Living In America As A Young Black Man

Inside the mind of a Young Black Man in 2020

All men are created equal- but are they treated as such?

All men are created equal- but are they treated as such?

Blake Cunningham, Reporter

Every day I wake up wishing for equality, and hoping that everybody can accept each other. It’s crazy how Martin Luther King Jr. was talking about equal rights almost 60 years ago, and we’re still having the same conversation today.

When I was growing up I never saw anything uncomfortable to happen to me or my parents- because I lived in the suburbs of Michigan. I had lived in Michigan all my life until my mom had a job promotion and we moved out here to Missouri in 2017.

The first time I ever experienced some sort of racism was when I was in seventh grade. When my family and I went out to St. Louis for the first time and I was walking around, I saw old white women clutching their purses every time I would nod my head and say “Hey.” Of course, they said “Hi” back, but when we went back to the car my dad explained to me why those old ladies changed their entire demeanor when they saw me.

Now that I’m thinking back, I understand why I was so naive. I never realized that the color of my skin made strangers act in such an obviously negative way. I didn’t know even know what racism was.

Before I moved to Lake St. Louis, I lived in High Ridge, Missouri, a place of little diversity. There were a handful of black people at my school and I didn’t have a class with any of them. So for the first five months of school I felt uncomfortable, being the only person of color in my class.

Due to that constant feeling of loneliness, I soon became an introvert. I didn’t really talk to anyone for the two years I lived there. My parents caught on soon enough and realized that they didn’t like the area either- it wasn’t diverse enough.

So we moved out here, to Lake St. Louis, and I love it out here. It’s very diverse, has better schools and better communities.

But still, I get scared to leave my house. I don’t know what would happen to me if I ever got pulled over by a cop. In this free country, I should not have to fear for my life every time I step out of the house or get approached by law enforcement. We need to make a difference right now. And I’m going to do everything I can to make a better future for my kids and for my kids’ kids, by speaking out against racial injustice.

Living in America as a young black man can be challenging at times, never knowing what could happen to me if I make any wrong move. Even at the school, I’m in right now, there are still only a handful of black kids. But, I’m blessed to have the parents who had the means to move us out of a less-diverse community, to give me a better life than they did.

I think even if I went to a black or a white school, society would hold me down for two reasons: 1) I’m a 14-year-old kid and 2) I’m black. I have to work five times as hard as a white kid would to be noticed.

Growing up, my dad loved basketball. I inherited that trait from him and every time I’d have a bad game he would always tell me this quote from one of his favorite college basketball players of all time, Larry Johnson. He said, “There’s always going to be players that are stronger faster more talented but one thing is for sure never let them outwork you.’’ So I applied that to my school work. I never let people outwork me in any situation whether it be tests, quizzes, or even on the basketball court. 

When I was younger, I never really saw anything crazy happen to me or my parents because we lived in the suburbs. But now that I’m older and seeing more and more radical injustices every day, I have to stand up and fight for equality.

We want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Martin Luther King Jr.