Being a black man in the Southern region of America, a place where slavery and segregation flourished for more than a century, can be quite troublesome at times. I know this firsthand.
I’ve been stereotyped and discriminated against by some of my white peers over the years. For a significant amount of the experiences, I’m still baffled about the reason why. A number of assumptions could be made, but it truly doesn’t matter. It’s something that I’ve come to live with, although I haven’t accepted it. However, I have accepted that I can’t please everybody, nor will I be liked and embraced by everyone.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that I didn’t write this article to defame any particular ethnic group. I’m simply shedding my thoughts on the black race and what it’s like to be part of it.
In America, it’s no secret that the black race is viewed as inferior when compared to the white race. At one point and time, the aforementioned claim was supported with blatant acts of racism: blacks severely beaten, shot or lynched for insignificant matters; the inability to vote; and being burdened with separate seating, dining, schooling, and job selection than whites. This changed significantly as the years progressed and segregation was ended. The presence of equality began to appear.
But even in today’s time, there’s still a sense of inferiority that blacks, and minorities as a whole, face in comparison to their white peers. Although racial prejudice isn’t as brazen today as it was decades ago, it’s still evident. No longer is this just a black and white issue either.
For blacks, it’s refreshing to think our inferiority has diminished over the decades, but with occurrences like the murders of Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, and Jordan Davis, you can’t refrain from worrying about how precious the life of a black person truly is. If you’re a young black male, the worry is even greater.
On the contrary, to say I’m completely surprised by the perceptions that people of other races have of blacks would be a lie. From the beliefs that the bulk of our race is low-class and uneducated to the presumption that we’re all freeloaders who depend on support from the government to survive, it doesn’t shock me at all. A certain percentage of the black race does identify with the aforementioned assumptions but not all. Furthermore, the apprehension of black drug dealers combined with black-on-black homicides and gang violence makes it that much more challenging for other races to change their presumptions about us.
In today’s society, young blacks, primarily males, are responsible for a significant amount of the crimes occurring throughout the country. And we’re even more responsible for taking the lives of those who share the same hue as us. According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from 1976 to 2011, black homicide victims were killed by other blacks 94 percent of the time. In addition, more than half the nation’s homicide victims are black, but we only make up 13 percent of the population.
I currently reside in Memphis, a place that’s earned the moniker of being one of the country’s deadliest cities. In Memphis this year-to-date, there have been more than 90 homicides, according to the Memphis Police Department’s (MPD) statistical data; more than 80 of the victims have been black.
In 2012, 157 homicides took place in Memphis—excluding its suburban areas such as Germantown, Bartlett, Collierville and Cordova. Three of every four murder victims were black males. According to the MPD’s data, blacks within the age range of 13 and 24 years old committed the bulk of the homicides.
Highlighting these factors, it’s important to note that there are various programs being implemented to help lower the city’s homicide toll. Among them is the Memphis Gun Down project, an initiative being spearheaded by Mayor A C Wharton. The plan seeks to reduce youth gun violence by 10 percent citywide and by 20 percent in selected areas of Frayser and South Memphis—two of the city’s most crime-ridden areas—by September 2014.
It’s essential that black males become more mindful of our actions. Having a disagreement with someone doesn’t permit us to physically hurt them. There is nothing wrong with talking the situation out, or walking away completely. If all else fails, I presume knuckling up and boxing a few rounds is still less severe than shooting someone.
In 2012, more than 80 percent of Memphis’ homicides were committed with a firearm. According to data compiled by the MPD, 2,351 people were shot or reportedly shot at in Memphis. That same year, 1,343 people within the age range of 13 and 24 years old were arrested for gun-related crimes in Memphis.
Anybody can shoot or kill someone. That doesn’t make you a tough guy. It simply displays the fact that you lack the ability to think carefully and act wisely. I’m no saint nor am the most calm and collected person. However, there’s a desire burning inside of me to not become another “statistic” to the pool of individuals that have helped lower my race’s worth in the eyes of society. Individuals of all races act foolishly, but, at times, it seems as if those within the black race receive the most scorn for it.
To come full circle back to my argument, it’s hurtful to receive subtle prejudice from those of other skin tones as me. I didn’t ask to be the color that I am, but I embrace it wholeheartedly. The fact that my race has received scrutiny and been viewed as inferior for decades is unfortunate. The fact that we’ve been unlawfully lynched, beaten, and murdered for frivolous matters is even more appalling. But this still doesn’t take away from the reality that a portion of the black race is disregarding everything our ancestors fought for by senselessly harming and murdering our own kind.
I’m aware that the conduct many of my peers exhibit makes it challenging for individuals of other ethnicities to think equally and openly about my race. However, the actions of a particular person or group of people shouldn’t determine how others view or treat that race entirely. For instance, if one black male decides to join a gang or sell drugs, he shouldn’t be viewed in the same light as a black man who decides to attend college and pursue a legal profession simply because they both wear urban apparel. The metaphorical phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” may be cliché, but it’s true.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where stereotypes overshadow our personalities, and, for blacks, this is extremely disadvantageous. In addition, the more that members of our race continue to hurt and kill each other, the more challenging it becomes for blacks as a whole to grow. Maybe one day things will take a turn for the better, and unity will increase and spread throughout the world. Only God truly knows. Whatever the outcome may be, I’m determined to do my best to avoid becoming another “black statistic” or embrace the belief that I’m inferior because of my skin tone.