Growing up as a Black Boy….

In light of the Zimmerman trial where young Trayvon Martin was killed a lot of people wonder is there some other standard that African-American men in United States live by that other people don’t . At first this sounds ridiculous but it’s true. I remember my mother teaching me certain “codes of conduct” to keep me out of trouble.

I used to run track in high school and I would want to run after school. My mom would tell me not to run at night. “If you run at night, people will think you’re stealing something, ” she tell me. It sounds funny but it was her way of making sure the cops here in Texas didn’t suspect me of anything. Even if I wasn’t doing anything… I shouldn’t give them a reason. I also remember one time actually getting in trouble in school.  The teacher called my mother because I was being “disruptive” . When my mother asked me what was the problem I told her. “I wasn’t even talking. The other kids were cracking jokes and I was just laughing and the teacher heard me!”  My mother took me aside and explained to me, “Tre… they are going to call you out everytime. The little white boy may start it but if you what he’s doing you’ll be the one getting caught. You have to do better than him. You don’t have time to joke around and play in class cause when its all said and done he won’t have to do as much and he’ll be your supervisor! So you don’t have time to play. You have to work twice as hard to get the respect he’s going to get because if you do less or equal to what he does … it wont be good enough.”

Some might not think she was correct in her thinking but she grew up in a time where life was different. But in many ways she was right. Black men have to be sensitive on how we act in order to not be perceived a certain way. Of course some don’t care, but no one wants to be the “angry black man” nor do we want to be seen as the “sell out” amongst other blacks. There’s that fine line between being the “strong black man” and the “controlled mild mannered man” (imagine it like being superman and having to tone it down and be Clark Kent for the everyday people).

Am I overexaggerating? Maybe …maybe not. I’ve had white friends think I was yelling when in truth I was just excited.  You have to know to communicate in tone and speed; communication is key. Perception is reality,  not only how you perceive yourself but how you want others to perceive you. The little bit of control you have over others perception should be utilized. I find it “cute” that everyone is putting up hoodies in memory of Trayvon and as a protest against profiling but profiling is something everyone does… EVERYONE.

Remember how white boys with trench coats were profiled after the Columbine shootings?

I opt to pull down the hoodie and put on a tie. If you want to to perceived as a prince, dress like a king. You want to perceived as a pauper dress like a bum. But that only gets you in the door. Attitude is everything.

Despite whether a black boy is accepted or not, he must put a value on himself beyond that value that the world gives him. He must see himself more than an athlete, a rapper, or some sexual fetish. He must get used to rejection…silent rejection. Black boys growing into men will feel the “fear” when they walk at night from other people. Don’t be offended.  Learn to smile, nod and continue on as usual. Some people will ask stupid question or what we perceive as stupid… but just be tolerant.

Above all else  a black boy must know how and where to vent his anger and frustrations. If he is a fighter , I suggest he get involved in boxing, but working out, art, writing, or any mode of expression may work to… egad maybe even just talking, but women seem to be better at that than men sometimes.  (but that’s another blog)

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3 thoughts on “Growing up as a Black Boy….

  1. Years ago, a black friend and I were walking out of a store behind a white man who abruptly let the door close in front of us. My friend said to me, “You probably think either he didn’t see us or he’s an asshole, but I get to wonder if he did it because I’m black.”

    It blew me away.

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  2. Good stuff..

    Growing up being white and going to multiracial elementary schools, I’ve seen first hand some of the experiences you wrote about. I remember as a child thinking its wrong, but it was the way was and it wasn’t appropriate to speak out about it. Now, as I’ve gotten older, I’m much more vocal and observant. I speak out when I see instances of discrimination or mistreatment of any kind.

    Its sad that there is still so much profiling and discrimination in our everyday lives, its even more sad when its so common that people often don’t even take notice but rather accept it as the norm.

    I do, however, find some encouragement in light of recent tragedies. That encouragement comes in many of the pictures and videos I see of protests seeking justice for Trayvon Martin. I see Caucasian Americans standing side by side with African Americans, along side with Latino Americans along side with Asian Americans all standing and protesting in unity. While we obviously have so far to go, we still have come a long way.

    I am optimistic that society will eventually get past the many race, sexual orientation, physical differences that we have and live in peaceful unity. I just hope I am alive to see it.

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