Being My Own Black Man

Being My Own Black Man

You may have heard the remarks of TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley late last week (on Philadelphia radio station 94WIP), stating that “For some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you’re not a thug or an idiot, you’re not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent, and don’t break the law, you’re not a good black person. It’s a dirty, dark secret in the black community”.

Now if I had a dollar for every time I was told I wasn’t black enough I could retire tomorrow, but I think it’s more of just being your own man, regardless of your background, peer pressure is no joke.  I’ve seen it with men of all backgrounds, to break out of that herd mentality and just do what you think is best and follow your own heart.

So yes I know what Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is going through (all of this started with the reports that some of his black teammates don’t think he’s black enough), just because you don’t do certain things or choose to go your own way, some lesser minded people equate that with your ethnicity or lack there of.

For me being free started as a small child and my parents put me on the path to independence, in thought, actions and my future. It was all about being successful no matter what anyone else thought. Not following bad trends, expensive clothes, ignorant thoughts and actions and thinking for yourself.

Trust me I’ve had my moments of following fashion a little too closely and spending too much of what is trendy and materialistic. And I’ve been part of the popular group and compromised on my values at times too but being my own man is just too good, regardless of the social price.

But I’ve had a lifetime of doing what I feel is best, I come from a line of strong, successful and proud black men (most notably my late father), dudes who didn’t listen to the negativity of others or even the doubts of the themselves and just worked hard and pushed forward. Sometimes to where men of color hadn’t been before. My father got an engineer’s training in the US Navy in the late 1950’s, he endured a lot of pain for that but came out of it smarter and stronger.

My real first move like that was taking on the equipment managers role at Brother Rice high school for the freshman baseball team almost 25 years ago. Not a single brotha in any of the three levels (freshman, sophomore or varsity), of baseball that year. And man did I hear about it from the other brothas, but I loved the game of baseball, respected the coaches who were my teachers and worked hard to make sure the team was ready to go. It was liberating to do my own thing, not listen to others and follow my heart, I never forgot that feeling.

While still in high school I became a peer minister my senior year, again something I really wanted to do and wished to serve, I didn’t hear as much from my peers and really didn’t care, I was used to not being “in”.

That same year I chose to be only one of two guys (the other guy I did not know well), from my high school to attend DePaul University, it was the alma mater of my mother and where I wanted to extend my education and I went there not knowing a soul but again was feeling good about just doing what I wanted to do. And that was my father’s mantra, to do what you want regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

Now freedom aint free, the solitude of that long and winding road isn’t always great and as I’ve aged and moved from my home neighborhood and still not following the crowd.

But it was the unapologetic way of my dad and I plan to continue to follow in his large footsteps.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email

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