For most, it is internal and external. One is normally worse than the other depending on our personalities and how we deal with trauma and grief. From my perspective as a Black man, that is not the case. The internal and external pain is equally as devastating and causes trauma that has life-changing consequences. As a Black male, I am forced to be strong or perish by means of incarceration, death, stress, heath issues, or other issues that plague the Black community.
Unfortunately, a part of being strong means holding onto a lot of the struggles and pain that come with the disadvantages that are presented to us even before we exit the womb. For many of us, we enter a world struggling, utilizing resources like WIC, free health care, and living in substandard housing, then receive less than an equitable education under the law. Unfortunately, when resources run out, many of us enter survival mode because we do not understand why certain things are the way they are nor how to improve them.
More so, many systems that are in place actually prevent our self-improvement. I do not have to tell you what happens next. I do not have to tell you the failures we have endured at the hands of education systems. As a result, many of our young Black men have been incarcerated unjustly and at rates far higher than our White counterparts for similar crimes, all while enduring the physical pain inflicted at the hands of the police, detention officers, and hospitals. We are and have been dealing with police brutality for well over a century and have been experimented on probably longer than we can currently prove. So the pain we feel on a daily basis is real. The burden we bear weighs heavily on our hearts. The stress and worry I carry for my child and family is overwhelming and that’s just pain.
Voice (Being Heard)
Why should I have to seek out other ways to say things differently than my White counterparts? Why am I told to do so when I am not heard and told that it is my fault when I am not? When I speak passionately, I evoke fear into the hearts and minds of some of my White counterparts; if I raise my voice or use foul language out of frustration or pain, I get labeled the angry Black man. I am stereotyped even further and seen as a criminal, militant, violent, anti-American, and a rash of other things despite my service to this country. That is a helpless feeling that can in some ways make me feel powerless to advocate for all in nonviolent ways.
Presumed Guilty Until Proven Innocent
As a Black man I have too many stories to count and share. I am a victim of racial profiling, man handling, arrest, and detention before any charges were made, only to be released after realizing a mistake was made. I have had the trauma of being pulled from my car after working an eight-hour shift at Pizza Hut at 11:30 p.m. and sat on the side of the road, handcuffed when I was 16 years old. My vehicle was illegally searched because I looked like someone they were looking for and left on the side of the road after midnight with a dead battery in south Florida. I know the pain and how it feels to be pulled over every day by the same cop and given an equipment violation for things like a headlight in broad daylight or wipers when it’s sunny. Welcome to my world, America.
In my life I have fought and scraped for everything I have to ensure my family is taken care of. From education to housing it has been challenging. As a child I was not afforded the same education as my White counterparts despite my parent’s efforts. There was no equitable or even equal education under the law. Schools were different, opportunities within those schools were different, and students who attended those schools were exposed to so much more than I was. As a result, academic and even athletic scholarships were not favorable. As I grew up, it was more of the same. As diverse as it is today, both college and the military lack cultural diversity and definitely have glass ceilings. When it came to housing, the door wasn’t even open to me at first because of my financial foundations or lack thereof. The disadvantages we face in that area is another blog in itself. Nevertheless, when I was able to purchase a home, there were still stereotypes out there and realtors and lenders that made assumptions despite what I brought to the table in the form of finances and credit.
All of the things I describe above barely scratch the surface of what a Black male carries around on a daily basis. These things hurt and continue to oppress us. They cause us to struggle and we always feel like we are in a fight. Now we feel like we are fighting for our lives.
by Ronardo Reeves, Ed.D., Associate, CT3