Standing Out When Black

Why does it suck to stand out when Black? Let me go back, way back. As far as I can remember.

It takes me to when I was 6 years old. Of course I would not remember every details. I simply remember the feeling. That feeling that trouble was at every single corner and that the way to stay out of trouble was to travel in group and keep a low profile. As simple as that. Fast forward a few years later… I am now 11. Trouble is no longer a feeling. Trouble is real. You stand out with nice sneakers, you might lose your nice kicks. You stand out at recess, you may get picked up on for no apparent reasons. Fast forward more. I am 16. I am full grown: 6’2, 190 lbs Black man wearing a hoodie. Now suddenly I am perceived as a threat. The police stops me for random ID checks on the street, camp sites are suddenly full when they see me and my friends come, people hug their bags when we cross path in the street.

This is why I have been a ruler follower for so long. And my wife often reminds me how much of a rule follower I am. I can’t help it. This is how I was raised, that is what I saw in my environment, and this is what created positive outcomes for me. Some people think it is simple to take risks, try new things, be creative… If you are one of them, I invite you to think again. Imagine that over decades, trying new things meant at best a weird feeling and at worst physical or emotional pain? Would you take risks often?

Some people may still say that you should go after what you believe. I agree. This is what I say to everybody. This is what I want for my kids. What changed? My confidence level. My level of “safety”. My network. My savings. NOW, I get why people in a comfortable situations talk about taking risks. Risks do not look like risks. They look more like inconvenience. If I lose my job tomorrow. It is no fun, but also not the end of the world. Chances are I will find another job. May not be as good, but I’ll find one. I have savings to keep my family ok by the time we land on our feet.

Today I understand the take risk and the play it safe mentalities. This is why I shared both perspectives. I want the privileged crowd, mostly white men, to appreciate the extra difficulties that the non privileged crowd, mostly minorities, endure over a lifetime.