I believe we can truly overcome racism as a society when we hold ourselves and each other accountable for human dignity. Why human dignity? Because love requires a choice, and human dignity occurs when we recognize our common humanity and make the choice to love one another, regardless of our differences. That is the principle by which we will achieve racial unity.
How did I arrive at that conclusion?
I grew up in a broken home where it seemed like my family unapologetically adopted negative black stereotypes: single mothers, no male/father figures, drugs, prison, victim mentality, etc.
Growing up in such an environment left a thought in my head: “Is this what it means to be black?” And this in turn led me to various reflections on my own identity:
- It’s true. I was more sensitive than other black boys my age, but because being black apparently meant I’m not supposed to express my emotions, I thought there was something wrong with me.
- It’s true. I didn’t sell drugs, but because being black apparently meant I’m supposed to sell drugs for easy money, I thought there was something wrong with me.
- It’s true. I wasn’t good at sports, but because being black apparently meant I’m supposed to be an athlete of some kind, I thought there was something wrong with me.
- It’s true. I didn’t really like rap music, but because being black apparently meant I’m supposed to love rap music, I thought there was something wrong with me.
But as I became older and reached an age where I was able to pursue my individuality, a new thought came to mind: There is no standard for being black. Being a certain race doesn’t mean you have to do certain things or be a certain way, especially when negative behaviors are attributed to your race.
My experience growing up wasn’t the only experience that led me to that revelation. It was also high school. I went to a predominantly white high school, and you want to know what many of my white (and black) peers used to say to me? “Anthony, you’re not really black.”
Why did they say that? Because I was a black guy who didn’t follow the black stereotypes or fit into stereotypically black culture. Unfortunately, negative black stereotypes are mistaken as the standard for being black. However, as I said before, there is no standard for being black!
I refuse to identify myself or others according to race. I refuse to focus on what will simply cause division. I want unity, I want respect, I want love, and do you know what race of people who have the ability to express those virtues? The human race!
After high school, I researched deeply into the history of slavery and segregation in America, which led me not to hatred or dvision but a further appreciation of our common humanity. I find it hard to believe how much influence racism had over society. Even though there are still problems, society is much better than before. We owe gratitude to all the abolitionists and civil rights activists who made such improvements possible. Learning about what they went through and accomplished was the motivation that led me to become an activist for human dignity.
From 2013 to 2019, I promoted the message of human dignity to passersby in Center City, Philadelphia. I often went three times a week to stand around for hours with a sandwich board while passing out information about human dignity to people. Even though racism isn’t as bad as it was before, I knew racism was still an issue and I wanted to encourage as many people as I could to embrace human dignity.
In 2019, I was given the opportunity to present the message of human dignity to 20+ middle school students! It was a great experience, and while I wanted to continue to present to students, COVID happened. That didn’t discourage me though. I just had to change my approach, which I did. I changed the outline I used for my presentation into a booklet that youth and parents can read for themselves.
Throughout my journey, I’ve advanced my conclusion over and again: If we want to overcome racism and achieve racial unity, then we must undoubtedly embrace universal human dignity. Don’t you agree?