For those who do not know, I recently moved to Denver, Colorado for career purposes. If you have never been to Denver or do not know anything about Denver, there are not a lot of Black people here. In fact, there are some days that I will not see Black people at all. Being here has been a big culture shock when it comes to race. For someone who has lived in the South all of their life, there are some culture aspects that seem normal to me that I am learning are not. It was not until I moved that I realized the type of oppressive energy that dwells in Southern states. Although Southern culture will always be a part of me, it is definitely something that I do not want to experience for the rest of my life.
A couple of days ago, I was asked the question, “What is it like to be Black in the South?” For many individuals, this probably would have been an offensive question. However, it made me think of the experiences I have had being Black. It is not easy being a Black male in the South. You have to work ten times harder, just to be successful. You have to constantly watch what you say or do because you are judged before you speak. The South creates a hate that is sometimes not even recognised in the Black community. We are often seen as angry when it is hard not to be. Sometimes, it feels as if our grandparents and great grandparents sacrifices went in vein. Being Black in the South means you have to live to fight. You never stop fighting, and you have to remain strong.
Many of you may question my ability to speak on this topic. It is because I was that Black boy that was called aggressive or seen as a threat. I was that Black boy that was called a Nigger. I was that Black boy who received money on the counter so that the customer would not have to touch my hand. I remember being accused by the Police of breaking into a vacant apartment, and all I was doing was sitting on my porch at night. My mother ran outside to see why the Police Department was at our doorstep, and he proceeded to tell my mother that my shoe prints were the same as one that was on the carpet of a vacant apartment. When my mother asked the officer to see the footprints in the apartment, he told her that he could not take her. This could have easily turned into an unfortunate event. I could have easily been Trayvon Martin or Alton Sterling.
In the South, I was judged more by my skin color more than the knowledge that was in my head. Do you really understand what Black people have to go through in the South? Do you understand how hard it is to sit in silence when you are the only Black person in a room, and someone tries to speak to you in slang to show that they are “down with the crew.” If that is not a reality for you, try having a friend lie to their parent about your race because they are not allowed to be friends with Black people. I will never forget the day one of my friend’s mother asked her what was my nationality while we were on the phone. She scrambled around the question making statements like, “I think he is Italian.” When her mother found out I was Black, she never called me again. She did not speak to me at school either. Imagine how that made me feel. I was only 13. I did not understand why it was such a big deal about my skin tone I did not do anything, but be genuine and respectful. However, that was not good enough to look past my skin tone. I was being rejected by an American.
You will never understand until you actually live in the South what it is like to be Black. There is more to it than the fried chicken and sweet tea. Sometimes you will never be anything but a Nigger. It hurts, but it prepares you. It shows how much strength you have in order to service. I commend any Black person who is successful that has come from the South. To overcome being Black is one thing, but to show that you are above what society thinks is another.
Although I may come off as angry, I am proud of my Southern roots. I take pride in the way I speak as well as my mannerism. One thing that the South has taught me to have is hope. No matter how rough things get and no matter how tough the situation may be if you have hope you have everything. Hope is what Martin Luther King Jr had to get segregation laws abolished. Hope is what Ruby Bridges had when she integrated a school in Louisiana. Hope is what I keep deep down in my soul in order to become a better person each and every day. Although some individuals may never change their mindset on how Black people are viewed in the South, we can hope by proving them wrong that we are just as smart and capable of achieving everything we go after.