Fighting against being stereotyped.

Nichole Wesson,
Long Beach, CA.

I grew up what I believed to be middle-class in Dallas. I attended private, Catholic schools from kindergarten through 12-grade high school graduation. My high school class was 1/3 African-American, 1/3 white, 1/3 Mexican/Hispanic/Latino. I have done well in my career and recently returned to school to get my B.A. degree.

Nevertheless, I am stereotyped. Because I am African-American I must be (fill in the blank). As an African-American I should know (fill in the blank). Or, because I am African-American it is OK to discriminate against me.

As an African-American I feel I have to be prepared to fight against or be prepared for discriminatory treatment. I think about what to do if a police officer stops me. I remember being discriminated against trying to get an apartment in the Bay Area. I know what it is like to be disregarded and dismissed as I wait for service in a restaurant. I have experienced someone following me around a department store because they thought I would still something when all I wanted was to buy a handbag.

I, like so many other African-Americans, can see myself as the victim in the many incidents that have been so prevalent of late. I understand the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the killing by police officers of unarmed African-American men and women. I have witnessed the increase of prejudice and discrimination against all minority groups. I read the racist comments in social media and online media sites, some from people I thought I knew because I worked with them. I can’t help thinking about the vicious murders of African-Americans attending a prayer meeting at a church in South Carolina because of the murderer’s racist beliefs when I go to church.

I feel a responsibility to represent my cultural group at church to a population that may not see African-Americans in a positive light. I believe many have limited exposure to African-Americans probably only at work but never get to know African-Americans on a personal level especially seeing the demographic of African-Americans in Orange County is less than 2% (according to Census Reporter). I feel a responsibility to help change the narrative. I feel it is important to teach people why these issues and how these issues affect us. Plus, these issues affecting African-Americans are not one people groups’ issues. They affect our society and communities.

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