to keep your mental equilibrium you must do positive self-talk. Always remind yourself that you are special, valuable, deserving, and be dignified and confident as you go about your daily affairs. Reassure yourself constantly that you are as good as and even more capable than others that look different on the outside. They may have more opportunities, privileges, “rights”, than you, but if you aim high, remain focused, and stay on course, you can beat the odds and achieve your goals in life.
Interestingly, I wear a suit to work, but not because I need to. It’s because I’m Black; I also like it. You see, I’m in insurance sales and I do in-home sales. I live in America’s south and I fear being though to be a burglar or some criminal when I approach someone’s property. I drive a luxury car, especially when I’m going to see a White person in a predominantly White neighborhood. Yes; you’re right if you think it’s because I think the neighbors may think I‘m someone important (clergy, doctor, salesman) and not call the police on me. Definitely.
I grew up hearing mixed messages also. At church and school in Jamaica, I learned to accept who I am- a Black man, created in God’s image. Some people there, however, had bought into the erroneous notion that being Black makes you less than being White. In fact, my college landlord (Black Jamaican man), who had lived in Britain for over twenty six years, told us (tenants) almost daily that Blacks were cursed. He hated his skin and cursed Black people daily, referring to them (not me, he liked me) as “nasty n-word”. But he loved the light-skinned girls at the bank and went there everyday just to be in their “Jamaican White” company.
My landlord was like so many other Blacks in Jamaica and as I came to discover, in America also. They grew up hearing, believing, and thinking that Whites were inherently smarter, prettier, better (in every way) than Blacks. For a while too, some of us in my generation were believing it. Then came Bob Marley and the Rastafari culture and debunked that, telling us we were stars, princes/princesses, and kings. Bob’s classic hit “Redemption Song” brought much enlightenment. It made us realize that we were mentally enslaved and needed to be emancipated (from those thoughts). Yet he and that philosophy were rubbished by many and Rastafarians were marginalized, vilified, and abused by the society at large and the government in particular. But now I own my Blackness. I’m satisfied with who I am. I sometimes refer to my daughters as princesses and my son as prince. And they are, in the sight of God and ours. We own who we are. You should too.