I walk this earth as a 6’3 300 pound African-American man from Silver Spring Maryland. I grew up in an area where you can look out the window and see people that represent all ends of this earth. However, throughout my entire life the one statement I have heard the most is “You’re not like the rest of them.” This statement really hits home for me. Anyone that knows me can tell you that I live my life completely independent of the African American stereotype. When I say this I mean the way I talk, carry myself, issues I that I deal with, and the way I react to things. When I walk into a boardroom or just your average meeting the second I open my mouth people immediately recognize that I am different. I am a well educated black man, graduating from one of the best institutions in the world, UCLA. I am getting my MBA next year from University of Nevada, Reno. What most people don’t know is that I own several companies and have been recognized by several established online publications. Aside from my unfaltering drive, where I come from gives me my unique edge on life. In my 24 years on this planet I have come to the conclusion that race matters.
In order to give you, my readers a better understanding of why the topic of race has had such an impact on me and shaped me let me give you some background stories. When I was in 8th grade my parents shipped me off to Randolph Macon Military Academy. This was one of the best things my parents could have ever done for me. The school was located in Front Royal Virginia. On a day in late February that year, my impression of the world that I lived in changed forever. I was on the school basketball team and we were playing in the middle school conference championship. I remember it being a close game, and highly competitive. However, what I remember clear as day from that game is when I was on the free throw line and someone screamed out the word “Nigger” as I shot my shot. This caught me completely off guard as well as several of my teammates. Throughout the rest of that game I heard threats and the situation even escalated as the parents began to get into arguments in the stands . Can you imagine how it would feel to hear those words as a 13 year old boy? I began to understand the role that race played in society. I was raised with the knowledge to treat everyone as an equal and with respect, but that game changed me and my understanding of who it applied to.
Now lets fast forward to my sophmore year at UCLA. It is common for some football players and baseball players to work part time in the off season as security guards at fraternity parties. My friend from the baseball team was driving us back home from a job. On our way home, we stopped at a teammates place to pick something up. While in the driveway I noticed the muzzle of a gun sticking out of the side of a dumpster. I began to sink into the chair and try to get my friends attention, but he was on the phone. By the time I had gotten his attention we were being dragged out of the car at gunpoint by two cops and searched. We are two African American athletes who are educated, intelligent and had performed countless acts of community service, just minding our own business and suddenly being pulled out of our car by armed policemen and searched because we fit the description for “2 black guys wearing black T-Shirts”. Funny thing was our T-Shirts were red, and the car windows were tinted. So how could they have possibly known that. We eventually got forced apologies from the officers after their accidental mishap.
I know many of you may think that I must have done something wrong or that I dislike police officers, but no, I respect them for what they do. They make us all safer. I am telling you about my experience more so to open your eyes and say that two bad apples don’t spoil the bunch. At that moment, all those cops saw was two African American boys. They did not see two student-Athletes who attend UCLA, or how intelligent we were or any of our accomplishments. All they saw was our skin color. I have brought these two stories up because while these prejudiced things have happened to me throughout my life, I continue moving on.
I want people to understand both sides of my narrative. Although I may have suffered racism from caucasians, I have also suffered it from African American as well. I don’t always talk, act, or dress like your traditional African American. I’m different and I know that. I am treated differently and I understand that. When I get out of nice cars I often notice the way people look at me because maybe they don’t believe that I made my money in a legitimate fashion. The more and more successful I become, the more and more I will break down those stereotypes. Although these were abhorrent experiences, I am thankful for them and the understanding and wisdom that they have brought me. I will continue through my life with my eyes wide open.
I walk this earth as a 6’3 300 pound African-American man. No matter where I go or what I accomplish I can tell you that race matters.
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Photo Credit: Steve Cheng