Thursday, May 10

Protective Cover? or Masks I Wear

I think everyone who works and enjoys (sometimes) retail wears some of the same masks.

Now, as a Black man the one I struggle with most often is not being a stereotype. Some of that is me saying to the outside world "not all Black men are what you see in the news or movies" and some of that is me saying to my community "there is more to being Black than what you see in the news or movies". I have used this mask (sometimes unknowingly, sometimes unwittingly) since I was a kid. Why? Well, I am fortunate enough to have been born into a true multi-generational middle class (sometimes upper middle class) family and to me that means education, world experience and dreaming are allowed and fostered. I am a 3rd generation college graduate (my grandfathers' grandfathers were slaves - one in Forsythe, GA; the other in Rutherford Cty, TN). I don't think I need to explain how extremely rare that is in any part of the African-American experience. Hell, it's rare in the general population but so much more rare in Black America. We owned books and an encyclopedia when I was a kid, I traveled abroad (Dominican Republic) when I was 3 or so. I was a Boy Scout from ages 8-18 which means I spent a lot of time outdoors and enjoyed it. You might laugh but there are lots of urbanites who have never spent a night outside. I live in a world where I have heard things like "I've never met a Black person who likes this kind of music." from one side and "Sellout, wanna-be" from the other side so sometimes I need to wear a mask.

As an individual who works hard to be honest, selfless, and fair this is very difficult for me, as I am sure it is for others who have to put on a happy face to make it through the day. What is different is that as soon as I walk out of the door I am reminded to put on a happy face but invariably I am reminded that I am a Black person, a Black man, and usually am reminded that I am a different sort.

As I have gotten older, as I have studied Buddhist philosophy I have gotten better a grasp on how to just be a person. As anyone who works at improving themselves knows this isn't easy and you have to remind yourself constantly to be better, stronger, smarter, nicer, etc. That's the goal.
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