Race Relations

The 20s are all about processing what goes on around you, and figuring out what role you play in every situation. No matter what, we are participants in our lives. Things happen, for better and most notably, for worse, but in all happenstances we take part. Whether we are active in what goes on, stand useless as bystander, are the perpetrator or the person who has been impacted - what we do or say (that if we say or do anything) affects us all. Regardless of whether how little you feel the aftermath, the repercussion are real for us all. This is race relations.

Yesterday night I was in my residence hall room responding to emails for RHA (residence hall association) at like midnight, and it's been a crazy busy few days (physically strenuous, heavy lifting, tons of walking and stairs). The amount of exhausted I was cannot be even put into words, everywhere I went was falling asleep, public or not. I was just about ready to prepare for bed when of course, I zonked out (mid-email) on my laptop, windows open, shades up and all. Soon after I'm waking up to shouting coming from outside. When I fully sit up, the guys outside yelled ... and I quote, "Hey you, bitch ass nigger." I sat up even more and went to look outside but all I heard were running footsteps and snickering, there was no one to be found. And just like that, I'd been sent reeling. Knocked back, taken down several pegs, and insulted. All sense of security I had about my university had in that instant gone out the window. I sat on my bed just in complete shock. Literally, random dudes had just actually called me the n-word and fled. The words just rang in my head over and over again. Just out of the darkness, that word ringing out signifying that I was less than them. That I deserved to be verbally antagonized, even within the comfort and safety of my own room. That word means that I don't belong here. It means that I am not supposed to be here. I am not a whole person. I don't matter. I shouldn't exist. I'm an abomination, I'm ugly and a second class citizen worthy of being treated with vitriolic hate. Calling me the n-word is calling me out for being African-American, black, dark skinned, brown, colored, ethnic and the other words necessary for signifying that I am not, cannot, nor ever will be seen as "normal," that is to be accepted by the dominant group aka white people. Moreover, the color of skin is the only defining factor in my life, that's the only thing worth knowing about me and that's that. I serve no other purpose in this world other than to be subservient to others, made fun of or made a mockery out of. I am supposed to be punchline of jokes, feared  at all times and avoided at all costs. Calling me the n-word displays that I am not socially acceptable, not a person worthy of compassion, not a human being. Race relations have just took a turn for the worst.

When the whole incident went down I just sat on my bed in silence. I couldn't think, I couldn't comprehend, I couldn't process what had just occurred. My first thought was to be angry with myself, why hadn't I closed the blinds, why had I decided to live here, why had I chosen to go to school here? Why did I do this to myself? Why did I have to look like this? I wanted to tear my skin off. I wanted to take a bottle of bleach and wash the "dirt" away. I wanted to disappear, I wanted to go away from here, I wanted to no longer exist. I wanted to be normal. Tears started to flow and I just cried. I felt helpless. I felt useless. I felt worthless. I moved on to denial. Maybe I hadn't actually heard that. Maybe I had just dreamed it. Maybe I was making it up in my head. Then when I accepted that it had really occurred, I thought about what to do. The people had gone away just as quickly as they had gone. I thought about all the times I had had a bias incident happen and people minimize my experience, invalidate it, tell me it was an isolated thing, it only happened to me, I was exaggerating, it could be have been worse, to get over it, and to not let it affect me. That last especially gets to me. No one has to right to tell me what to be offended at or how to feel. You don't choose to ignore things, you feel them whether you want to or not. In the moments after the whole ordeal, I wondered not only who would actually care but moreover who would actually believe me. I felt disconnected to everyone that I knew. I called my sister at home in Ohio, and that helped ground me for a bit. I texted my closest friends here and lastly posted an infamous status on facebook that literally has this whole campus talking. I went to bed with dried salty tears all over my face. I woke up this morning to the most heartwarming thing. The amount of outraged comments, pissed of statuses, and kind messages people had sent to me about it was truly unbelievable. My biggest fear had been quelled, not only did people care, but they wanted to listen and act. When I finally emerged from my room and saw people, they all wanted to know the story and let me know that if I need to talk that they were there and willing to listen. Whether it's because I am a genuine person, whether it's my position and general popularity, or people just like real life drama - I don't care, I know that I matter to other people. Race relations are about to reach a fever pitch.

The thing about carelessness is that the person who is hurt and those who know that person are the ones left dealing with the fallout. Running into the darkness let's those who have actually done wrong escape unscathed. As the impactee, going through all those emotions and so many of those irrational thoughts was almost too much to bear. Everyone else is left picking up the pieces, worrying about me, wondering how I'm doing and all the rest. It's all fine and good, but my contentment was promptly interrupted. I was the one left thinking about my self-worth. That's unfair. That's not right. That's disgusting. That has to change. Things have to change. People have to change. People have to care. People have to act. All of this could have been avoided if one of those guys had said to stop, to not say it, to not go along with the shouting. Instead they all chose to take part in causing distress. I just want to know the thought process. Why do people get pleasure from making other people miserable? That's literally despicable to me. Why is causing someone else emotional harm fun? Why is yelling words that we all know not to use (your intent is irrelevant) the cool thing to do? It's time to give up some of that privilege, and let people live. I'm done catering to other's needs. I tired of making noise purposefully when walking night to let people know I'm there, taking off my hood and changing my action and words to accommodate white people. Mark my words, I'm taking away your privilege. No one gets to tell me how to feel. No one gets to tell me who I am. No one gets to tell me that I don't matter. Nobody. I am a black man. I am more than my color (and all the stereotypical assumptions that come with it). Race relations, things that will be tackled on this campus if it's the last thing I do here.

The 20s are all about taking care of yourself. At the end of the day, I determine my own happiness. I am choosing to move on, but never forget that this happened. I am choosing to not let it affect the start of my school year or make a gross broad generalization about white people I don't know (even after the countless horrid interactions with so many). I am separating the deed from the doer. I am separating the actions of a few from the image of many. I am vowing to do my very best to prevent things like this from happening, and if not, to being there for anyone who goes through something like this. Race relations will be challenged this year, prepare yourself.

My blog post question for the day is ... how do you deal with hurtful comments? I retreat into myself. I berate myself and wonder what I did wrong and avoid the actual fact that I have done nothing wrong other than exist on a predominantly white campus with a few simple-minded Neanderthals.


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