30 Black People On What It’s Really Like To Live In America

Shutterstock / Pixel-3D
Shutterstock / Pixel-3D
Found on AskReddit.

1. I used to dream about me being any other color and cry when I woke up.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand why I was so different. I used to dream about me being any other color and cry when I woke up.

2. You have to work nearly 3 times harder to prove your “worth,” work-wise and innocence-wise.

You have to work nearly 3 times harder to prove your “worth,” work-wise and innocence-wise. No one ever believes you’re the creator of a semi-knowledgeable statement.

3. I just hate when people look at you and hold their bags a little closer or clinch their purses a little tighter.

I just hate when people look at you and hold their bags a little closer or clinch their purses a little tighter.

4. I have it ingrained in my head that people are judging me even when I know no one is even looking.

I have no complaints, but I would say the worst thing is I have it ingrained in my head that people are judging me even when I know no one is even looking.

5. For me it’s the always being an “other” in my own country that gets tiresome.

For me it’s the always being an “other” in my own country that gets tiresome.

Dolls didn’t ever look like me. Kids in books didn’t look like me. Hallmark cards didn’t have people like me in them. TV shows with people that look like me, or movies are rare. Books don’t describe my experiences. Cartoon kids didn’t look like me. Santa doesn’t even look like me.

The media doesn’t reflect my experiences. I read about baby boomers and that sounds nothing like anyone I’m related to. Musical anthologies don’t talk about the music I grew up hearing.

We didn’t even get Black/Brown emojis until now, lol! Remember the Kinect not recognizing Black people! That was hilarious. And lots of times I can’t find a Black Avatar on a game. Booooo!! We notice these things! I laugh and want to yell, “we’re here, too!!!”

I actually moved to a more multicultural environment not necessarily because I feared any overt racism – more because I didn’t want my son to have to deal with always being an “other”.

6. I can never just blend into the sea of white faces.

I haven’t seen anyone talk about how much it sucks to stand out all the time. I’m in law school and one of the handful of black people out of hundreds of students. Everyone knew my name the first day of class. If I showed up late or did something wrong everyone would notice and remember. I can never just blend into the sea of white faces. I don’t have the benefit of doing something wrong and thinking, “Oh well, at least no one will remember this in a day”. People remember everything I do, because I stand out all the time. Plus people will assume all of my mistakes are due to my skin color, but any achievements I have are chalked up to me being different from the normal black person. Sucks.

7. Being black is living with the difficulty on hard.

I am a black male in college for computer science and being black is living with the difficulty on hard. Being black is as if you don’t have an opportunity to make a first impression. Generally (not speaking for everyone) your parents implant in you that this world is not safe for you because before you have met someone they have already made their assumption of you based almost purely off of stereotypes. Your mission when you meet people is to literally tell them you are not any of the stereotypes and hope they believe you. We are essentially guilty until proven innocent. We do not get the benefit of the doubt. I think the part that kills me is the subtle racism I meet. It’s the widening of someone’s eyes when I say I am in college and studying to be a computer programmer or the way employees follow me around a store. I also hate that the world has taught me to be so ashamed of my culture that I have to almost disown my background to be given a chance, but that’s just my viewpoint and everyone’s is different.

8. The best way I could word it is that I feel like people are uncomfortable by the mere fact that I’m black.

The best way I could word it is that I feel like people are uncomfortable by the mere fact that I’m black. It doesn’t matter how I dress or act, if I’m on the bus and there only remaining seat is right next to me, the white/Asian passengers are standing. I’ve had girls tell me that the only reason they won’t date me is because I’m black, and I’ve nearly been denied entry into MY OWN JOB because I’m black.

The worst of it though sometimes are other black people. According to quite a bit, I don’t ‘act black enough’ to be black. I’m ‘acting white’ because I use good grammar and dress a certain way. Then inevitably, I’m left feeling alienated from both sides.

Oddly enough, I get along with Hispanics well enough. They’re the ones I’ve been able to better relate to.

9. I’m referred to as the whitest black man by friends and passersby because I don’t steal and I’m not failing school.

I come from a predominately white area as a black guy, so my story is different. I’m referred to as the whitest black man by friends and passersby because I don’t steal and I’m not failing school. There’s another black kid that loves comics and everyone describes him as “so white.” Apparently, pursuing your interests and having half a brain isn’t something a black man should be doing.

10. I’m expected to be loud and sassy. I’m expected to dance well. I’ve been told to “talk ghetto.”

I have been told that I’m not black countless times. I’ve been called “bougie” for not being ghetto, despite the fact that I’m from the suburbs. I’m expected to be loud and sassy. I’m expected to dance well. I’ve been told to “talk ghetto.” And don’t get me started on my hair. I don’t know if this is relevant, but it’s next to impossible to find pants that fit correctly for a decent price. And the people who are black and are ghetto give the rest of us a bad name.

11. Some people love to bitch about minorities loving to “play the race card” and they do little to think about why we have that fucking card in the first place.

I live in a very liberal area, but it’s also a very white area, and if someone moves away from me on the bus, or gives me the side eye at the store, there’s that part of me that’s stuck always wondering if it’s because I’m black or if it’s something else.

When I was little there was this boy in my school who didn’t like me, and… I didn’t even know him, we’d never talked, so I didn’t know what I’d done… but you know whatever, he didn’t like me, who gives a fuck there are other kids.

But then he was talking to another boy in the bus line one day, and they were right in front of me talking about some “bitch” and I was barely paying attention because like I said I didn’t know the kid. Then I realized they were saying BLACK bitch. Then I realized they were looking pointedly at me. And then it finally dawned on me that they were talking about me, and that they disliked me because of the color of my skin.

I miss being a child and not automatically wondering “is this because of my race”… because you just don’t fucking know. Some people love to bitch about minorities loving to “play the race card” and they do little to think about why we have that fucking card in the first place.

12. People tell me that I’m white because I don’t act like a degenerate. Fuck that.

One big thing that sucks is when people say that I’m white or I “don’t act black” because I’m well spoken and educated. When I was a little kid I knew that I didn’t want to fit into the negative stereotypes. I decided to rise above all of that, and what happens? People tell me that I’m white because I don’t act like a degenerate. Fuck that.

13. It depends on where you live.

Normal? It depends on where you live. I moved from South Florida to Central Florida for college. In Florida, the farther north you go, the more Southern it is. Here, when a police car drives by, and I’m in a car with (black) friends, everyone will get really still and remind each other not to make sudden movements and don’t look at the police. I’m not used to that.

14. I’ve been called “articulate” about 1,000 times because many do not expect a young male of my color to have a good vocabulary.

There are certain expectations that are annoying. I’ve been called “articulate” about 1,000 times because many do not expect a young male of my color to have a good vocabulary. Also there’s this phrase that’s starting to surface called “new black.” It’s basically young adults who don’t perpetuate stereotypes and are open to culture outside of pure Afrocentricism. It just bothers me that we’re categorized differently because we expanded our tastes outside of the hood. Overall, there are positives and negatives just like every other race. Maybe there’s more negative, but there are advantages.

15. Honestly being black is just a constant struggle to prove that you really are a decent and intelligent person.

Honestly being black is just a constant struggle to prove that you really are a decent and intelligent person. Your color precedes you in everything you do. I’m always the “black” friend not just a friend. It’s like people already have a notion of who you are and you have to fight against it and show your not like “all the others.” People assume thing you like and do are because to your skin colour and if you like anything out of the ordinary it’s shocking. You are constantly being praised for not being a degenerate “oh you speak English so good!” When you date someone you always have the worry if their family is racist or will accept you. When you look in the mirror you see everything society is telling you is not beautiful. I wouldn’t change it but it’s just really hard sometimes. It takes a real toll on your self-esteem.

16. It realllllllly depends on how “hood” you act.

This might be a little controversial but it realllllllly depends on how “hood” you act. If you’re well spoken and polite your race isn’t gonna come up in a negative way very often.

17. I do not try to be seen as one of the good ones; I refuse to.

I do not try to be seen as one of the good ones; I refuse to. It makes me angry to be looked down upon because of the color of my skin. I am unapologetically black and support it in others. It’s an issue when our hair, physical features, fashion, words, speech patterns and everything else that is black culture or that makes us who we are is looked down upon because it doesn’t adhere to what white America deems proper.

It breaks my heart that my people have to prove our worth and earn our dignity while white folks are given it no matter what walk of life they come from. We are guilty just for existing and that is terrifying. … I am pro-black and will continue to uplift those faces who look like mine because the world is continuously breaking us down.

So to all of you on this post reading this, even if no one else tells you, I love you and always will.

18. The most hurtful experiences have actually come from black people in my area.

While I have dealt with a fair amount of racism, most of it being light comments that people don’t think is racist, the most hurtful experiences have actually come from black people in my area. I’m biracial and I have been told that I may as well be white, people have told me that my people (wtf is MY people?!) didn’t experience true racism because we were “house niggers”, that COULD be black but I “talk white”, I have been called an Oreo, and I have been chastised by people I don’t know and parts of my family because my boyfriend is white. People crawl up my ass because “what, black people aren’t good enough?” I grew up expecting racism from everyone else but no one told me that I would be alienated from every group because I am not dark enough, or ghetto enough to fit into one.

19. I wasn’t disadvantaged because of my race, but because I grew up poor as shit.

It’s really not that bad. People aren’t locking their doors when I walk by, police aren’t shooting me on sight, and I’ve yet to be lynched. I’ve been across the country, from the hood to the suburbs, and race really isn’t a big deal. Are there racist places, yes cough NYC, but the real big limitation on people is money.

I wasn’t disadvantaged because of my race, but because I grew up poor as shit.

20. Whenever somebody brings up the Founding Fathers. Oh god, face palm.

Whenever somebody brings up the Founding Fathers. Oh god, face palm. The founding fathers were slavers (some of them). Is my chest supposed to swell with pride at their mentioning? The patriot in me says yes, the black guy in me says “lol”.

21. Without opening my mouth you already have an advantage over me because of my skin color.

As a black person I try to explain this using what I call the “elevator analogy”. Imagine I get on an elevator with 5 other people who happen to be white. Without opening my mouth you already have an advantage over me because of my skin color. You know that there is a very real likelihood that my African ancestry also makes it likely that my forefathers were once slaves. I haven’t even said a word and already there are a few people on that elevator who have subconsciously assessed me and my probable social status without even giving it any conscious thought. In an instant, some of the people on that elevator have made assumptions on my income, level of education and etc., all without so much as a hello.

Contrast that situation with the Jewish person on that elevator. They probably avoid many of those assumptions simply because of their skin color. This is also true of the person who has ancestors who came to America 100 years ago from Ireland or Italy. Back then they were hated and castigated as those starving, lice-ridden and desperately poor immigrants. Today they are the other passengers on that elevator looking down their noses at me.

22. I haven’t run into much racism and the small things I’ve encountered have been really petty or just blatantly ignorant.

It’s pretty okay, I mean I don’t really know anything different. I have friends of all ethnicities but I get the most shit from fellow black people for being “whitewashed”, speaking proper, dressed kind of hipsterishly. I did have this one white friend from Minnesota who was so amazed to see a black person in real life that she practically begged to touch my hair and skin but she didn’t mean anything weird by it. To be honest I like it a lot, I haven’t run into much racism and the small things I’ve encountered have been really petty or just blatantly ignorant.

23. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist in the US but it isn’t as widespread as the media in the US wants you to believe.

Honestly. Not bad at all. I’ve never been hassled by the police and the few times I was it was just traffic violations I committed. No one thought any different of me and my abilities. Just have had a fairly normal life so far. I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist in the US but it isn’t as widespread as the media in the US wants you to believe.

24. I hate it when employees follow me around in stores.

I hate it when employees follow me around in stores, mostly high-end ones like Gucci and stuff like that. It’s also hard to find role models when you’re young. When I was 7 I remember wanting to straighten my hair all the time, get a nose job and lighten my skin even though I’m already pretty light.

25. I’m good at sports but I’m bad at robbing people.

I’m black but was adopted at birth by white people. Everyone calls me the “whitest black guy” they’ve ever met. I’m not ghetto and I hate ghetto people. Being black on the outside and white on the inside is a great mix because I can almost say whatever I want. I’m good at sports but I’m bad at robbing people.

26. Just because a white person did something bad to you does not mean he/she is racist. He/She is probably just an asshole….

In my house and anywhere else around other black people, all I ever hear is the talk about “race,” especially from my mother. It bothers me. It aggravates me. Okay, mom. Just because a white person did something bad to you does not mean he/she is racist. He/She is probably just an asshole….

So what is it really like being black in the US? Just a tad aggravating, but I’m proud of who I am.

27. In my high school in the Dakotas you’re a celebrity if you’re black.

I had no idea racism was so prevalent in the south still… In my high school in the Dakotas you’re a celebrity if you’re black. We had maybe 10 black kids in a school of 2000.

Native Americans, though…they have the shit end of the stick here.

28. I’m mixed but that still never prevented people from calling me a nigger when I was younger.

I’m mixed but that still never prevented people from calling me a nigger when I was younger, being followed around in stores, being talked down to, tailed by police offers when in a nice car (that I owned), ignored, a statistic by default not by choice in an urban environment, being forced to forfeit in sporting events due to white communities wanting nothing to do with us (lived in Michigan), losing many more childhood friends to the system and death than I’m sure children of other ethnicities would have, and the list goes on….

In certain areas of America, the “white man” will always fear us, and the “black man” will always hate the “white man” just because. It’s going to take another couple of generations to phase this out. America is still young, that’s something a lot of people fail to recognize. This country is still separated by wars fought a couple to a few generations ago. It’s going to take some time.

29. Everything is not always bad in the hood.

Environment: My neighborhood was a premiere place for black professionals in the 70’s. By the 90’s, things had started to deteriorate. The crack epidemic in the 80’s took a LARGE portion of the black workforce out of the equation. Majority of the kids in my neighborhood were raised by their grandparents (the 70’s professionals) while their parents, (the 80’s crackheads) floated in and out of their lives. That lack of stability is major factor in the anger you see in urban poor communities. I’ve heard things like: “I don’t love nobody cause my own fucking mama didn’t love me.” This type of attitude makes it easy to commit violence against others. Despite the statistics, it feels like violent crime has become more widespread. I believe there are two driving forces behind this. Emotionally detached 90’s babies are coming of age, and the relocation of thousands of blacks after the destruction of the projects in the early 2000’s. In 2015, I’ve seen our last black owned grocery store, pharmacy, and bank close. It feels like 30-40% of commercial property is boarded up. The remaining stores consist of beauty supplies, fast food, dollar stores, and liquor store. There are no bowling alleys, movie theaters, and YMCA memberships are expensive. Children and teens often hang on the block after school. These are the same blocks that winos, crackheads and crack dealers occupy during the day. From 3:00pm to 9:00pm is the time where most black kids get their first real taste of “street life”.

Home life: I would definitely say my upbringing was unique to my surroundings. My parents have been married for over 20 years. My parents brought home a modest middle class income, but I always felt like we were rich. We took trips for summer vacation (my friends in my neighborhood always stayed at home). I even got a chance to go to the Bahamas once (I still have friends who have never been on a plane before). Despite all the fast food around us, my dad tried really hard to make sure we ate home cooked meals. Looking back, my parents acted a lot like the grandparents of my peers. I can attribute this to two reasons: My parents are 15yrs older than most of my peer’s parents. And both my parents were raised in Mississippi and not Chicago. I believe these two factors helped them avoid the crack epidemic, and that’s why they’re such productive parents.

Education: I did not attend a neighborhood school. I went to elementary and high school downtown. It was really the greatest thing my parents could have done for me. Neighborhood schools on the south side are fucking horrible. They shouldn’t even call it school. It’s kiddie prison. The teachers aren’t trying to teach and the kids aren’t trying to learn. You gotta have your body wanded and bag searched the moment you step in. The cafeteria feels like the yard, you never know when somebody is planning to fuck some shit up. I feel safer on the damn block. It is not a place conductive to learning.

Violence: I’ve never been jumped but I’ve seen some kids get viciously beaten. My friends and I were robbed at gunpoint once. But during the entire experience, I was more fearful of them stealing my parents’ car than losing my life. I figured if they really wanted to kill me I would have been dead before I even knew what was going on. Boys today really don’t fight anymore. Sometimes I think that’s because they didn’t have a daddy or uncle to teach them how to throw hands. Everybody’s about gunplay. It’s so ridiculously easy to get a gun. Sometimes I can find a gun to buy easier than I get a bag of weed. Even if you don’t want to shoot it out, living here makes you feel like you need a gun, cause you know everyone else has one.

Police Interaction: The police ain’t shit. All the crime that goes on here and I’ve NEVER seen them stop one crime in progress. Kids here are raised from a young age not to talk to the police. They are not your friends. Every black man (including my mild mannered father) has been to jail at least once and has a story to tell about police interactions. But it’s really the plainclothes detectives that are a problem. My boyfriend made a U turn one night on an empty street in our neighborhood. Some detectives in an unmarked car blue lighted us. All four dic boys approached the car with their guns pointed at us, yelling at us to get the fuck out the car. They handcuffed me and my friend and put us on our knees while they searched my boyfriend and his friend. I only had on leggings and tank top. One guy ran his hands all over my body to make sure I wasn’t “hiding anything.” They ransacked the car and literally ripped the backseat out, looking for guns and drugs. They mocked me and said rude things about my boyfriend while I was handcuffed and keeling in the grass. It’s like they wanted me to react SOOO bad. At one point one of them even said: “just give me a reason.” In the end, they found nothing so they drove off, leaving us to clean the mess they made and try and put the back seat together. I’ve never felt more violated and humiliated. Fuck the police.

The good times: Everything is not always bad in the hood. I remember lazy summer afternoons jumping double dutch and eating flaming hots with cheese. Going to the basketball court and watching guys cut like Greek gods play no-foul street ball. Smoking strawberry flavored blunts and going to Englewood on the 4th to watch a firework show bigger than Navy Pier’s. Walking through Washington Park while hundreds of families fill the air with BBQ smoke. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything.

30. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

It’s tiring, but it’s also strong.

It’s not so much the blatant racism, but the subtle racism, the microaggressions, the coded language, the denial, the fact that after we deal with all of those we then tend to turn inward and harm ourselves with things like colorism, shadism, or the ever popular vernacular issue (“Why do you talk white?”)

It gets exhausting. But to be black, to me, is to be incredibly strong in spite of all of this. Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” comes to mind. My life has been filled with all of the issues stated above, but also has been colored and shaped and influenced by a myriad of strong black men and women who continue to pull themselves up and try again – against everything they still rise.

I wouldn’t change it for the world. TC mark

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