I am a privileged black man.

Justin Stewart,
Pittsburgh, PA

Growing up, I thought I had a pretty good upbringing. I lived in a decent house while receiving a decent education. Heck, the term racism really wasn’t a thing for me until middle school. I never really grasped the harsh conditions my ancestors most likely went through coming to America along with the fact that they had little say in anything.

My naive self believed growing up that everyone was nice to each other and the days of racist people were long gone. Crazy me thought Martin Luther King Jr. single-handedly ended racism, when in fact that was not the case. As a young kid, I had my fair share of police interactions, all positive that I can remember. I was of the idea that the job of a cop was to protect and serve, not kill people because of how they may look.

I was so wrapped up in a security blanket I really wasn’t exposed to the ugliness that was the United States. Looking back at elementary school, I don’t even know if what I was taught is even remotely accurate. For example, the story of Christopher Columbus. Depending on what someone reads, some texts say he was a great man who discovered the country, others say he was a ruthless and horrible person. My point is that a lot of what was taught to me was most likely partial truths at best.

I would consider myself a privileged black man. I consider myself privileged because I never really experienced a lot of racism or much injustice growing up. Looking back, I even think I was quite selfish to a degree. I was provided so much love, was showered with gifts and was given educational opportunities some never get. It was almost embarrassing. I didn’t know what it was like to miss a meal nor did I know what it’s like to lose a loved one to senseless violence. Anything that I needed was provided to me and that is something I need to be cognizant about when I complain about something.

Things such as mass shootings and racial injustices are a complete 180 to how I perceived the world as a kid. Now, it makes sense why my mom didn’t want me anywhere near the news: the things I mentioned that I was exposed to as a young teenager were going on all along. In my opinion, I am of the belief that racism or violence in general will never go away. The only hope we have in containing it is being educated about the issues and pass them on to peers and future generations. At the end of the day however, I am still fortunate I have the opportunity to attend a college. I am a black man who has privilege.

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