All Articles Tagged "race"

Imitation Of Life: NAACP Leader Rachel Dolezal Pretends To Be Black

June 12th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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We’ve all heard about Black people pretending to be White for financial, professional or social gain. But rarely do we hear about White people attempting to be Black. And I don’t mean adopting a Blaccent, wearing stereotypically urban clothes and trying to use the n-word. I mean making a concerted, long term effort to convince people that you’re genetically African American.

Family members of Rachel Dolezal and other civil rights activists have outed the leader of the Spokane, Washington NAACP chapter as falsely portraying herself as Black for several years.

When the news of her deception broke, Dolezal, 37, completely skirted questions from reporters, saying “I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation” before discussing the situation with the media.

In addition to Dolezal’s work in the NAACP, she’s also a part-time Africana Studies professor at Eastern Washington University, teaching a class called “The Black Woman’s Struggle.” When questioned further about her racial identity by KXLY, Dolezal said, “There’s a lot of complexities…and I don’t know that everyone would understand that.” Then she concluded by saying, “We’re all from the African continent.”

Despite her dishonesty, Dolezal has done significant work benefitting the Black community. She’s credited with re-energizing the Spokane NAACP chapter and also serves as a chairwoman for the city’s Office of Police Ombudman Commission. On her volunteer application she identified herself as White, Black and American Indian.

Reporters for The Spokesman Review reached out to Dolezal’s parents. Her mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, of Montana, said that she has had no contact with her daughter in years. She explained that her daughter has wanted to be Black for some time but she began to disguise herself after she married and divorced a Black man in 2004.

“It’s very sad that Rachel has not just been herself. Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective if she had just been honest with everybody.”

Dolezal has dismissed her family’s claims, chalking it up to bitterness about old allegations of abuse.

Meanwhile, Ruthanne maintains that the family is of Czech, Swedish and German descent. She said there are also “faint traces” of Native American heritage.

Now that the news has broken and the story is garnering coverage all over the nation, Presidents of the organizations with which she is affiliated are thinking about next steps when it comes to Dolezal.

The Mayor and Council President Ben Stuckart are gathering information to determine if volunteer boards and commissions have been violated.

Stuckart said he didn’t want to speak prematurely about the matter but offered, “…if this is true I’ll be very disappointed.”

Eastern Washington University President Mary Cullinan said Dolezal has been “an inspiring role model for EWU students” and a university spokesman said it was inappropriate for them to comment on this personal issue.

The former Spokane NAACP president, James Wilburn, who was replaced by Dolezal, said that he had often had private discussions about her background but kept them relegated to a few members of the group.

Others questioned the hate crimes Dolezal reported and particularly whether or not she placed a dangerous package in the NAACP’s mailbox. Dolezal vehemently denied the claims, calling them, “bullshit.”

Though they’ve been disconnected for years, Ruthanne Dolezal had a message for her daughter, “I would say, ‘I love you, and honesty is the best policy. I firmly believe that the truth is in everyone’s best interest.”

You can check out the level and depths of Dolezal’s disguise in the images on the following pages.

“I Was Embarrassed” Ben Affleck Apologizes For Hiding Slave-Owning Ancestor

April 22nd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Ben Affleck Apologizes For Hiding Slave-Owning Ancestor


Earlier this week, we told you about Ben Affleck requesting that his slave-owning ancestor be left out of his “Finding Your Roots” special with Henry Louis Gates Jr. The information became public knowledge when e-mails between Gates and Sony executives leaked out and eventually gained national attention.

Affleck’s desire to hide this bit of his history, to many, represented an ongoing problem in this country: The propensity to disregard and dismiss the role slavery and racism played, and still play, in America.

After all the attention, Affleck addressed the situation and apologized for his decision on his Faebook page.

Here’s what he wrote:

I’m sure the decision to apologize probably made him a bit uncomfortable but this was certainly the right move. Kudos to Ben!

You Ain’t Gotsta Lie: Ben Affleck Tried To Hide Slave Owning Ancestors In PBS Special

April 20th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Ben Affleck Tried To Hide Slave Owning Ancestors


If you dig far enough back into anyone’s family history, you’re sure to find some things of which most of us would be completely ashamed. And though they have more public personas, where reputation is important, the same is true for celebrities.

According to NBC News, Ben Affleck was less than pleased to learn during the PBS documentary series, “Finding Your Roots,” with Henry Louis Gates, that his ancestors owned slaves.


This bit of information must have hurt Affleck, who does quite a bit of humanitarian work in Africa, because he contacted PBS after the fact and asked that that particular part of the program be edited out. And PBS, after some discussion, honored his wishes.

So, how did we learn about this?

Well, Wikileaks stumbled across e-mails between Gates and a Sony executive that told the real, full story.

For those who aren’t familiar, on the show, Gates traces the ancestry of celebrity guests and usually there are some incredibly interesting facts that come to the light. But for the first time, a guest asked that the network spare viewers some of the details.

In an e-mail Gates, having never encountered a request like this one, asked Sony Pictures co-chairman and chief executive Michael Lynton what to do.

He wrote:

“Here’s my dilemma: confidentially, for the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors — the fact that he owned slaves. Now, four or five of our guests this season descend from slave owners, including Ken Burns. We’ve never had anyone ever try to censor or edit what we found. He’s a megastar. What do we do?” Gates wrote on July 22, 2014.

Lynton responds saying it will only work if no one knows what the ancestry results revealed.

“I would take it out if no one knows, but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky. Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out,” 

The two go back and forth before ultimately concluding that editing the information out is not a good idea. In fact, Gates wrote:

“It would embarrass him and compromise our integrity. I think he is getting very bad advice. Once we open the door to censorship, we lose control of the brand.”

Affleck’s actual name is never mentioned in the e-mail. Instead the two men refer to him as “megastar” and “Batman.” It wasn’t the best alias as Affleck was filming Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice at the time.

When the segment aired last October, instead Gates revealed that Affleck had an occultist, a Revolutionary War relative, and Affleck’s mother who was a freedom rider in 1964.

And when the news broke that Affleck asked that the info be edited out, Gates switched his tune a bit and defended the decision to cut the slave owners out.

“…we decided to go with the story we used about his fascinating ancestor who became on occultist following the Civil War. This guy’s story was totally unusual: we had never discovered someone like him before.”

Ok, Skip. It’s only right for Gates to defend his program. But Affleck is still not off the hook.

White guilt is real, eh?

Gates had it right, the first time around. The fact that this bit of information trickled out after the fact makes Affleck look sneaky, untrustworthy and overly concerned with maintaining an unrealistic image. In a word: inauthentic. Sure, no one would be proud of slave-owning relatives but it’s the truth. And as he learned, you can’t run from that. The truth always comes out.

Affleck might like to regard himself and even his family as progressive. Or he might not want to acknowledge the very real fact that in some ways, both he and his family have benefitted financially from the free labor of Black people. And I get it, that’s a hard pill to swallow. But it’s time for us–and by us I mean White folks particularly and Americans generally–to stop being scared of talking about race, slavery and the lasting effects the institution had on this country and across the world. All the secrecy has not served us well thus far.

Plus, Affleck’s story would have been far more remarkable and a true testament to the growth of the American psyche if we knew that his people both owned slaves and later fought for freedom.

We Will Do Better In The Future: Cosmo Issues An Apology For Discriminatory Article

April 3rd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Cosmo Issues An Apology For Discriminatory Article


Yesterday, we spoke about the disrespectful article Cosmopolitan magazine published back in January, featuring Black women wearing played out fashion trends. The problem started because none of the Black women were featured on the good or current trend side.

It was offensive, to say the least.

Well, Joan Smalls, one of the Black women featured on the bad trend side for wearing black lipstick, didn’t appreciate Cosmo’s piece and made it known.

She tweeted them:

“Really??? @Cosmopolitan What are you trying to imply…#Tasteless #ThinkbeforeYouPost #Unfollowing

And after all the backlash from regular folk across the internet, they didn’t respond until model Joan Smalls said she wasn’t alright with it either.

The publication offered this apology:

Short, sweet and to the point. It’s good to see Cosmo acknowledged responsibility without making excuses for their poor decision. We hope they really are committed to doing better.

What do you make of Cosmo’s apology?

“I’m From Every Continent In Africa” Raven-Symone Continues To Put Her Foot In Her Mouth

March 27th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Raven-Symone Continues To Put Her Foot In Her Mouth

Source: E!

I don’t have to tell you that Raven-Symone has been all over the news ever since she told Oprah that she wasn’t African American. Instead, she preferred to drop the African part. And then later, during her appearance on “The View” Raven wondered if the Univision reporter likened Michelle Obama to an ape in, like a racist way.

Right. Side-eyes all around.

Anyway, during a recent interview with E!, that just recently started gaining traction on social media, Raven sought to clarify her comments. Take a look at what she said and tell us if she made it better or worse.

About “defending” the Univision host for his Michelle Obama comments

I don’t know if I was defending. I don’t think I was defending. I think that he got fired for a reason. It was very distasteful what he said. It was very distasteful. I don’t believe she looks like one at all. I don’t believe she should have been casted. But I do know that a lot of people I know have animal traits…I think Michelle Obama looks like a little cat.

I think that every time there’s something dealing with race, that is still an open wound and you try to look at it from a different standpoint, people are going to get mad. Especially when it’s socially out–blasted– and people don’t read the whole story. Just like a lot of my comments, people don’t read into the whole story and so they say that I said this and that I’m trying to be a different race. I’m not. I’m not trying to be.

On her not being African American 

I never said I wasn’t Black. I said I wasn’t African American. To me, that’s a difference. Thank you to, actually, for sending me my DNA test. I am from every continent in Africa, except for one. And I am from every continent in Europe, except for one. And for the last 400 years, my family has been living in Virginia. How long do you have to be in one country before you’re that?

We’re a melting pot of beauty. We have to embrace the different cultures we have. And if we don’t we’re still going to have these problems that are blasting up everywhere…And you can come for me if you want to; I’m sorry, but you’re an American too. Don’t hide your American-ism.

Well…that was a lot to handle right there. With Michelle Obama, there seems to not only be a little bit of backtracking from her original stance (It’s distasteful now.); but what’s more disheartening, is the general lack of ignorance when it comes to the very hateful language and comparisons that have been made against Black people. One of them comparing us to monkeys. Raven just doesn’t seem to know.  How could she know and not even fathom that he was saying it “racist-like”? Is she pretending these things don’t exist anymore in an attempt to live in a better world or does she really have no idea? I can’t tell.

Then there was the comment about her ancestors having lived in Virginia for the last 400 years. Possible…but they would have had to come over around the Jamestown/Pocahontas days way back in the early 1600’s. Possible…

And we’re not going to even talk about Raven saying that she’s from every continent in both Africa and Europe. First, it’s country. And secondly, having taken this same test, she might have interpreted these results the wrong way. They highlight the regions…not necessarily every country in that region. But whatevs. We’ll let Raven carry on.  What do you think about her comments?

You can watch her full interview in the video below.

Louis Gossett, Jr On Anthony Mackie’s Claim People Are Tired Of Talking Race: “They’re Not In Charge”

February 18th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Academy and Emmy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr has seen a lot during his five-decade career which includes such accomplishments as being the first African American male to win an Oscar in a supporting role, the second Black male to win for acting, and the third African American actor to win as Oscar overall. To say he knows a little something about race in Hollywood would be putting it mildly, which is why when we had a chance to speak with him during press runs for the BET miniseries, "The Book of Negroes," we had to ask him his thoughts on Anthony Mackie's reaction to the "Selma" Oscar snub and his assumption that people are tired of talking about race.

Gossett, Jr assured us this discussion is nothing new, noting people had the same reaction when "Roots" first debuted, and then in no uncertain terms, the 78-year-old activist reminded us that "they" (those people who are tired of talking about race) are "not in charge."

"We cannot rely our happiness or our success on outside issues, including the Oscars, the Emmys, or the Golden Globes... Lesson: even if we get rejected by the Oscars, we're not rejected by the world. Maybe we have something valuable to add to mankind, bigger and better, and more valuable than the Oscar."

Check out Louis Gossett, Jr's full response to Anthony Mackie's comments in the video above. What do you think?

Race Awareness: How My Three Year Old Figured Out She’s Brown

February 2nd, 2015 - By Rich
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I’m convinced that my soon-to-be four year old daughter has been here before. She often says remarks, retorts, and clever quips you can’t help but pause and wonder ‘where does she get them from?’ Seriously, what three year old just walking by casually and unprovoked says “I have options because of my imagination?”

Cydney Milner does.

For the last year my daughter has been all about Frozen. I had to buy the movie on bootleg in January before its release I have seen the movie in it’s entirety at least one hundred times and bits and pieces a good two hundred more. She has all of the dolls, toys, sang “Let it Go” at her school’s Christmas Pageant, and for a good eight months let it be known that her name is Elsa.

A month ago, I picked her up early from school because she was sick. Being that I was tired of watching Frozen, I turned on The Princess and the Frog. Cydney had seen it before and she liked it; but it wasn’t Frozen. Everything changed. Ever since she has been more and more into The Princess and the Frog. Her birthday is the 14th of this month and everything that she has asked for her birthday was Princess Tianna.

Yes, children go through these phases and pretend to be whoever they admire. But Cydney seems to be identifying with Tianna. My daughter was born in New York and only lived in Virginia for a total of five months; but she often walks around the house doing her best imitation of a New Orleans dialect. Interesting enough is that she hasn’t got to the point where she says “I’m Tianna,” like she has Princess Sofia the First, Sleeping Beauty (That’s what she would introduce herself as…and I didn’t know her name was Aurora until two years ago), or Elsa. She has a little brown doll with a green dress and her name is Tianna.

One day I was walking by and I was eavesdropping on my daughter playing. Dolls Tianna and Anna (from Frozen) were having a conversation. Anna introduced herself to Tianna and said “I’m from Arendalle,” which is the fictonal Scandinavian kingdom where she lives. Tianna responded “Well, there are no brown people in Arendalle.”

Well damn…My first thought was “Cydney has seen Frozen so many times that she noticed there were no people of color in Arendalle at all!” My second thought was “How did she put that together and how did she realize that there is a difference in color?”

I say this because as black people we tend to be aware of our color; but we aren’t aware of it until it is pointed out. I knew what a white person was because I had seen them on television; but I didn’t think I knew any. In first grade, we did a play about Rosa Parks and white people; but it wasn’t until a year later that my mom told me my teacher was white and that was when I became aware of race. I have plenty of friends; especially ones from the south who have found this out in some other manners and some of them are pretty traumatic.

Nonetheless, what just happened – that within a week my daughter became aware of color and figured it out all on her own.

It wasn’t her school because all of the children and teachers at her school are black. It was the movie. I honestly think that’s remarkable because holy sh*t my kid is kinda brilliant but I love that my daughter lives in a world in which there is a Disney that she can identify with.

That same night while watching The Princess and the Frog Cydney asked me “Daddy, why is Tianna brown?” I responded “Because her parents are brown.” It was the best answer I could think of on the fly. She looked at the screen, looked at me, then looked at herself. She then pointed at her arm and said “I’m light brown” with a look of pride and acknowledging that she too was somewhat like Tianna even if she was a few tints lighter.

This makes me think of the Clark studies in the 1939-1940 in which a study was done asking which dolls little black girls thought were prettier, nicer, etc. when a black and white one were placed in front of them. There was a preference to the white doll virtually across the board and this opened up the door for studies and bringing awareness to self-esteem; the Clarks even testified in the Brown vs. Board case of 1954. So with “Queens of Africa” dolls outselling Barbie in Nigeria and starting to pick up here in America it’s nice to see things have begun to change.

I am okay with my daughter being aware of race. Her first experience isn’t negative and that’s amazing. I’m a single father and my little girl doesn’t have a living mom; so I’m figuring out this raising a little girl thing the best way that I know how. I may get some things wrong, but I know that a high self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence are a great place to start.

Look at me, almost 30 years old and still learning from Disney Movies.

Is It Time To Talk About Race With Your Kid?

January 19th, 2015 - By Rich
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Your friend Tikisha was telling you the other day that she’s teaching her seven-year-old daughter a ‘black code,’ or in other words, a way of acting around the police. It went something like, “Yes, officer, no officer, what can I do for you today, officer?” It’s a conversation that she decided to start having in light of what’s going on in this country with #BlackLivesMatter and the almost daily accounts of black  folks getting killed by the police.

You found it odd because, really, what are the chances that the police will stop a seven-year-old little girl? You ask your friend just that and she looks at you like you’re crazy. “Anything could happen to any of us at any time.”

She’s right. What would prevent an officer from shooting a little girl? And getting away with it?

Now you’ve found yourself thinking about race and wondering if you should be speaking to your daughter, too. The truth is, you don’t go anywhere near conversations about race with her for various reasons. One, she’s only five, and this police thing is straight boogie monster. The last thing you want is for her to be afraid to walk down the street for fear of running into the police. Two, you don’t want her having low self-esteem about being black. It’s so hard to put a positive spin on the fact that we were sold into slavery and forced to work for the white man. Which brings you to your third reason. You don’t want her looking up to the white man either, as if his force makes him superior. That feels the same as teaching her to know her place and that you will not do.

But you can’t deny what’s going on, and turning the channel every time something comes on the news.  Is it time to talk about race to your kid?

It’s a question that you pose to Dr. Jane G. Fort, Psychologist, and product of two educators. She says, “It’s never too early to start having the race conversation with your kid. You don’t want her to be blindsided.” Indeed, you don’t, but how do you know that it’s not too much? She says that one way to deal with it is by answering questions as they arise. In her case, the conversation was discussed when she was around 6 or 7 years old, and discovered that while in their black neighborhood of Nashville, they could ride the front of the bus, but outside of that they were forced to sit in the back. The day she made that observation, her father, a historian, sat her down and gave her a history lesson on slavery. But what about the fact that slavery and Ferguson is a depressing topic for a kid? She says to focus on the positive aspects of America and the black community. Let her know that what’s on the news is not the whole story.”

When stated like that, it sounds doable.

Ironically, you’re discovering that you’re not the only one  at the doorstep of these conversations. Your friend SekouWrites was telling you that one of his boys just started talking about race with his 9 year-old kid. The dad was explaining the judgment that comes from people when you wear baggy clothes. As they finished the conversation, the kid said, “Oh, that’s why the teacher said that.” Apparently, a substitute teacher at his private school wouldn’t let him answer any questions in class because she assumed, perhaps because of his baggy attire that day, that he was being disruptive. By the time class was over, she realized her mistake and said, “You’re not who I thought you were.”

To quote your friend Sekou, “the world is coming. It’s best to get in front of it.”

He’s so right. The world is coming and if you don’t act first, the outside world will be teaching your kid about race, and it won’t be pretty. It probably won’t even be true. As Dr. Fort also said, “kids take in a lot more than we know. She needs to have a buffer.”

Okay, it’s settled. Your daughter will be getting her first history lesson, like yesterday.

Erickka Sy Savané is a freelance writer and creator of THE BREW, a social commentary blog. Before that she was a model/actress/MTV VJ. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

What Are You?: Is It Okay For My Son To Just Be American?

January 10th, 2015 - By Rich
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“What is your nationality?” I get that question all the time. Or a better one is, “what do you consider yourself?” Because I was born and raised in America, and so were my parents, as well as my grandparents (with the exception of one who was born in China), my answer is always “American.” Then, my sarcasm begs the followup question: “No, really. What are you?”

The answer is not as simple as it may be for some. My father is Puerto Rican, born in New York, but I don’t speak any Spanish. My mother is mixed race, Black and Chinese, but she never really culturally identified with either. She looks Filipino actually. As a child, I grew up in the Bronx, and I identified mostly with one class of people. The lower middle class. Yes, we had a house, but there was a rat problem. We went to private school, but not really, it was Catholic. Identifying with a particular race was never high up on the agenda for me. When I got to college and had to start checking the ethnicity box, I just checked all of them. I wanted to qualify for any and all financial aid I was eligible for.

Fast forward a couple decades, and I have three kids whose racial appearance still confuses people. At a Little Gym class once, a fellow mom asked me if my daughter was French. French?? I’m not really sure where she got that from, but I’m never surprised with the guesses I get from people. My husband is Black so my kids are predominantly African-American. He is very light-skinned, however, so my three children look more bi-racial than anything else. Half Black, half White, I get a lot. My friend Torrence jokingly calls them “the beige kids.” They go to a school with a very diverse student body, but they are in the minority. Because of this, my husband constantly reminds them of their background. He quizzes them on Black history facts, and plays the Malcolm X movie for family movie night (I still think my daughter may have been too young for that one).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to deny my racial background and get all Raven Symone up in here.

But more than anything else, my kids identify with American culture. They like cheeseburgers and macaroni and cheese, and they listen to both Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj (sometimes simultaneously). So when I got a message earlier this week from my four-year-old son’s school asking me to pick a flag from “your country” so that your child could decorate their flag in class, it took me a minute to pick mine. Though most of the kids in the class were born here, I was the only one who chose the American flag. And trust me, it didn’t come to me at first. I initially thought about picking the Puerto Rican flag, but then I had visions of Kino being pissed off that I was trying to pass my kids off as Puerto Rican (though I do believe my seven- year-old daughter has an abnormal obsession with rice and beans). Ultimately, I figured there was only one option.

So when my son makes his flag in school, he’ll be getting familiar with those good ol’ red, white and blue stripes first. As time goes by, I’m confident his dad and I will teach him all about his background. But for now, he needs to know—at least in our household—it ain’t where you’re from,it’s where you’re at.

7 Things I Can Do That My Black Son Can’t

December 30th, 2014 - By Kweli Wright
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Photo: The writer with his son. Photo courtesy of Calvin Hennick.

This article originally appeared on Yahoo Parenting.

In the days after the Michael Brown shooting, I wrote an essay titled “I Hope My Son Stays White,” detailing my fears about what might happen to my biracial three-year-old son if he grows up to have dark skin. The upshot: America, to its shame, is still a place where black males are feared, and I don’t want that fear to turn itself on my son in a way that leads to his arrest or death.

I published the piece on, and the reactions from black readers ranged from “sad but true” to allegations that I myself was engaging in the very racism and colorism that I was decrying. But buried among these was a comment from a white reader who accused me of “sucking up to black folk” and then went on to list the supposed advantages of being black in America. (Apparently, according to this reader, my son will have an unearned fast track to a career as an air traffic controller. Um, okay?)

I can’t help but think that, if the essay had been published in an outlet with a larger white readership, many more commenters would have chimed in to deny the continued existence of racism. In my experience, white people (and straight people, and male people, and Christian people — all groups of which I’m a member) tend to dismiss the notion that we’re privileged. It’s an uncomfortable thing to acknowledge that you’re the recipient of unfair benefits, especially when those benefits are often nearly invisible to those who receive them.

But when you’re a parent, those privileges stop being invisible. It’s the reason why male congressmen with daughters are more likely to support women’s issues. It’s the reason why Ohio Sen. Rob Portman suddenly declared his support for same-sex marriage after his son came out as gay. And it’s the reason why, everywhere I look, I see hassles that my son will have to face that I don’t. Here’s a partial list of things I can take for granted, but which will likely be problematic for my black son:

1. I Can Walk Through a Store Without Being Followed

To take one high-profile instance, Macy’s and the city of New York recently settled with actor Robert Brown, who was handcuffed, humiliated, and accused of committing credit card fraud after buying an expensive watch at the store.

I never have to worry about this happening to me.

2. I Can Succeed Without It Being Attributed to My Race

When my wife, who is black, received her acceptance letter from Boston College, a peer told her she must have gotten in due to affirmative action, effectively ruining the experience of receiving the letter.

When I succeed, people assume I’ve earned it.

3. I Learned About My Ancestors’ History in School

I can tell you all about Louis XIV, Socrates, and the Magna Carta, but I always wondered when we would finally learn about African history (beyond Pharaohs and pyramids). The subject never came up.

Read the full story at Yahoo! Parenting.