As a new father, it's a hard pill to swallow learning that the majority of the world's perspective of young black youth in America is painted by the brush of violence. A century of negative imagery and exaggerated stereotypes has really done its job convincing the world that young black boys are criminals and sexual predators. Although I fight tooth and nail to break the stereotype, I recognize that I still have a ways to go.
In our monthly chess and pizza program in Athens, I invite youth and elders from the community to come out and eat pizza while learning to play chess. Why chess? Well, that's another blog. It was something about this picture that brought something out of me. It was an opportunity to educate and reshape the perspective of the way the world views young black boys. I could write a book on each of the unique personalities at this table.
I can point you to the joker, the kid at the table who is extremely intelligent, but enjoys being the class clown. He enjoys making people laugh, even at the expense of creating problems for himself.
I can point you to the artist, the kid at the table who could draw with exact detail anything he lays his eyes on.
Then there's the kid who reads anything he puts his hands on and enjoys conversation on esoteric topics.
And the kid that walks to this pizza event just to play chess and laugh with everyone, the talented basketball player that also loves math, and so on and so on...
To watch black boys across this country continuously be painted by one paintbrush saddens me. Of course I'm not naive, and I clearly recognize the agenda in place to justify the expansion of the prison culture and the use of excessive force due to their "criminal" behavior. We can have diversity classes for years, but that will not help a person find their humanity. I ask people to challenge the stereotypes that are fed to them. Before you judge a person by the paintbrush of another, talk to them. Learn from them. Share with them.