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There is a Difference Between You and I

There is no doubt that the various races in America experience things differently from each other.  This comes as a result of cultural differences, history, and practices.  These differences are even recognized through the societal classification “race.”   These experiences define us which brings me to the Black Experience.  What is the Black Experience?  Is it possible for other races to understand?

I am a Black female.  Born and raised in Detroit, MI.  I have traveled all over: Florida, the Carolinas, DC, New York, California, Mississippi, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Canada, Spain, Portugal.  I have many experiences that have defined who I am.  Black experiences.

Not everyone experiences watching Alex Haley’s Roots. Learning that our people were brought over in slave ships.  The Black Experience.  Not everyone experiences a store clerk following you around in a shoe store assuming I took boots out of a box and put them on to walk out of the store, not that I walked into the store with them on and paid for the boots myself.  The Black Experience.  Not everyone experiences wearing earrings in the shape of Africa and someone automatically assuming I’m from Africa and not considering that I could be recognizing my African heritage and acknowledging in history where I come from. The Black Experience.

Not everyone experiences watching a black man get run down by a truck in Wayne, MI. To watch the man jump out of the way.  And to watch the driver to yell out the N word.  I cried and I cried.  I experienced that.  But not everyone experiences being that black man getting run down.  The Black experience.

I learned that the Black Panthers were a positive organization.  They contained members who protected their own in the Black neighborhoods.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned of the Black Panthers being portrayed as people who’s mission was to attacked whites.  The Black Experience.

Every black person does not experience all of these occurrences.  There are plenty of events some other blacks in America have experienced that I have not.  That’s where the diversity of the African American race comes in. When Peggy McIntosh speaks of White Privilege she is attempting to understand black life.  Whites have the privilege of ignoring and being disinterested in the Black Experience.  If whites want to understand the Black Experience they have to be willing to listen.  They cannot come defensive and closed minded.  Otherwise neither blacks, whites, nor America will be successful.

Haley, Alex.  Roots: The Saga of an American Family.  1976


5 Comments

  1. meerkat93 says:

    I am always going to remember this blog post and your experiences. Thank you for writing it. I am white and I would never know about your experiences had you not had the courage to post it. I think you are correct when you say that whites cannot understand the Black Experience if we are not willing to listen– and tragically, many whites are not willing to listen at all.

    I also think that the Black Panthers are often misrepresented. In our textbook we are encouraged to visit a website that has a Hate Map; I looked at it and it has descriptions of hate groups and their locations throughout the United States. It features a description of the New Black Panther Party, who were founded in 1989. They are an extremist version of the original Black Panther party, and the site describes their group as racist, militant, and anti-Semitic. Perhaps confusion between the original Black Panthers and the New Black Panther organizations is what makes people think that Black Panthers themselves are a hate group. The Black Panthers have denounced the “New” group, but perhaps the difference between the two organizations should be made well-known to the general public.

    Southern Poverty Law Center Website, http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-files/groups/new-black-panther-party .

    • mplowden says:

      Thank you. Unfortunately America suffers when these races do not come together.

      I agree with you. Today the New Black Panther Party does present negative implications towards the Black Panthers leading some believe they are a hate group. Many do not realize the original Black Panthers were formed on the basis of self defense and that they were also important in the Civil Rights movement. I think you are right, the difference should be made well-known.

  2. tlhays says:

    I definitely loved that you posted this article. As a black female I never want to portray myself as being the victim because of our history. I just have an issue with those who push slavery aside like it isn’t suppose to still affect us as a race just because we have not “personally” experienced slavery. I have personally noticed that no matter what activity I partake in, lots of times I don’t experience it the same as other races because I’m African American. By no means am I saying that every other race is still stuck in the past & see us as their ancetors once did but, there are a lot that still live as if we have not progressed as a culture. The “black experiences” you speak of I have witnesses and it’s very uncomfortable to deal with. I believe that no one and truly understand what you go through unless that have been through it firsthand. I definitely agreed with other people learning from our experiences if only they would listen and vice versa.

    My worst experience as an African American had to be a few years ago when a Caucasian man stopped next to my cousins and I at a stop light. He proceeded to speak to us but, we couldn’t understand him. I asked if he could speak louder and he yelled out, “can you black whores be my slaves and I be your master”. I sat there in shock and really didn’t say anything afterwards. I’m never one to judge a person based on a whole race. I just would like for it to be acknowledged that the hurt is still there and not try to sweep it under a rug. As far as the Black Panther group, learning about them signify so much strength and intelligence. They were like the backbones of their communities. Now, it’s like they are these killing machines that harm anyone that is not African American. I feel like people misconstrued their strong stance with pure violence. People are getting their meanings and understanding from other people not necessarily a credible source that actually knows the truth.

    • mplowden says:

      Thank you. I understand as a black female not wanting to play the victim also. However many times I feel that it hurts us and holds some people back. Some don’t want to document their experiences because of the perception of how they may look and it ultimately hurts them in the end and hurts the race as well. These things need to be recognized and talked about. I had to understand that instead of looking weak, it makes us stronger.

      I know exactly what you’re talking about when you mention how some African Americans don’t want to acknowledge slavery. Some black people find it ashaming and that shouldn’t be the case. Jews constantly acknowledge the Holocaust. They will not let you forget. Their past strengthens them and African Americans should take note. Slavery should be talked about.

      Thank you for sharing your experience. It hurts me that you were treated that way.

      I completely agree with you about the Black Panthers.

  3. Stephanie Jones says:

    This was by far the most powerful post I’ve read so far. Being white, I know that I can’t ever fully understand what it means to live the Black Experience, but I’m glad that I had the chance to read this. Even though it’s just a small peek into the Black Experience, I think it did give me a new and better educated perspective on it.

    I completely agree with you when you say that whites need to listen if they want to understand the Black Experience. Unfortunately, many don’t, which I think is a tragedy. I really want to thank you for posting something so bold and so powerful. Perhaps in seeing this, a few more whites will take the time to listen.

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