Often times I get into heated debates with my wife about our son. We both have strong philosophical reasoning behind our arguments too. For example, we built our first house on the north side of town in Houston. We were less than 2 miles from a neighborhood called greenspoint aka gunspoint. This wasn’t the nicest of areas! If a place is nicknamed “gunspoint,” you can infer that safety may be an issue! The actual neighborhood we built in was nice though, it was just surrounded by sketchy areas. We downloaded an app for our neighborhood called “next door,” where people in the area could report crime and warn people of any possible danger. This app caused more harm than it helped. I can remember getting messages about “suspicious activity” nearby, and hearing police sirens shortly afterwards. This did not sit right with me, as we were expecting our first born child. We had the house built 2 years prior to getting pregnant, so we didn’t research the school district and surrounding areas as one would who is expecting a child. This issue began to weigh heavily on me. I not only wanted to raise my child in a safe environment, but I also wanted to be able to provide them with the best resources available. My wife argued that we both went to rough schools growing up and turned out fine. I agreed, but I felt I would be holding my child back by not capitalizing on an opportunity to put him in a top school district.
A few years after, when our son turned 2 years old, we were able to sell the house and move into one of the top school districts in the country. We both felt accomplished. Our son would now be able to receive top quality resources in school. I just felt as if I wasn’t “keeping it real.” I had several people at the barbershop say slick stuff to me like, “oh so you are moving way over there huh!” Or, “so this area wasn’t good enough for y’all?” These comments had me second guessing my decision. Maybe I did feel the grass was greener on the other side. Maybe I did feel like that area wasn’t good enough.
Shortly after moving, I got accepted into an organization where I was granted the opportunity to serve underprivileged communities by volunteering and even funneling funds to help “at risk” youth. It was a competitive organization to get into, as it still is today, but I somehow made it in. I was overjoyed. I knew I would be able to help make a difference in the city and my son would witness it firsthand. This helped me to realize that back in the days, I would visit, or even live in areas that were perceived as “rough,” but now I would be contributing to the betterment of these areas. In the past, I probably did more taking away from these areas than I actually contributed to them. This upcoming Saturday, my organization will be partnering up with sororities, fraternities, and a few other organizations to help restore a park in acres homes. This is an area on the north side of Houston that has been an underprivileged area. Actually, our current mayor Sylvester Turner is from this neighborhood, and still lives there! He actually came to speak at my induction to my organization in 2016. Very inspirational. He is a prime example that you can be successful, and still live in a “sketchy” area.
This conversation didn’t end when we moved to the “burbs!” We also have had several conversations about where our son will attend College! Although we met each other at an HBCU (THE Fort Valley State University), my wife and my dad feel that our son should entertain Ivy League opportunities. I disagree because I know how much more we learn at HBCU’s vs a PWI as a culture. We don’t learn WHAT to learn, but HOW to learn. My wife seems to forget that sometimes. My dad too! He is a third generation graduate from THE Fort Valley State University, and I am proudly the 4th. This is a legacy! Something to be proud of! Plus, I learned so much about life from this HBCU!
I can remember in one of my chemistry classes, I had a professor that had retired from the “industry” and was well into his 60’s when teaching me, maybe even 70’s! He often said in class, “I will teach you all about life, because you probably wont even understand this chemistry!” Those tangents proved to be right! Most people did fail his class! He even called me out in one class because I was taking 3 different chemistry classes at once, and he told the entire class that I wouldn’t pass them all!!! Well, I did! He was happy to see me do so, even if he never admits it! He actually even told my wife (back then girlfriend) that she could do better than me! I almost squared up with this senior citizen when I heard him utter this BS! He talked so bad about me it was crazy! All I could ask myself is, “why is he so hard on me?” My answer came when I actually joined the workforce. I was confronted with a lot of people who seemed to be against me. For reasons unknown. I could possibly attribute it to racism, but I didn’t initially. Maybe I was just too young and it was ageism. Maybe I was just not good at my job. Either way, I was a custom to having people being against me and not vocalizing the reason why. This professor knew things that I may face, and he somewhat groomed me to deal with them. Our HBCU also showed us self love which helped a lot as well. These are things that I feel can only be taught at an HBCU. I could be wrong, but my experience is that people that may have gone through what you may go through, can help you prepare. Also this professor asked to connect on LinkedIn a few years ago, and he saw all my accomplishments!!! Jasmine can do better than who?!?!?!! Yea I know you see me doc!!!!
In closing, I feel that you don’t have to, nor should you, do anything to help you feel that you need to conform to what the “norm” may be. The norm could be moving away from high crime areas, or moving into crime areas. The norm may also be going to an HBCU or a PWI. Just do what fits your situation best. Part of being an average black man, means you may be faced with average decisions. Those decisions need to be based autonomously. Don’t let anyone sway your opinion on something that you have to live with. A wise quote that helps me make decisions is to always think about the future because the present was planned years ago by people that thought about the future while you’re thinking in the moment.