I sometimes find that others don’t always see Black People as normal (read: “human”) — that’s what it can feel like, anyway. I thought this would be a good point in the series to examine the fact that we want very basic human things, one of which is a sense of belonging. I want to discuss what I think that means for Black People.
What Do You Mean by “Human”?
I always end up feeling like I don’t belong at some point – regardless of my station in life. While that raw feeling of unacceptance doesn’t happen all the time, there are definitely moments ranging from ultimately harmless-to-disrespectful. Big or small, each occurrence of these events carries the unmistakable sting of being branded an outsider.
I have been told, time and time again, that I’m very articulate (a classic microaggression that I’ve just learned to let roll-off). I have been in pick-up sports games where I was outright told I was selected because they expect me to be faster or jump higher than the others participating (which I was – and I did… but still). I have spent the bulk of my working life at companies where the concerns, needs, and marketing approaches necessary for my race, in particular, came as a tertiary target or were often bucketed with other minority groups (that’s if they were considered at all).
I have grown in a world where political leaders spread labels such as superpredators, thugs, and not worth understanding to the masses when speaking about my people in veiled terms. I have been followed around stores, had my ability to purchase items questioned, and stopped places on the grounds of looking out of place. I have sat in classrooms as the only Black student where speeches have been presented to the group on why Black People have natural genetic advantages in certain “poor sports” (the only time I’ve ever heard this term used in public).
If people begin to see you as non-human, certain things just aren’t considered. No one cares (it seems) about the effect of saying “stupid dog” or separating a mother dog from her litter of newborn puppies. Some people don’t care if their dogs eat or are cold. I’m not saying that Black People are dogs, not by a longshot – but am I saying that we’re sometimes treated with the consideration of one in this country? Maybe (just being honest).
Living a life accustomed to this level of afterthought and lack of consideration makes it unsurprising that others are sometimes shocked to learn Black People have habits and desires similar to their own. That we in fact have regular human feelings, fears, concerns, aspirations, desires, etc. And, to be clear, everyone doesn’t make me feel this way. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by really great people most of the time – no matter their culture. I can’t stress that enough.
But, every Black person you know has felt the sobering instant of a reminder before. Probably along the lines of what I shared above. Every single one of us.
Where do Black People Find Belonging?
As I’ve said, we’re normal humans just like everyone else. Rather than asking where do Black People find belonging, I think a better exercise in empathy for many would just be to ask, “Where do I find belonging?” However you answer that question, you can likely apply your findings to all people.
A little goes a long way in how you treat people. For Black People — and probably for all people — we hardly acknowledge just being treated like a person, but we also really appreciate it. And when we’re being treated as an “other” – we notice, and our internal thought process and external approach to those who make us feel like we don’t belong changes. Again, I imagine all people react this way.
I have decided to focus the coming days of this second week in the My Black Perspective series on some of those sources of belonging for Black People. I’ll take a look at Black families, friendships, and affiliation groups. And then address openness and sensitivity, as I’ve experienced it, in the Black Community – along with that amazing thing we all seek in life: Love (on Valentine’s Day).
Nothing too fancy with this one — just introducing the theme of the coming week. I am curious if anyone cares to share any moments that made them feel like an outsider. I can’t be the only one with those kinds of stories. If you’re feeling brave – please use the comment section down below. Share your story (even if you want to do so under an alias).