It didn’t hit me until last night where I lived and how I lived until yesterday. I had to teach all day, and I had plans to meet two peeps at “The Mall” for a few drinks and conversation. More drinks than conversation, hopefully. So there I was, getting off at the Smithsonian stop, and looking at the Capital building in front of me, with the National Monument behind me. And tourists. Buckets and buckets of tourists. I mean, it took me this long to realize that I could come here anytime I wanted to. I just never did. It was sort of nice, actually.
I have certain friends that I spend time talking about certain things. Some friends, I talk about politics. Some friends, I talk about religion. Some friends, I talk about race. This particular conversation yesterday, me and a friend discussed the different levels of the black community. Mostly in DC, but everywhere. You have the rich, professional blacks and you have the rougher, more urban blacks. My friend and I sit in the middle. I tend to dress as simply as possible, blue jeans and a shirt, and I don’t convey that I have a Master’s degree or that I teach English. Honestly, I’d rather people judge me by what I do and how I do it, not how I dress, even though how I dress is tied to what I do and how I do things. My friend is obviously educated, just by looking at her. Smart, attractive, assertive. But she doesn’t like to be hymned in by a status. Of course, half way through the conversation, I make the point I always make.
“It’s not race,” I said to her. “It’s class.”
Economics. That is what matters. She didn’t agree, citing all the trails and problems the black community has had to go through. I agree, to a point, but I don’t like to be thought of as a Black man. I’ve never liked it. I like to be thought of as simply as a man. You don’t say that a German guy is German. You don’t say an Italian is an Italian. But the darker the skin, the more it is special, the more it is called out. There are probably tons of reasons for this. None of these reasons matter to me. Until we work together, as a people, we will never have a beautiful world.
How many people who see me on the street see me as a Black man? How many people latch stereotypes to me? How much does that hang on me? Thinking about that isn’t really worth much of my time.