We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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On my way home from school, I was walking in a neighborhood known to be predominately White. At one point, a guy who looked about average height with a beard, stopped me. He was watching TV in his  garage and yelled to me, “Turn around and find a different route home!”  “Why?” I asked.  “Because we don’t like people like you walking in our neighborhood!” he exclaimed. I was so confused and surprised. I was still learning about the American culture, and I knew for a fact that this was not part of the American culture that I had always heard about.  I was surprised when we settled into our new American city. There was so much violence and crime where I was living, and it seemed to be, mostly, committed by young Black males. That year was one of the most shocking and frightening years I had ever witnessed. During that year, there were constant funerals for Black families who lived in the projects or in the big cities. So many young Black males and White cops were clashing and there were many issues during traffic stops. The cops said it was because they looked suspicious. Many incidents ended with shots being fired, which led to protests, especially in the big cities. This was mainly known as the Black Lives Matter movement. All of this made me wonder if this man thought I was like one of those young Black males who were committing crimes. Did he just hate Black people in general or did he dislike me because I was a young Black male?  When I was in Africa, I had heard things about America that were totally different from what I was going through at that moment. How people de- scribed America and what the TV always showed, made it seem like a paradise. I didn’t know there were rude people in America. In Ghana, when we saw White people visiting, they were always kind and we got so excited to see them. The kids would follow them and start singing songs. I thought that everyone in America would be excited and friendly. After my interaction with my neighbor, I realized things weren’t always what the TV advertised. It wasn’t the way I thought it was going to be. It made me think differently about America.  When I got home that evening after the sidewalk incident, I told my parents and they were upset, but not shocked. My dad started explaining, “There are a lot of people in America that are really nice, but some people will kill you just because of your skin color, so be careful.”  “Are you serious?” I asked. “Yes. You need to be careful about where you go and when you go out. This is just the reality,” my dad said.  When I was in Ghana, I imagined America as a heaven or a place where there was nothing to worry about. I started to notice racism more and more around me. A couple days later, I was watching CNN and heard that nine Black people had been murdered. The next day, there was another racist crime being reported on the news again. That really scared me and made me wonder why people were being punished because of the color of their skin.  After that day, I realized that America wasn’t actually the way it seemed in movies. I thought that America was going to be the land of happiness and that all people respected each other. But that was not true. It was scary to think that I could be a victim of a crime, simply because of the color of my skin. 

© Derick Badu. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.