The Trials and Triumphs of a Joyful Black Man in America

The media generated perception is that being black is synonymous with being poor, uneducated, unmotivated and somehow a burden on society. Michael Taylor is having none of that.

 

“As a man amongst men, I create a world of
Love and understanding by loving myself
and understanding others.”
Michael “Powerful Tiger” Taylor
Land of My Grandfathers July 2002

Growing up as a young black male in the inner-city projects of Corpus Christi Texas I was acutely aware that being “black” somehow made me different. As I watched television and looked through magazines and books I realized that the people I perceived to have all of the wealth were white people. When I asked my mom the reason for this her response was that there were lots of blacks that were wealthy, but the white people did not want to show that on television. When asked why not, she responded by saying that this was the way that white people could control the minds of black people and keep them from attaining wealth. Even as a child, there was something about that comment that I did not agree with. I wanted to understand how the mind worked and most of all I wanted to understand how white people could control the minds of black people?

As I progressed through elementary school I remember the tension and fear I felt as I interacted with white kids in my class. At the age of nine I had my first experience of racism when a white female classmate approached me after a spelling test. In this class the person who scored an A on a test would receive a gold star, which was then placed on a poster board in plain view for all the students to see. It just so happened that I had the most gold stars of anyone in the class and the teacher would always encourage me to do well and to be comfortable being at the top of the class intellectually and academically. After this particular test the white female classmate came up to me and said, “my mom says that all niggers are dumb and stupid and even though you may have more stars than I do I am still smarter than you”. I stood there in shock and disbelief and was unable to respond. Even though I had the evidence to refute her comments, as a nine year old the pain of her words cut me like a knife. I felt angry yet ashamed because this was not the first time I had heard those words. But this was the first time that I had heard them targeted directly at me by one of my peers.

♦◊♦

The white female classmate came up to me and said, “my mom says that all niggers are dumb and stupid and even though you may have more stars than I do I am still smarter than you”.

My most painful experience of blatant racism occurred when I was seventeen. I was in high school and I met and fell in love with my high school sweetheart. She was a wonderful supportive caring person that incidentally happened to be white. When we met, she was somewhat of a wild child. She came from a pretty wealthy family yet hated her father and was into drugs and rebellion. She was a C and D student that liked to skip school and hang out at the beach with her friends. After going out with her for a while I convinced her to turn her life around and give up the skipping school and abusing drugs.

She changed her attitude and became an A and B student. We were extremely close and shared that high school infatuated kind of love that feels so deep that it stays with you for a lifetime. After going out with her for over a year her father found out that we were dating. One night I got a phone call from him and it was obvious that he was not happy.

As he began speaking I knew that I needed to keep my cool and not disrespect him. I listened to his objections and gave him an opportunity to get everything off of his chest. When he finished, I made the mistake of telling him that he did not have the right to decide whom his daughter should date. I tried to convince him that I had been a good influence on his daughter and that he should be happy that she was doing so well. My hope was that I could get him to understand that I was a good guy that was actually good for his daughter. Of course he could not hear a word I was saying. He was adamant about the fact that he knew what was best for his daughter and I was just some young punk trying to take advantage of his little girl. After screaming his disapproval of our relationship for several minutes he then said something that completely caught me off guard. Although I knew he was angry I did not expect to hear these words, “There is no way that I will allow my daughter to date a nigger. I will kill you before I let that happen”. Although the words were painful, it was the venomous feeling of anger and hatred that came through the phone that ripped out my heart. Even today almost thirty years later I can still feel the hatred in his words. His anger came from deep within his soul and it was apparent that his anger wasn’t just about me but about all black people.

As I sat there in disbelief I immediately went numb. A part of me wanted to defend myself and curse at him and retaliate in some way. My initial feeling was anger, which I quickly subdued to avoid getting into a shouting match. Another part of me was extremely afraid because I did not know whether or not he would actually attempt to take my life. But the feeling I remember most after his comment was sadness. I remember a sinking feeling in my gut that was the result of being invalidated as a human being. I knew that he viewed me as less than a man and in his mind I was not good enough for his daughter simply because I was black. It was dehumanizing and demoralizing. How could this man hate me so much and not know anything about me? How could he pass judgment on me without ever seeing me or speaking to me? Why could he not see the positive influence I had had on his daughter? Why was I not allowed the opportunity to meet with him and talk to him so that he could see how much I really cared about his daughter and that my intentions were to simply love and support her? So many questions so few answers.

♦◊♦

I share these three true personal stories because as a black man I realize that my experiences are really just a microcosm of the challenges facing black men even today. I personally believe that our media still does an irresponsible job of portraying black people in general. The media generated perception is that being black is synonymous with being poor, uneducated, unmotivated and somehow a burden on society. Although I do not believe that the media can control how black people think, I am aware of the power that the media does have on a person’s perception. Since a person’s perception is their reality, the media definitely has an influence on people’s minds.

It is my fervent belief that people in general are not born racist. Hatred is not a part of a person’s genetic make up. Racism is something that is learned and people usually learn from the environments in which they are raised. Unfortunately there are still some parents that teach their children that black people are inferior as human beings and sadly enough some black people have accepted this as true.

As a black man, I realize that people are going to judge me and have preconceived ideas about who I am. I understand that no matter what I do the stereotypes of black men will precede me and somehow I will have to prove myself over and over again. I know that people will be afraid of me, will think less of me and put the label of “black” man on me no matter what I do.

So as a black man what can I do? How do I deal with the multiplicity of challenges that I face on a daily basis? Do I throw my hands up in defeat and give up? Do I accept the stereotypes and become just another black male statistic thrown into the ever-increasing prison population? Do I succumb to the pressure and lose my identity and try to become someone that I’m not?

♦◊♦

I choose to first and foremost see myself as a man, not just a black man.

In order for me to deal with the aforementioned challenges, I choose to first and foremost see myself as a man, not just a black man. If I see the world only through the lens of a black man I limit my perception of the world. When I let go of my attachment to being black first, I open the door to infinite possibilities for myself as a human being. This is not a denial of my ethnicity it is simply an affirmation of my true potential and my humanity. This awareness gives me an entirely new perspective on the world.

With this perspective I can honestly say that I absolutely love being a black man. I have come to this conclusion as a result of the past fifteen years of doing my emotional work and removing my shadows. I am now completely comfortable with who I am as a human being and I recognize that I am a man who happens to be black. I am proud of my racial heritage but the true source of my power transcends the color of my skin.

When I view the world from this perspective I begin to recognize that although there is ignorance and hatred in the world, racism in and of itself is actually an over-used word in our society that keeps us separate and in denial of our oneness. This does not excuse injustice and oppression for people of color it simply acknowledges that racism is a disease of the mind. In objective scientific terms it isn’t real. It is a man made creation that exists only in our minds.

As I reflect over my personal mission statement: “As a man amongst men, I create a world of Love and understanding by loving myself and understanding others.”

I fully grasp the implications of what these words mean to me. By loving myself and removing any blocks to my awareness, I am able to understand others without judgment. This allows me to constantly be in the moment without being attached to things that have happened to me in the past. By healing my anger and forgiving those who have hurt me I can be fully present to people in my life. Therefore I do not think in over generalized statements and use words and phrases like those white people, or them and they. I live in the moment and address each individual situation in the moment. This is the beauty of healing your heart. It frees you from your past and keeps you in the present moment.

My intention is for you to have a new perception about black men after reading this article. The truth is we are no different than any other group of men. We are loving, caring, compassionate, sensitive, intelligent, forgiving and courageous. We love our country and our families. We deal with all of the same emotions and challenges as any one else. We do not all blame society for our challenges and we are constantly making positive contributions to America. We are definitely an asset to this country not a liability.

I am reminded of a lesson I learned from Wayne Dyer in which he taught me that I should never focus my attention on that which I am against. Instead, I must focus my attention on that which I am for and I will experience that as a result. So instead of being against racism I am for unity. Instead of taking a position against hatred I take a stand for love.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said. “We’re afraid of each other because we do not know one another, we do not know one another because most of us are separated from each other.” My intention is to remove the perceived separation and create oneness. This is the driving force in my life. I want to be the change I want to see in the world and I invite you to join me in creating a world of love, peace and unity.

In the immortal words of John Lennon, “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.’

Won’t you join me?

 

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About Michael Taylor

Coach Michael Taylor is a self educated entrepreneur, author, spiritual coach and radio talk show host. He is seeking to facilitate a shift in male consciousness which he believe will lead to the eradication of high divorce rates, absentee fathers, and poverty while increasing a better work life balance for men as they seek a higher calling to joy and happiness. Find him Find him on www.blackmenrock.net

“Men are hungry for this dialogue. The question is whether or not they will gain the courage to engage in it."

Comments

  1. David Wise says:

    We as black people endure so much strife on this planet simply because of the color of our skin. I thank you, Michael, for relating your own personal experiences so honestly. Peace and light always

  2. “although there is ignorance and hatred in the world, racism in and of itself is actually an over-used word in our society that keeps us separate and in denial of our oneness.”

    I agree with this statement. Being a black man has almost always been good experience for me. I have faced some racist attitudes but I just felt sorry for those poor ignorant souls, and found ways to work around them. Racism is based on fear and ignorance. I simply pity such people and try to take away their fear and show them that different isn’t necessary bad or dangerous. I am proud of who I am, including the color of my skin.

    I am a tiny minority in my business circle but it hasn’t made any difference. The folks I work with are necessarily very smart, highly technical and business savvy. In most business meetings I am the only person of color and it has never been a problem for me or anyone else, as far as I can tell. Sometimes I think we make race a bigger issue than it is. In my circles, it’s not much of an issue.

  3. The Wet One says:

    Let me just say that I’m glad I’m not in the United States where these issues are so fervent. In my neck of the woods, racism is still real and really exists, but it is much less than what I read about in the States. No lynchings, dragging bodies behind trucks and no meaningful KKK in the past or the present. There are still bands of white supremacists who run around, but they are reviled for the scum that they are.

    As for myself, like the author, I think of myself as a man first and black secondly. My family tried to educate me otherwise, but I would say that so far, in my life, their words have been unnecessary and perhaps counterproductive.

  4. David Wise says:

    Personally, most of my encounters with racism has been subtle and covert, and nothing as dramatic as the episodes described by Michael. Eric, I’m glad you work in that rarefied environment that’s devoid of racism, where everyone respects and appreciates your highly valued job skills and educational background. Not every black person is as fortunate. With what is going on in society and politics (Obama vs the Tea Party, etc.), it seems a bit ridiculous to say, “I think we make race a bigger issue than it is.” I’m wondering if Allen West actually wrote this comment. It’s nice that you can dismiss racism as long as it’s not an issue in your circles.

    • Evidently you didn’t read my comment. I did not “dismiss” racism. In fact, I said: “I have faced some racist attitudes. . .” and went on to explain how I deal/dealt with it.

      I have never and personally do not recommend cowering in the face of racism nor allowing it to define me. Does racism still exist? Obviously; I have experience it. Are all white people racist and determined to keep black men down? Ask the POTUS. It’s self-defeating is to believe that black men cannot succeed, despite the existence of racism in some people and places even if it’s not obvious.

      • Herein lies our greatest challenge as men who happen to be black. If I say that there is nothing that can keep someone (no matter what color) from living an extraordinary life and I happen to be black I am accused of denying that racism exists. The truth is, racism does exist and there will always be challenges, but it is my fervent belief that in this day and age there is no one or no thing that can keep you from succeeding except yourself.

        I often ask myself, “Why am I constantly attacked for being an optimist and believing in my innate potential? Why am I constantly accused of being a sellout simply because I choose to see the world through rose colored glasses? Why do people of my own ethnicity ostracize me for my open mindedness and willingness to embrace other cultures and ideals?

        The answer is, “It really doesn’t matter!” What matters to me is what I’m committed to and how I live my life.

        The fact is, I love life! I love my country! I love this world! I am the master of my own destiny and I refuse to fall victim to the idea that anything can keep me from creating anything my heart desires.

        As men who happen to be black the time has come for us to challenge and support each other to reach our full potential. There is nothing “out there” that can hold us back or keep us down. Not racism, not discrimination, not injustice and not intolerance. We are 100% responsible for our success and the time has come to shift our focus from what is wrong in this country to what is right about this country. My belief is that there are a lot more things that are right then that are wrong.

        In the immortal words of Rodney King “Cant we all just get along!”

  5. This quote really struck home: ” I should never focus my attention on that which I am against. Instead, I must focus my attention on that which I am for and I will experience that as a result. So instead of being against racism I am for unity. Instead of taking a position against hatred I take a stand for love” thank you for this article. I passed it on to my friends.

  6. WorldBFree says:

    I’m pleased that such a refreshing perspective was shared. As a Black man, I wish we could all think like this. However, as an observation, I think it’s interesting that as close as the author was to the white girl after being a friend for more than a year, it seems that he was not introduced to her father. Did the daughter keep this a secret? Sounds like the father may have been unaware of his daughter’s Black romance interests.

    • @WorldBFree, The decision was made not to tell her father about our relationship because she knew her father was a racist. However, her mother knew about the relationship and was very supportive because she recognized the positive influence I had on her daughters life.

  7. What I found really interesting was how the adults in your childhood shaped your perceptions. First the teacher who encouraged and supported you. Second, the parents of the children who tried to dehumanize you. The lesson I take from this is: it is on us to create a generational experience wherein humanity is valued over melanin.

    JFB

    • @Jackie, The teacher that I spoke about happened to be white and she was one of the most influential figures in my life. She taught me that my intellect was the key to my success and she encouraged me to be a straight A student. She instilled in me a love for learning that I continue to this day. She will always have a very special place in my heart.

      The person most responsible for my ability to deal with adversity and be optimistic is my mom. Like your mom, she taught me so many valuable life lessons that I am forever indebted to her for her wisdom. She is my greatest source of inspiration and the foundation of who I am as a good man.

  8. I only have a son (no daughters), but if I did, I’d be proud to see her date or marry someone who has accomplished what you have and who obviously speaks from a place only of love. Even today, I know of parents who would rather see their children date the most hateful, underachieving, ignorant people who nevertheless are racially matched than someone of a different race who actually has drive, intelligence and goals. I know the black gentleman I wanted to date in high school (and wasn’t allowed to) would probably have treated me better than the white man I dated, married and eventually divorced. And let me tell you: it’s hard to look at your parents, who you love so much and always trusted to tell you the truth, and know that they were wrong. No matter how much they may have just been trying to “protect me” (and for this part of the country, I know that was truly a part of their reasoning), they made me party to something that still hurts me to think about to this day.

    Thanks for this article.

    • Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I am truly grateful to have had a mother who instilled in me that I was not inferior to anyone and I should choose to date someone based on who they were on the inside rather than how they looked on the outside.

      In love, light and laughter, make it a great day!

  9. David Wise says:

    Well, I’m happy that Michael and Eric have refused to allow racism to defne them as individuals. I don’t either and view myself in spiritual terms above and beyond anything else. First and foremost, I’m a divine being. Yes, that’s right, it’s the way I choose to see myself. Then I’m a human being and next I see myself as an American, who happens to be black. Likewise, I love who am and regard my life as an experience that I’ve elected to have in order to learn lessons and evolve as a soul. I have peace and happiness in my life, and I won’t let anyone spoil that.

    • I’m right there with you David. I am a spiritual being having a human experience and my intention is to evolve to the grandest version of the greatest vision I have for myself as a human being. (to quote Neale Donald Walsch) One of the greatest lessons my grandfather taught me was “You have to play the hand that’s dealt to you”. I have always believed that being black was a great hand to be dealt and I have never felt that I was at a disadvantage in any way. I simply play my hand to the best of my ability.

      Many blessings to you on your path.

  10. David Wise says:

    Thank you, Michael. I wish much peace, joy and blessings as well. Although I’ve moved beyond Walsch’s writing, he was a great inspiration to me years ago. Speaking spiritually, I think everything that comes in my life is a blessing, “good” and “bad,” oftentimes it’s wrapped in a disguise. Shanti

  11. Thank you so much for this inspiring article and specific stories about the racism you have personally faced. I grew up in the multi-ethnicity of Berkeley, CA and have lived in Oakland many years. I feel ignorant about what ‘race’ means in Texas and other parts or the country.

    Your story about your girlfriend’s father threatening your life made me want to cry…thank you again for sharing your experience. Any chance you and she are both currently single…and he has passed on?

    • @Margo, I’m glad you enjoyed the article enough to post a comment. FYI, my former girlfriend and I had an opportunity to rekindle our love affair several years later (after high school) but realized we had both grown up and moved on with our lives and were not able to reignite our high school sweethearts passion. She will always be my high school sweetheart and the memories I have of her will stay with me forever. I am currently very happily married (10 years) and wouldn’t trade my wife for all the tea in China.

  12. Yeah! A happy ending to your story, Michael. Best wishes…

  13. Respect, courtesy, kindness, generosity, courage, honor, decency, friendship and love are color blind
    Anger, jealousy, greed, arrogance, hatred and fear are not.
    Simple on the face of it no?

  14. Wielding love, understanding and positivity in the face of blind hatred is one of the hardest things in the world. It is much easier to fight with rage and bile, but as you say, only through forgiveness and self-acceptance can real healing occur. Your outlook in the face of adversity is truly admirable. Thanks for writing this!

  15. Luke Martindale says:

    Michael, thank you brother.
    I see you. Checking in with gratitude and respect for your work.
    Playful Leopard,
    Out.

  16. “Even though you may have more stars than me, I am still smarter than you…”

    Wow– horrific….I get the other end of that (Asians get stereotyped for being too brainy… So absurd!)….my high school friend (African American) was told by a fellow classmate that the only reason why she got into an Ivy League school was because she was black….(really, a 97 average is a 97 average….plus her father was an editor at a major newspaper)….people are jealous, petty things…. They hate when you compete with them for what they perceive to be scarce….

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