"You're Not Really Black"

"You're Not Really Black"

It was just a slight comment with no ill intent behind it (probably) but it gave me flashbacks to the very first days of middle school.
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It was a weekday afternoon. I had returned to Graves Hall after my classes. I stopped in the lobby to hear a debate an RA was having with some of the residents. They were debating which of their favorite rappers was better. I do not remember whose skill they were debating, but I do remember one particular comment from the RA at the desk. When he asked me who I thought was better, I replied that I did not listen to those specific artists. He looked at me and said, “Joshua, you’re not really Black.”

Immediately, I felt angry. Intensely angry. I however refrained from slapping the melanin out of his skin, and instead laughed and walked up the stairs to my room. As I sat in my room, I thought to myself why I had become so angry. It was just a slight comment with no ill intent behind it (probably) but it gave me flashbacks to the very first days of middle school. In my sixth grade World History class, someone asked me if I was excited about a certain football player. I said that I was not really a big sports fan. “You know, you're not really Black, Joshua,” was the reply. This probably was the fifth day of school in my new middle school. I still remember that very clearly, and I still remember who said it. A white boy with a bowl cut summed up my entire racial classification within ten minutes of talking to me. This boy had gone to our insular private school since elementary school. This boy who had not read Assata Shakur, or had ever listened to Stevie Wonder, who did not have one drop of Black in him had determined that whatever I was, I was not black. I can hear the critiques now. “Oh Joshua, you’re just overreacting! This was middle school. Kids say the darndest things!” But this was not a one-time incident for me. I have heard white boys and girls, my peers, look me in the face and say I am not Black without a hint of irony from middle school to high school. I have literally debated with some of my white peers to reaffirm my Blackness. Me. Joshua Trust Reed. Look at my face. I’m clearly Black, African-American, a person of color. And yet I had to face certain white people who for one reason or another did not consider me Black.

I have tried to figure out why so many people look me in my eyes and tell me I am not Black. These declarations are even more confusing when they themselves are white and have no meaningful relationships with Black people (or any person of color for that matter). I have no good answer from these people themselves. Whenever I pressed them on the topic, they could offer no substantial evidence. However, I believe that these people who claimed I was not Black simply did not know what to make of me. Most of what they had learned about Black people did not come from firsthand experience. They gained their information about Black people from a constant stream of banal, materialistic rap videos, overwhelmingly negative news reports, and the opinions of their friends and family who all held similar views. This creates a vicious cycle of misinformation which can only be broken by actually taking the time to learn about other cultures.

Most people do not even realize that their worldview is skewed until they come upon something that breaks their commonly held notions. I broke most of what they understood “blackness” to be. I do not listen to much mainstream rap. Although I did play sports, I do not closely follow professional sports commonly associated with Black people (read: basketball and football). I spoke with proper grammar. I was involved in many extracurriculars and received good grades. I had read the works of Richard Wright, Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X. I was informed about the new Black Lives Matter movement. Every Thanksgiving I’ve eaten sweet potato pie, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese. (And there is a proper way to prepare macaroni and cheese).

I was black. I am Black. I knew that. I know that. My peers, however, had no concept of a Black person that did the things I did. So in their minds, I simply could not be Black because I did not fit in the mold. I was not seen as a white person either. I existed in some odd space in between.They had unwittingly been given a one-dimensional picture of Black people, and I did not fit the mold.

This is yet another reason why I believe that diversity in the media is so important: it breaks down commonly held stereotypes that we see. But, there is something more pressing here. It is not solely the duty of Black people to reaffirm their humanity to their white peers. The burden of addressing racism and speaking out against oppression far too often falls on Black people, and people of color in general, which for some reasons is understandable. The dominant class in a society has no impetus or incentive to understand those who are oppressed.

They can generalize all they want, as I have experienced first hand. But, there are members of the white community who recognize the bigotry and racism of their peers, who must educate their own families and friends. This may not be easy, but it is necessary work that people of color simply cannot do. I could count on two hands the number of my peers who took it upon themselves to check their own. It usually felt like I was by myself, arguing with people to reaffirm my Blackness. If the words of a Black person could not convince them, then perhaps someone they could identify with could help them see the truth. But then again, if they could look a Black person square in the face and tell them they are not Black, then maybe they are too far gone.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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I'm The College Girl Who Likes Trump And Hates Feminism, And Living On A Liberal Campus Is Terrifying

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

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I will get right to the point: being a conservative on a liberal college campus in 2019 downright terrifying.

At my university, I'm sure about 90% of the population, both students and faculty, are liberals. They are very outspoken, never afraid to express their views, opinions, and feelings in several ways. There are pride events for the LGBT community, a huge celebration for MLK day, and tons of events for feminists.

Then there's the minority: the conservatives. The realists. The "racists," "bigots," and "the heartless." I am everything the liberals absolutely despise.

I like Donald Trump because he puts America first and is actually getting things done. He wants to make our country a better place.

I want a wall to keep illegals out because I want my loved ones and me to be safe from any possible danger. As for those who are genuinely coming here for a better life, JUST FILL OUT THE PAPERWORK INSTEAD OF SNEAKING AROUND.

I'm pro-life; killing an infant at nine months is inhumane to me (and yet liberals say it's inhumane to keep illegals out…but let's not get into that right now).

I hate feminism. Why? Because modern feminism isn't even feminism. Slandering the male species and wanting to take down the patriarchy is just ridiculous.

I hate the media. I don't trust anyone in it. I think they are all biased, pathological liars. They purposely make our president look like the devil himself, leaving out anything good he does.

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

I mostly keep my opinions to myself out of fear. When I end up getting one of my "twisted" and "uneducated" thoughts slip out, I cringe, waiting for the slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong; not everyone at my university is hostile to those who think differently than they do.

I've shared my opinions with some liberal students and professors before, and there was no bloodshed. Sure, we may not see eye to eye, but that's okay. That just means we can understand each other a little better.

Even though the handful of students and faculty I've talked to were able to swallow my opinions, I'm still overwhelmed by the thousands of other people on campus who may not be as kind and attentive. But you can't please everybody. That's just life.

Your school is supposed to be a safe environment where you can be yourself. Just because I think differently than the vast majority of my peers doesn't mean I deserve to be a target for ridicule. No one conservative does. Scratch that, NO ONE DOES.

I don't think I'll ever feel safe.

Not just on campus, but anywhere. This world is a cruel place. All I can do is stand firm in my beliefs and try to tolerate and listen to the clashing opinions of others. What else can I do?

All I can say is... listen. Be nice. Be respectful of other's opinions, even if you strongly disagree. Besides, we all do have one thing in common: the desire for a better country.

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Dear Young Voices Of America, Stand Up, Speak Up, And Do Something

Our time is now.

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Dear young voices of America, I think we can both agree that we are sick of being told we are America's future while simultaneously being told our opinions don't matter. Now I personally do not listen to the people that tell me I'm better seen than heard; however, I know there are people that are a little timider when it comes to raising their voices. I am here to encourage you to be loud and speak up on topics that matter to you. There is no better time than the present to make your voice heard. Whether you are advocating for change in your school or the government, your opinion matters and is relevant.

We are the future of our country. How are we supposed to evoke change and reform if we can't have our voices heard? I call bullshit and I think it's time to take action. Even if you're the first or only person to advocate for your cause, be that person. Don't be afraid of anyone that tries to stand in your way. The only person that can stop you from speaking up for yourself and your cause is you. No matter how many nos you have to hear to get a yes or how many doors you have to knock on to get someone to open up, never give up. Never give up on your cause, never give up on yourself or the people you're representing, just don't do it. There is someone out there that supports you. Maybe they're just too shy to raise their voice too. Be encouraging and be supportive and get people to take a stand with you.

It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your future or to take action. But don't hesitate to say something. The sooner you start speaking up, the sooner you have people joining you and helping you, and the sooner you start to see and experience change. So get up, make that sign, write that letter, make that phone call, take part in that march, give that speech. Do whatever you feel fit to get your point across. Shout it from the rooftops, write it on your profile, send it in a letter, ignore everyone that tries to tell you to give up. Maybe they don't understand now, maybe they don't want to listen, maybe they're afraid to listen, but the more you talk about it and help them understand what exactly you are trying to get across, they will join you.

Even when it feels like you have nobody on your side but yourself, I am on your side. I will cheer you on, I will march with you hand in hand, I will write letters and make phone calls and help you find your voice. My life changed when I found my voice and yours will too.

So dear young voices of America, the time is now. Your time is now. Don't be afraid of the obstacles that you may have to face. Someone is out there waiting for you, waiting to grab your hand and march on with you. As Tarana Burke once said "Get up. Stand up. Speak up. Do something."

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