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Birth Right

Society exists in certain ways to certain people. Everything I have grown up with and come to understand as my reality is effected by the color of my skin. The location of my home, my friends, my enemies, are largely due to the unchangeable fact that I am an African American. Although my current reality is based on who gave birth to me, it largely determines the inequality that I will always fear but not be ignorant of. I do not feel sorry for myself, as a black man, rather I just understand that the world works a certain way, and my self pity will do nothing to change that.

In the framework of society, things have been done to even out the opportunity for my people. In education, affirmative action exists so underprivileged yet talented black students can go to college. Many of my friends are insulted by this, as they feel it is insult to their potential offering a “help me” into college. Although it is partially true, I gladly take the advantage as I was not privileged with a good public education. I live in intercity Detroit, and I have white friends who live in the suburbs. They have told me about classes they have taken that I wouldn’t dream of having in my school. There are so many opportunities offered in a white middle class public school, yet never do they show themselves in the intercity schools. I am put at a disadvantage, based on my parent’s income, I am forced to live in a particular area, an area where education isn’t a priority to not getting shot. It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of being well educated, but without the means, it makes it a lot easier to drop out of school and make money so I can help feed my younger brother.

Motivation comes from the assurance of progress. As a black high school student, I am more motivated to play basketball then getting a 3.0 gpa. It is the 90 million dollar contract signed by Lebron James, that gives me motivation to progress. I physically see a kid my age making a superstar living by playing the game he loves. I have assurance that if I am that good, there is ample opportunity to excel. When I walk to school each morning, I don’t have that same assurance. Regardless to my commitment to excel in the class room, I am not guaranteed for it to be reciprocated by my teacher. In complete honesty, I’ve had teachers that come to class less than I do, so there is always a sub, and we never are taught anything. People ask how a college running back cannot read, it’s as simple as the uninterested high school teacher that doesn’t pay enough attention to notice. He is given a grade that will help move him along, so the population of students which is already too high (compared to the amount of qualified teachers in the intercity) will not rise simply because a student cannot read. As an American, since it is part of being an African American, I feel I should be given the same opportunity for education as any other American. Regardless to how much money my parents make, I demand that my teacher gives a damn about their job, and the responsibility behind it. I am aware that intercity teaching positions offer less money than Long Island, and although it becomes my problem, it shouldn’t be. The government needs to offer more funds so I have an inspired teacher. It is hard to be inspired, by a man who hates his job. Where are the teachers that I see on tv, that will go out of their way to help benefit a kid, simply because they can. I do not know such a friendly world, where people go out of their way to help you, but rather hurt you.

When I leave my girl friends house at 2 A.M. on a Friday night, I do not want to fear that I will be questioned by a police officer. I do not want to feel lucky that I walked home without being hassled. The police exist to serve and protect, but why do I fear them in the back of my head. It’s not that every time I see a squad car drive by I fear for life, rather every time the thought crosses my mind that I may be stopped because I don’t shine so bright at night. It’s terrible that this is a problem. Am I supposed to ignore reality, even if it was one time and the cop was a jerk, things don’t just leave your head. I don’t hate cops, I don’t think that they are all trying to make my life worse, but it is a reality that some do.

Although I do actively participate in sports, I object that many people assume it is my duty as a black man, or role to do so. Sometimes when I go to the main library in Chicago, I get stares that read of, “what are you doing here?” I do not like being made to feel uncomfortable simply because I am black. I know it is not against the law to give someone an evil stare, however it does go along way in secluding people from certain places. The feeling of discomfort due to others opinions on the way the world should work can be a heavy burden on any man. I know I have all the right in the world to be there, as a black student, but it doesn’t change the feeling I get every time a helpless 85 year old grandma stares me down. I do not think it is right that a black kid is more comfortable on an athletic field, then maybe even in the classroom. Equal opportunity doesn’t quite cut it. It’s equal value, equal capacity to do anything they wanted, not simply what the world thinks they should.

The worst feeling in the world is to find the girl that loves you, and you love back, but she cannot be with you because her grandparents would drop dead on the spot if they saw you together. I understand that the girl is not trying to hurt me, but imagine being shown love, just for it to be taken away because you weren’t White! The coin was flipped, could have been heads, you got tails. It’s one of the worse things in the world, love, because in my case it revealed the truth, I am a black man, and that isn’t good enough for some people. It makes me angry, it builds up inside me, the ignorance of so many people. I could be there future son in law, but they don’t see that, how could they? The parents become more concerned on what the rest of the family might say, rather than their daughters wishes. Having people doubt you is something that hurts after a while.

Every time I am rejected from a job, there’s only one thing that crosses my mind, was it because I am black? I try to give people more credit than that, but it doesn’t go away. It is the same with women, how do they know if they were rejected because of their sex? This world makes me so angry, only because there is so much that I will never know, and in unknowing we tend to assume the worst. If I was under qualified and didn’t get hired, I would understand, but if I prepare for an interview, take time out of my day, and go simply to be seen as a black man and nothing else, what is the point? Where is motivation work hard, is my hard work not as important as someone else’s, like a white man? It bothers me the most when the gangster image is projected over everything I am. Adults see ghetto black people all around, and stereotype all black people that way. We are not all rappers and hoodlums. I go to church every Sunday, I love my friends and family, and I try and do my homework every night. I am not a ghetto boy, or a rapper, or a superstar. I am a 19 year man who is working his ass off to make it in a world that seems to slightly favor a lighter shade. I will not justify my failures as a result of others behavior. I will make it in this world, but it will not be in the same way as your average white 19 year old.

Sometimes I am thankful that I had to work a little harder, it’s easy to get motivated when you have a lot of built up anger inside. I have come across a lot of people that told me I would fail, in one way or another, and it is their eyes that I see when I deal with the stares and pull and all nighter in the library. It is their eyes that will not let me use discrimination as an excuse to not succeed. I will make it in this world, and I will have a very different view of society than the 19 year old white boy. In 20 years, when I am making a lot of money, doing something I love, I will come across these white eyes again, and I will laugh at their ignorance knowing they work for me.

There have been times when I hated being black, but through all my struggles I am very proud of who I am. Others judgments have led me to understand that they do not matter. The people that matter are those who can look at me and see a man, not a black man, or a white man, just me. It’s amazing how much I have prayed for people to just give me a chance. As many times as I have hated those who looked past me, there is as many more that I wished people would just stop being so stupid. It is only stupidity that could lead a person to dislike me because of my color. If I was describe myself in 10 words, I doubt any of the first 8 would be a color. Who I am is not made from a shade of skin, it is my personality, my morals, my heart and mind. Limits should be set by an individual, not the world around that individual.

Struggle is found in all people’s lives. It is not just because of one’s race that they will live an easy or hard life. However one would be ignorant to say that it does not affect it. I used to wish for people to be able to see the error in their ways, but it is them that will suffer one day when it catches up to them. People will rely on me to meet their stereotype, but I will not fail, I will succeed. My reality in this society has been created my entire life, as I have come to understand that for a long time, possibly forever, race will always be an underlying issue in my life.