There was no place for us in school. I would
argue that the greatest waste of time in my life was the four years I spent in high school.
And this is coming from an educator. That there was, from the food that we were fed,
to the only way we were really accepted in school, you know, that, black boys are
the mascots of any high school that they’re in, where I grew up, I don’t know about other
places–I’ve seen it in other places though. I see it now at universities, where like the black
dudes are the, you know, they’re the provocative part of your experience in high school or
college or in the work place, you know. And for me, it just, it didn’t speak to me. A
white boy who walks in the room, and is animated and moving around and maybe even a little
cheeky is smart, and ‘isn’t he smart? Isn’t he cheeky?’ He’s almost looked at as ‘well,
boys will be boys.’ A child–a boy– of color, especially an African American boy, who walks
in the room exhibiting the same behavior, walks in and is ‘hmm, I might need to keep
an eye on him’ and that, I really believe, is our internalized racism. That we are afraid
of these young boys, and I’m talking young boys four years old and above. And that instead
of the teacher looking at him or herself and saying, “What is going on with me, that this
same behavior creates fear in me instead of admiration?” We pathologize the boy of color.
Race always deals with boxes. And, I think when we are… So let’s say you grow up in
the suburbs or you grow up in affluent area of a city that has an affluent area and a ghetto. But, you’re black. A black boy. And, you… So you get to school and there’s a
box for you, and that box says you rap, you’re an athlete, you’re slightly to highly misbehaved, you…you’re not involved into your education, you sell and/or use drugs. That’s the box that you’re accepted in. And, in order to play ball, no pun intended, that’s how you
interact with yourself, your own identity. And this is how you’re cool, but you feel
like the box that it traps you in, is you feel like to be healthier, to be in a more sound
mind state to think and know and come from a place of foundation in your life is something that you have to be ashamed of and you have to denounce can drive you crazy. So, my sophomore year I took a trip to Appalachia, with just a religious, kind of service group.
And we were set up with little home repair projects in this very small, rural, low-income community
in Eastern Kentucky. And some of the houses didn’t have running water, some of them didn’t
have electricity and they were down these rudded roads and in an area that I just never
knew existed and conditions I didn’t know existed in our country. And at the same time,
there were these huge coal corporations just raking in huge money in the same communities
and it just made me look at what was wrong with this picture. And what did I want to
do about it? And I ended up wanting to take more people to Appalachia and take people
to the deep South and just give ’em a, just an immersion experience in poverty, an immersion
experience in racism. More and more we came they were not the problem of individuals.
So we had started on this path of trying to understand systems and in the course of that
I met john powell, who is very passionate about race as well. And so he started talking
about his perspective about how he saw race playing into all of this. And of course, when
he started talking about race and how it operated in our society it immediately started resonating
with me because it started explaining all of these personal experiences, these individuals
experiences that I had had in a way that I could see that they fit into this much larger
system. That, it wasn’t just my father being an immigrant, or wasn’t just my father being
dark skinned, but this was something–this experience was something that he had had–my
father had had, was an experience he shared with many people who found themselves being
described in similar ways.