Horace Ryans, 16, Student.
I go to school with a lot of white people.
Last year, it felt like every white boy wanted to be my friend. I was funny to them. They thought I was cool. As the year progressed, I noticed that out of the four black boys in my class, I was the only one hanging out with majority white people. You know the term "token black friend?” That's basically what I was. I would hear them say some pretty terrible stuff about black people and I never said anything because I didn't want to lose any friends.
One time they were using the N-word. I told them not to and they kept saying, “It’s a joke.”
I kept telling them, “No, it’s not. You don’t understand how much power there is behind that word.”
It was a joke to them. It was like my blackness was a joke to them.
So I started challenging them and they got mad. In class, we had a discussion about the reality of race. The same kid who used the N-word essentially said he didn’t see color or understand why race should determine how you act, talk, or identify.
I said, “You wouldn’t understand because anytime you walk outside, you aren’t worried about being racially stereotyped or discriminated against.”
He got really defensive. I started to speak out more often and they would become so red-faced and flustered. That's when I realized – my blackness is powerful.
I realized I could shift the power structure a little just by saying, "I'm black and I'm proud.”
So to me, blackness in the future looks like our black brothers and sisters accepting who they are and where they came from, vocalizing it, and fighting for it. It’s us understanding how rich and powerful the melanin in our skin really is regardless of how light-skinned or dark-skinned you are. Blackness in the future would be making it our obligation to teach our children how powerful they are.
We can keep saying, "The children are our future." But if we don’t teach them to boldly declare and love who they are, then nothing changes. We have to start empowering them so that they go out into the world and have the ability to fight against hatred and use that to fuel the fire in their hearts.
Horace's Revolutionary Picks:
Charles Hamilton Houston. This man assisted in the dismantling of the Jim Crow laws that tormented the black community for nearly a century. Although this is not a man that I think about on a daily basis, he like other great black men and women who fought for us gave us a platform from which we could shape blackness in our own way