Growing up as a young, black male in America is not very easy. I often find myself smiling more whenever I’m engaging into conversations with white upper-class people, so they won’t feel threatened by my presence. There have been times when I was walking down the street, and I heard car doors lock. Or times when I’ve told someone good morning, but they put their head down, tucked in their purse, and sped up. These experiences make me feel less like myself, and more like a monster, and that hurts.
But I’m not alone. Obama mentioned in an interview that there are very few African Americans in this country who have not experienced similar situations. In fact, President Obama said that before he became Senator, people locked their car doors when he walked by, and also clutched their purses tighter.
Sometimes it feels like I’m walking on eggshells just to walk a straight line for someone. Like every move I make is being watched and interpreted to fit a Hollywood image of all black people.
The recent Richard Sherman incident is a perfect example of that. Sherman had an outburst on national television, and everyone started calling him a “thug.” But he had no history of any thug-related actions. He graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA and Stanford University with a 3.9 GPA. In an interview, Sherman said that he has heard people say, coming from Compton, Los Angeles and going to Stanford is an oxymoron.
Being young and black from Oakland, I often worried about being misinterpreted as a “thug.” This is exactly how I used to feel in all my classes at the College of Alameda. I never asked questions, so the other students wouldn’t hear how I talk and associate my language with being a thug.
But all that changed when I recently was recruited to join a class that’s specifically for minority males. It focuses on how the media can poison our minds with ideas for what we should do and think. The class is supposed to give us knowledge to work around an education system that is designed for us to fail.
It’s a different feeling sitting in that class. We all come from different backgrounds, but we all have something in common, we want something different in life than what society wants to give us. I believe this class will help me get more comfortable and confident in the presence of people I don’t normally associate with, and help me change other peoples’ opinions of all young black males in America.