Op-Ed: ‘Time To Learn About Your Fellow Neighbor’

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By Aliza Bracha McMillan

As a black American child, I grew up with my parents teaching me I wasn’t inferior and that my blackness wasn’t something to be ashamed of. The truth of the matter is that in the United States, the black experience is much different than the “white” experience.

That being said, yes, I am Jewish; however, the majority of the time, I will be seen and treated as black first. My mom would say, “We can’t blend in; they can see our skin color from a mile away.” This made my experience as a Jewish person different from that of my peers.

The recent racial tension that has surrounded us these past months has made me sick.

In order to fully understand the black experience, it is important to ask questions about that black experience. We must ask questions about black culture and be careful not to overgeneralize the black community as a whole. We can ask, “What is it like to be black?” Or more specifically, “What is it like to be a black male in America?”

As the daughter of a black man, I fear for my father’s life, and I can’t help but feel sorry about the misrepresentations of black men.

I’ve often witnessed my father being treated differently. It was as if my father lacked the ability to be respected and treated as a human being. I know my father is often placed in a category with gang-bangers, drug dealers, women beaters, rapists and deadbeat dads — just because he is a black male. However, my father does not fit any of those stereotypes — stereotypes that have been inflicted on black men since the time of slavery.

At times, I find many people learn about black culture through the media. And most of the time, I see only a negative portrayal of black Americans. We are often portrayed as uneducated gang-bangers with no respect for authority or for human life. Indeed, you might be tempted to believe such things because of what you see on the news. However, if you were to take the opportunity to get to know many black Americans, you would realize we are much more than what you see on your screens, that we possess an enriched American history. We are teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, presidents and much, much more.

Black American culture has deep roots in mainstream America, from our music, hairstyles, fashion and speech, which is known as African American Vernacular English. And last but not least, the athletic abilities of many black athletes have become idolized. Though it is wonderful to see black American culture have such a substantial impact on so many, our contributions to society are often thrown out of the window when negativity about our culture begins to overshadow the accomplishments our culture has made to society.

But what do I say to my future children — more importantly, to my son? Do I tell him he is perfectly fine rapping and throwing a football, but that he better not be caught being who he is: black? I suppose I will have to repeat history and teach my children what my parents taught me — not to be inferior.

All in all, while I am upset about the misrepresentation of black males and about the lives that have been taken, I am also upset that so many police lives are being lost to anger and revenge. As has been stated before, this is not the time to finger-point, this is the time to ask questions, to learn about your fellow neighbor and to understand the intricacies of a culture other than your own.

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