I am a sixteen-year-old African American male who gets misjudged for a lot of racial things. Because of my ethnicity, there’s a lot of clothing and hairstyles I can’t wear, and groups I can’t be with. I know you guys are probably saying, “Doesn’t everybody have things like that?” No! Is that right or fair that I get treated the way I do? No, it isn’t right or fair, so I would like to speak up about it.
I had my first experience with racial stereotyping when I was thirteen years old. I was wearing a black hoodie tied so that you really couldn’t see my face, with black Levi’s jeans, and black Jordans. My pants were down kind of low, but I was still walking pretty fast. And it just so happened, at that time, a crime had been committed and I fit the description of the criminal. However, I was shorter than the person who had committed the crime. All of a sudden, three police cars came speeding up with their sirens on and lights flashing. Three officers were standing behind their car doors slightly crouching with their guns pointing at me like I was dangerous.
The officer yelled, “Put your hands in the air and get down slowly!” With a terrified face I did what was asked of me without any weird or sudden moves. Click click click click click, the sound the shoes made as the cops ran toward me. Then, boom! the sound my body made, hitting the hard, cold concrete. Zip zip is what I heard as I felt hard, cold metal being put on my wrists. They picked me up and began reading me my rights as a large crowd looked at me with disgust. Two hours after arriving at juvenile hall, I was released and apologized to for the way I had been treated, and for being brought in for nothing.
There’s not a day that goes by without me remembering that incident, and so I make sure I’m dressed well and don’t look like a criminal. While out in public, I don’t like to be with the type of people who talk way too loudly and act like they have no sense. Once my friends and I were walking home from school and there was this white boy in front of us by himself. He was about four feet, ten inches tall, and weighed about 120 pounds; he had dirty blonde hair and blue eyes. Then there were my friends: tall, loud, and reckless. These are the type of people who would wear black sweaters in 110 degree weather talking about things they have recently stolen. The boy in front of us started to get worried and scared. I started to notice his actions more because he kept looking over his shoulder with a worried look on his face. Even though he’s my neighbor, he seemed not to recognize me; yet we talk every day. I began to call for him. “Jake, Jake, Jake!” I yelled, trying to get his attention. It wasn’t working, so I started jogging toward him, continuing to call for him. The group followed right behind.
Then it happened. “Leave me alone! Stop following me!” he screamed, and took off in a sprint while on the phone with the police. We stopped jogging and stood there, startled about what he had just said, and we sat there and just thought to ourselves. Five minutes later, when we finally arrived at my house, he was outside talking to the police and was pointing at us as we grew closer. The police officer asked us what happened and we explained. Jake felt bad about what had happened and made up for it later in life. He and his family took me with them on a family vacation to Lake Tahoe during winter.
I try not to be out past nine o’clock. That’s when the police and criminals are out. That’s also when people can become very rude. For example, there are times when I have walked down streets and heard, chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp ,chirp-chirp, chirp-chirp, the sound of people setting their car alarms four times to make sure it’s locked. Or other times, when families would just stand by their car and wait until I am far away from them before entering their house. People may not notice, but I see how I am treated differently because of my race, which is totally unjustified.
In today’s world, African Americans get treated the worst compared to other races. It feels like it’s ten times harder for us to get a job than for a white person. Or, if I walk into a store, I get watched closely because they think I might steal something. The color of my skin doesn’t determine my characteristics or my actions. I believe in equal chances and fairness. So, do I think stereotypes are fair? No, I don’t. I really think people should get to know a person before making assumptions. As Malcolm X once said, “I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as
such, regardless of their color.”