"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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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads

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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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Dear Nancy Pelosi, 16-Year-Olds Should Not Be Able To Vote

Because I'm sure every sixteen year old wants to be rushing to the voting booth on their birthday instead of the BMV, anyways.

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Recent politicians such as Nancy Pelosi have put the voting age on the political agenda in the past few weeks. In doing so, some are advocating for the voting age in the United States to be lowered from eighteen to sixteen- Here's why it is ludicrous.

According to a study done by "Circle" regarding voter turnout in the 2018 midterms, 31% of eligible people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted. Thus, nowhere near half of the eligible voters between 18 and 29 actually voted. To anyone who thinks the voting age should be lowered to sixteen, in relevance to the data, it is pointless. If the combination of people who can vote from the legal voting age of eighteen to eleven years later is solely 31%, it is doubtful that many sixteen-year-olds would exercise their right to vote. To go through such a tedious process of amending the Constitution to change the voting age by two years when the evidence doesn't support that many sixteen-year-olds would make use of the new change (assuming it would pass) to vote is idiotic.

The argument can be made that if someone can operate heavy machinery (I.e. drive a car) at sixteen, they should be able to vote. Just because a sixteen-year-old can (in most places) now drive a car and work at a job, does not mean that they should be able to vote. At the age of sixteen, many students have not had fundamental classes such as government or economics to fully understand the political world. Sadly, going into these classes there are students that had mere knowledge of simple political knowledge such as the number of branches of government. Well, there are people above the age of eighteen who are uneducated but they can still vote, so what does it matter if sixteen-year-olds don't know everything about politics and still vote? At least they're voting. Although this is true, it's highly doubtful that someone who is past the age of eighteen, is uninformed about politics, and has to work on election day will care that much to make it to the booths. In contrast, sixteen-year-olds may be excited since it's the first time they can vote, and likely don't have too much of a tight schedule on election day, so they still may vote. The United States does not need people to vote if their votes are going to be uneducated.

But there are some sixteen-year-olds who are educated on issues and want to vote, so that's unfair to them. Well, there are other ways to participate in government besides voting. If a sixteen-year-old feels passionate about something on the political agenda but can't vote, there are other ways of getting involved. They can canvas for politicians whom they agree with, or become active in the notorious "Get Out The Vote" campaign to increase registered voter participation or help register those who already aren't. Best yet, they can politically socialize their peers with political information so that when the time comes for all of them to be eighteen and vote, more eighteen-year-olds will be educated and likely to vote.

If you're a sixteen-year-old and feel hopeless, you're not. As the 2016 election cycle approached, I was seventeen and felt useless because I had no vote. Although voting is arguably one of the easiest ways to participate in politics, it's not the only one. Since the majority of the current young adult population don't exercise their right to vote, helping inform them of how to stay informed and why voting is important, in my eyes is as essential as voting.

Sorry, Speaker Pelosi and all the others who think the voting age should be lowered. I'd rather not have to pay a plethora of taxes in my later years because in 2020 sixteen-year-olds act like sheep and blindly vote for people like Bernie Sanders who support the free college.

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