There are times in my life when I think of moments and actions. Scenes where I can reflect and think about who I am and where I’m going. As an American, I put things on a pedestal, from intelligence to my status in life. I often wonder if it’s enough.
I grew up in Atlanta, GA. In different areas and different cultures. I’ve been judged and told who I am and what I am even when I thought I had my mind made up. I’ve always seen myself as smart even in my youth. I just fall in the same trap of letting others tell me who I am and what I am. More often adults than other children.
With being southern there’s a universal fact that haunts us all. It’s that we must always respect and more-or-less adhere to what adults tell us. Maybe I never flipped that switch until later or maybe I just believed that all adults had to correct. Either way, I think that the process of thinking changed me. In other ways, I think it stunted me and made me doubt myself.
Flash forward to now and I with a fresh pair of hindsight I wonder what’s it about. The IT being, the life of course. I have a memory that I created and can seem a bit…paradoxical. Many years ago when I watched “Back to the Future” you know the time-travel movie. I created an anti-paradox plan incase I, myself ever gained this ability. I created scenarios and methods of what I could tell myself or how I’d communicate without touching or actively interacting with me. Those are happy memories for me. Those are fun memories.
THE BLACK GUY
Black American, African American, just black no African, I’m just Dee no black or African. I’ve been through all those phases of identity. I’ve come to realize that none of it matters, not really. I mean in the grand view it does. You have to unite culture and abide or identify with that culture. Set that culture up. To show the diaspora and commutation of a group that feels displaced. I being one of them.
It took me to accept that I was “the black guy” in thy groups I was apart of. I have a lot of excuses or as I call them ‘reasonings’ as to why I didn’t have many black or POC friends. I could be like Ta-Nehisi Coates and write a short story on how I saw my blackness and what a black American meant to me. I was a bigot. Plain and simple. Some of that bigotry is still in me the only difference from then and now is. I see it. I know the signs. I know how to call myself out on the things I think and say. On all scales of hate.
There was a time I thought America was just a bigoted country. I would tell myself, “I’ll always have some form of hate on me no matter what.” I have to tell you, that thought started to drive me insane. It was a challenge for me. As I write this I keep trying to backpedal my words. Either by projecting my actions on to someone else or by underselling what I really mean but you can’t come back from calling yourself a bigot.
There’s a major racist moment I can remember of my past that I can’t shake. I was having dinner with a group of coworkers and one (white guy) asked me questions about my past. Things that are just true about me. Where I’m from. Where I grew up. I took most of this as him getting to know me. Then he asked about my father and I told him I’ve never met him. Then I looked around the table and noticed everyone was lowering their heads. They were ashamed. I was a stereotype not just that I was also a negative one. Just another cog that’s wrong with the system. I later found out who his girlfriend was and she would regularly chat with me at work. So he was not only scared of me but also threatened. Or just insecure.
I think about this scene of Grey’s Anatomy often. The scene had two women, one black and one white and the doctor that’s black received more accolades than the white doctor. The two doctors were friends until that instant and that drove them apart. The doctor that’s black shared a bit of her life and told a story of her past. Which was dark and sad. The doctor that’s white immediately used that story and the doctor that’s black past to write off the black doctor’s accomplishments. To define her by those moments in her life.
This scene makes me think about that moment and that moment made me question who I am. As a person. Am I, a what or a who.
Now I’m an adult with kids of my own and I wonder about their thoughts, ambition or how they see themselves. With all that looking into their lives and their possible future I’m concerned about their struggle. Their struggle of worth and the American dream. What they can or can’t talk to me about. What they want from themselves and how they’ll get it. Even as an adult those thoughts and hurdles overpower me.
The worthiness and privilege of being an American. The amount of intelligence I must have to be smart. The pursuit of the American dream.
Things that I thought were unavoidable. It’s 2020 and while that shouldn’t mean anything I think it does. I think it means this is a new start. Parts in me scream “what does that mean!” Maybe it’s not a new start. Maybe it’s me just jumping another hurdle in personal growth. If you’re wondering “all of this sounds very confusing and this is hard to follow.” You’re not alone. I’m worthy of everything I have and more. No one can tell me otherwise or how I should perceive my life. Whether I’m consumed by American privilege or impacted by prejudice from others. My life is mine and I’m getting away from that fog I created for myself all those years ago. I love myself.