I became a Black man at 18 years old. I was in college and went to a party in Los Angeles with 2 other friends. We were on our way home and stopped by the Police. We were told to get out of the car, get face down on the ground with 3 feet between us. Each one of us took our turns at having a knee in our backs and asked our names and what we were doing in the area. We were searched and then told that there had been a robbery in the neighborhood and we fit the description. Knowing we were nowhere near this supposed robbery we all realized that we were being stopped for driving while Black. One friend protested a little too much and was punched in the back. We were then let go when the other Policeman simply said lets go. Don't think I ever thought of myself as a Black Man before that other than simply knowing that I was black. With those types of stops being on the news all the time I now was able to categorize myself along with the other Black men that had been stopped previously by Police for no reason.
I became a man in my mind when I rented my 1st apartment and could control that environment the way I chose. No more following the rules of others who gave or assisted me with shelter.
2.How would you describe your interaction with other black males in your youth? Adulthood?
In my youth I had a few close black male friends and felt good about the relationships. We simply enjoyed each others company as we were all learning who we were growing to be. With others that I wasn't close with I was guarded an always ready to fight. However, I always knew that they didn't know my secret. In adulthood I get the feeling that there is competition all the time. Even when there is nothing to compete for. It's hard to explain but I always feel like there is some type of judgement taking place.
3.What makes you angry? sad? happy?
What makes me angry is not being listened to. What makes me sad is knowing there's nothing I can do about it. What makes me happy is art of all kinds. Music, Books, Paintings, and theater.
4.Have you ever dealt with emotional stress directly related to being a black man?
Yes, recently at work I was in a training session. I was the only black person in the room of approx 20 white people when the facillitator decided to bring levity to the class. He decided to show several videos of Terry Tate Office Linebacker. This was originally a Super Bowl commercial for Nike. While funny if I was at home, in the work environment I felt it was very inappropriate and a stereotypical depiction of black men being violent, using crazy language and in general being aggressive. The room exploded with laughter but I didn't and when I told Human Resources after the class that I'd like them to remove the videos from future classes so that no one else would feel the way that this made me feel. I could tell they felt as if I was overreacting. From that point on the environment for me changed and I was questioned a lot about my work and accused of behaviors that just weren't true.
5.Have you ever been depressed? What caused it?
Yes I've been depressed a couple of times...once due to a bad relationship and the other due to a person with a superior position at work who wanted to intimidate me.
6.Were you able to express your depression to the people around you? If yes, how did they respond--if no, what stopped you?
Not people at work. I already knew that whatever I said would have been taken as a complaint and not valued. Was told by my manager once that I needed to accept the responsibility for my actions. When speaking to friends they understood but it felt as if this is just par for the course of being black.
7.What has stopped you from expressing yourself emotionally?
Thinking that it would have no value.
8.How were you raised to deal with your emotions?
I wasn't really. My father never expressed any and my mother would act as if there was no issue or that it wasn't a big deal and I should get over it.
9.How do you feel you're perceived by other black men?
I'm not really sure. At this point in my life I behave I don't care. Even if at times I may be affected by their perception.
10.Do you cry? When was the last time you cried and why?
Yes. I put on an event for the Black LGBT community and felt like people appreciated the experience that I helped develop. I felt like the event accomplished all that we had hoped. Then Daniel Black recited a poem that he wrote that spoke to my heart.
11.What has your mother/father told you about expressing your emotions,and when?
Nothing that I can remember. Except..don't let people outside our house know what's going on inside ours.
12. What's the hardest thing about being a male? a black male?
Being a male: Always feeling like you have to prove yourself. Being a black male: Having to be smarter, work harder, and still not shown the same level of respect that others with less experience and intelligence as you who are always praised and rewarded.
13. Whats a repetitive happy dream/day dream you can remember?
Winning the lottery and being able to tell my job to go to hell while not having to worry about sustaining myself.
15. What's a repetitive nightmare you can remember?
Falling. I think it has to do with not being able to sustain myself or loosing complete control of my life.