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  • Writer's pictureJulius "Ju" Hearn

Juneteenth

Being a black man in America

I haven’t written a blog in just about a year to the date. A lot has happened in that time, too much for one blog. I’ll focus on the one thing that hasn’t changed though. The fact I’m still a black man in America. How do I know you ask? Because I’m reminded of it everyday. Every time I walk down the street and a woman squeezes her purse until I’ve passed her, every time a mom or dad grabs their kids as if I’m a kidnapper or child molester, every time I’m watched in the store and have the items I come in with and leave out with checked, every time my next door neighbors don’t speak to me and rush into our building when I’m around. These are just some examples of what this black male encounters on a daily basis. Things that most races aren’t even aware of because it’s become instinct and second nature to them. There are days when I feel like a criminal. I’ve been the poster board example for what some would call “judging a book by its cover;” you never know how good the book is until you understand it better or take time to read it. The story of this book is far from being finished. But I could definitely give you some spark notes. And if you were anything like me in school, you wanted to get to the point. Spark notes usually help an aspiring student access these main points. I’m an introvert, some individuals might confuse it with being a misanthrope. But I’m far from it. In fact, I like helping others. It’s a big reason why I got into the health and wellness industry, to help people live healthier and longer lives. Growing up my mother would always tell me, “Ju, you have to open your mouth. If you don’t open your mouth people will never know what you want or need.” Or she would say as I got older, “Ju, how are you ever going to be a successful businessman if you never talk?” Looking back, those were pretty valid points. But two things my mother didn’t understand then that I did: (1) I learned more about a person listening, watching, and observing and, (2) I always talked about things that I was passionate about - basketball is a great example of that. I always communicated with my teammates. I knew that if the passion was there the communication would be easy. Mom to this day is still shocked and proud that I’ve succeeded in a customer service industry. Some of my earliest memories as a kid were from playing sports or being involved in extracurricular activities. Back then I was introduced to all ethnicities, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic etc. you name it. As a kid you would never think that once you grow up the mentality of everyone is the same. The only difference you see as a kid is he’s lighter or darker or she has long hair and he doesn’t. But they are all my friends. We laugh, play, and have fun together. Unfortunately, as we get older the purity of those relationships start to diminish and society begins to pollute and corrupt the mind. Society begins to categorize and segregate white, tan, brown, and black. So that made me think at what age did I personally feel that disconnection? As I reflect now, I would have to say third grade. There was a white boy named John and he was a good kid overall, but John had a medical condition where he couldn’t be hot. So every room that John was in had an air conditioner unit in it because the school couldn’t afford central AC. So John would act out in class sometimes for no reason, it wasn’t because he was hot or anything physically was wrong with him. When he would get in trouble the teacher would tell him to go take a walk in the hallway or go to the nurse’s office. To give you a comparison, I had a friend named Robert, we called him Bobby. Bobby was a good student and an even better athlete. Personally looking back on it I think Bobby had attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Bobby would do similar things that John would do but would get a harsher response. Instead of being told to take a walk in the hallway to cool off he would be hit on his arm with a ruler, told to stand facing the corner, lose recess privileges, get extra homework or just get humiliated in front of his peers. I tell you this story to ask this: doesn’t it sound a lot like programming? Getting hit with a ruler from a superior is a lot like being assaulted by a police officer. Being told to stand in the corner facing the wall is a lot like doing prison time in a small confined cell where you can’t go anywhere. At work if you do something wrong or if your boss doesn’t like you they usually throw more work on your desk. And humiliation used to be made to feel inferior. It’s a pattern! A pattern and a cycle that most minorities will never be able to break or overcome. I know you’re probably thinking what can we do to change this? Is there any way we can change this? Sadly, there is no immediate cure or quick fix. But the first step starts with the education of all ethnicities and families from different walks of life, enlightening the youth and molding them into not seeing the pigment of a person’s skin. But judging the character and moral compass one has on his/her shoulders. We all come from different cultures and backgrounds. Instead of being closed off and non-receptive, think about what would happen if we opened up and challenged ourselves to become more proficient in other areas. Remember when you were young and you would ask mom or dad for something and they would quickly say no or shut you down without even giving it a second thought? You would get so angry and probably try to convince them more but your lobbying was useless. That’s what it feels like when you don’t try to understand others and their culture. Personally, I’m a foodie so I love to try other culture’s food. Now I will say this, I will tell you if I don’t like it. I’m a very honest person. But if I love it, I’m coming back for more. That’s just one way I’ve opened myself to try to understand and appreciate other cultures. But I digress. And as my spark notes come to an end for now, I would like to say thank you for taking the time out to read my first blog post of 2020. With all that’s been going on, or better yet, all that’s been broadcasted, because none of it is “new” - from George Floyd to Breanna Taylor to Ahmaud Arbery and so many more. It breaks my heart to (1) know that these young black people have lost their lives in situations they were victim to (2) how the justice system doesn’t equally convict based on similar crimes (3) the fact that we have to discuss and debate what racism and injustice is and if white privilege is real and (4) the four hundred plus years of slavery and oppression our people endured and have to still endure today. I’m not an emotional guy, but this has brought to the surface so many emotions that I had submerged inside of me. As a black male that feels like he has accomplished a fair amount, I’m torn. Because I’ve accepted and faced a lot of racism, verbal and physical brutality from police, humiliation, disrespect, white privilege, and hate crime. All of which have surfaced in me the last few months. I find myself at a crossroad, asking myself should I have walked away and kept my cool or would have it been better if I spoke my mind and let my emotions take over? That’s one of the things most don’t understand about being a black man - that I have to make those life decisions everyday. Can I wear a hooded sweatshirt outside at night? Can I be left in the room alone with someone I don’t know and of a different race? Can I take the risk that they might say I did something to them? Can I protect my family and it be considered self defense? If I get pulled over in a car will I get shot? These are some of the calculated decisions we as black men have to make on the spot and the wrong decision can cost us our life. #BlackLivesMatter

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