I’ve been meaning to write this for some time, but now seems more appropriate than ever.
On this journey of transformational change in our education system, I often find myself involved in conversations about diversity. On this particular occasion, a coworker of mine, who identifies as white and upper class, said that in this situation she feels unwanted and unappreciated because our organizations mission statement only caters to “minorities and low-class individuals”. She also goes on to state that she doesn’t understand why there are affinity groups for members of color and no affinity groups for individuals who don’t identify as members of color. This rant continues for about five minutes and those who feel like her chime in saying, “being white doesn’t mean I have no color”, “I wish they would cater to us more”, and other things of the sort.
As I sat back and listened to these claims my blood began to boil. Usually, I sit in on these conversations and say little to nothing. But this was something that was hitting to close to home, and there was no way I could let this continue without my voice being heard. Once finally called upon I said, “Honestly, I don’t believe that this situation is diverse, at all. In fact, the all black institution in which I received my degree is more diverse than any facet I have seen while on this journey. With that being said, it is really irritating and frustrating to hear those who don’t look like me say that they feel unwanted and unappreciated because they don’t have an affinity group or because they aren’t mentioned in the mission statement. You have no idea what being unwanted and underappreciated feels like. You live within a society that is made for you, that is built around you, and that allows you to fulfill everything that your heart desires. People like me only dream of that. And for you to feel unwanted and underappreciated due to the miniscule reasons stated just shows the privilege that you are accustomed to and have in this society.”
I was really perplexed by the fact that more than one person felt a certain type of way because what they identify with was not mentioned in a mission statement. Really? Do you really want to know what it feels like to be unwanted? You haven’t felt unwanted until you are followed around from the moment you enter a store until the moment you leave. You haven’t felt unwanted until you are walking down the street and a woman switches her purse to the other side and clinches it tightly. You haven’t felt unwanted until you hold the door open for someone and get the next door slammed in your face. You definitely haven’t felt unwanted until you try to give your opinion on a topic of intellectual substance and no one listens just because of the way you look. This list can go on forever.
As a Black Man living in America, I felt the ultimate feeling of being unwanted and unappreciated as I heard the Zimmerman verdict last night. When the trial began, I had an initial feeling of nonchalance, because I knew in my heart of hearts that justice was going to prevail and Zimmerman would be convicted of something. Even if it wasn’t the maximum, I just KNEW he was going to be guilty of something just for the simple fact he killed another individual, especially one that was unarmed. I guess I had too much faith in this thing we call the justice system, huh? Too often do we as a black community accomplish a milestone and think that catapults us to the next level. I was also guilty of that. I thought because Obama is our president and there are so many influential Blacks in this place known as the “free world”, that justice would be served and the man who killed a young black teenager would be convicted of his heinous crime. But then, that verdict was read, my false sense of reality was shattered, and my, and every other Black Man’s, true place in this world was revealed. I was overcome with somberness, sorrow, anger, and disbelief. I constantly hear, “look how far we’ve come!” and now I cant help but ask “How far have we REALLY come!?”
One thing I can say is that I am extremely grateful for the things I’ve learned from Howard University. If it wasn’t for this place, who knows if I would have ever been exposed to the true history of my people, our struggles in this country, and what it actually means to take pride in being BLACK. With that being said, I can’t help but CRINGE at the sight of my people in favor of this Zimmerman verdict and comparing his crime to black on black crime. The thoughts and audacity of these people to even publically voice these opinions is deplorable. If they really understood why we as a people have so much dividing us, why we as a people cant seem to flourish in this “equal society”, and what it actually took for our ancestor to get us out of the pit that we once were in, they would never fix their mouths, position their fingers, or formulate their thoughts to say the despicable things that I’ve been hearing and seeing all over the internet.
For too long has our real history been hidden from us. For too long have we been held captive to this façade of fairness and equality that society has fed us. For too long have we been living with this false sense of reality, and it’s going to take tremendous strides to get our people back on the same page. This Zimmerman verdict was a definite wake up call for me and I hope it was a wake up call for everyone like me. We need to educate ourselves, educate our families, and educate our communities on what it means to be Black in America. We must not become complacent and think that we have “made it” just because a few aspects of Black life have improved. We must continue to fight the good fight, and not throw away the work of our ancestors, of our culture, just because your dad has a Range Rover or just because your family finally moved to the Suburbs. That all means nothing. You are still BLACK IN AMERICA.
I pray for my people. I pray for my community. My soul goes out to those who have been brainwashed by society and think that they’ve “made it” to the point where they cant unite with us in wake of tragedy or in times of trouble. Stand by us Lord, and continue to order our steps.
“Vengence is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” – Romans 12:19