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What it Means to be African-American

What it Means to be African-American

I am not sure what it means to be merely an American, but I can only tell you what it means to be an African-American. I can only teach you, based on the life that I’ve lived and the battles that I’ve fought.

To be an African-American means you are a part of a minority. Before you were born you were destined for failure. Growing up you only survived through the prayers your grandmother impelled into the world.

As a child you might be asked if you know who your father is or if your mother is on drugs. In reality, your parents will be terrified everyday that you walk out of the door to go to school. Just live through it and don’t question God for this dirt that has been placed on your skin.


You will have to try 10 times harder to barely make it in today’s society. Growing up you will be stopped by a police officer for no reason. When you go to shop at the store a worker might even follow you.

If you fall in love with someone who does not look like you, it will be yet another struggle that you will have to deal with. You will be questioned, “Why did you switch to the other side?” You will answer, “What other side?”

There will be very little hope for you and the other African-American girl that you sit next to you in class. They won’t believe that there is room for both of you to succeed. You will let all of their doubt fade away.

Even when you do feel like success has come others will try to rob you of your triumph. If you have a nice car you might be questioned, how you could afford it? At your job the only people you see that look like you are the janitors.

Don’t let these small things stop you from doing well. Continue to rise above the low standards that others have set for you. Unfortunately, you will fight all of your life so that you don’t have to be a statistic. Sometimes there are no explanations for the obstacles you will be faced with.

Continue to fight, because above all the struggles you will overcome. I am here to tell you that, to be an African-American means that you are strong. Through your whole life you will feel like it is an ongoing battle. When you embrace who you are, you have won. To say that you are “black and proud” means that even though you go through struggle, you will conquer and you are still proud of who you are.

Remember that you are not a victim; you are a fighter, a warrior. Through all the hard times you have held on to your faith. You use your faith to generate a wall of power around you, and with this wall you will block out any blight.

To be African-American means that you will become a role model. You will become the role model that you have always dreamed that you could have known. You must prove to those around you that they can also excel.


As an African-American you will follow your dreams and this will be a milestone for you, your family, your community, your people. You will use your skills and knowledge to climb the ladder of success. With your newfound power you will make sure there is nothing but diversity in the workplace and you will fight for inclusion.

To be African-American means that you will use those big bold lips of yours to speak powerful words. The color of your skin will radiate golden brown colors and light up a room. From the naps and curls in your hair to the round curves of your nose, you are beautiful.

I am not sure of what it means to be merely an American, but I can only tell you what it means to be an African-American. And to be an African-American is an honor.

Originally Published in the Self Narrate Column in the Gainesville Sun

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