Rose Up

Rose Up

“The world should not pass judgement upon the Negro, and especially the Negro youth, too quickly or too harshly. The Negro boy has obstacles, discouragements and temptations to battle with that are little known to those not situated as he is.”
― Booker T. Washington, "Up from Slavery

Madison, WI, November 2023: While most families in America are looking forward to the holiday season, I’m stressing working overtime, so my children can have a semi-decent holiday. I have a decent job with medium pay, no education higher than a high school diploma and some college credits I obtained over the years by trial and error, trying to better my life with college courses/degrees. You may think, “Well, how is that my problem? Stick with it and you will be done soon!”―whatever the “it” is you the reader has in your mind. I’ve done it and thought the same thing, but let me mention that, before you stray away from this article, I’m a Black man with three children living in a predominantly, white wealthy city, which the state has ranked first in segregation and there are not too many resources for people like me. 

Acting as if my life is fine, I’m screaming for help behind the curtains, trying my best to figure it out on my own because asking for help is a sign of weakness. I must use what I learn from books, conversations, and my own lived experiences to take the good and bad and to mold all of this into my version of life. Not only do I face white America’s hate for me, I have to battle other races including people who look like me; why is it this way, I have yet to find the answer.

It all starts off with our name, which will follow us for life. Hopefully your mother/father picks an “acceptable” name for America. Let us hope mother made smart decisions while she was carrying you! Like not smoking and drinking or doing any other harmful substances. Statistically, 64% of Black Americans parents’ level of education is less than high school; 67% of us come from a single mother household; 35% live in father-only households. All this stems from the generational barriers: drugs, gangs, upbringing, inner-city low-income housing, aka known as the “concrete jungle.” These things lead to systemic poverty, which means the lack of resources that many Americans have access to, leading to learning defects, family medical effects, all of which has been passed down in “white America.”

We could all have the same resume for a job position. I may even know the job better than most, yet I get put through hoops or the run around for a higher pay or promotion because of my skin color. Wisconsin is more likely to pay me lower wages because of my appearance as well. The diversity we have with our hair style has also stopped men like me from getting into certain work positions; dreadlocks and braids are not acceptable with some bosses. I must keep a low-cut wave hairstyle and make sure my beard is trimmed, lined up correctly, clean and neat. Furthermore, I do not qualify for benefits, because I make just too much money, through my job hopping. Using skills I obtain from jobs to seek higher paying opportunities to survive, provide, and keep up with the worldwide inflation nonsense. Don’t pity me or feel bad; I live check to check, but the way I carry myself as a Black Male in a cold-hearted world, I keep pushing. 

In the midst of all this, depression and anxiety also play a role in everything I have said to this point. I must figure out daily how to not only survive but basically sometimes wear a mask and show the world I’m not this scary fictional monster that my people before me have been portrayed to be. Somedays, yes, I do not want to be friendly or play this character of nice Black man, at work, school, etc. Instead, I want to tell some people off because this world was built off the backs of men that look like me, yet we have not received any reparations for any of it. Some people thrive on the buddy system, while I must put my O-negative blood type, sweat, and tears into whatever I’m doing. 

Does any of this sound like your life or something that you may want to endure or take part in? Fighting the world and then maybe coming home and fighting with your spouse because they may not understand, or care because stuff at home needs to be taken care of: bills, housework, dishes need cleaning, kids need winter clothes, check engine light is on in the car, etc. From an early age we are told to stop crying, suck it up, because we are boys/men. I’m even guilty of this with my own son: instead of embracing him and loving him, I’m hard on him for being a kid. But this is our reality; we can’t cry, show any weakness, or we will be preyed upon by others in our concrete jungle. So again, now the cycle repeats itself.

Oh, also now I must start having talks with my children about certain things, especially my four-year-old son on what to do at an early age because he will only be innocent another year or so, then he will be just like dad―a target. I will have to be hard on him inside and out of the house because if I’m soft on him I could potentially lose my boy to the street life I once beat. He may not be lucky to see certain age milestones: 18, 21, 25. Death, drugs, gun violence or life in bondage (prison). Or simply, a white man could see him as a threat in any situation and feel like he is backed by the blue, in the right for hunting or preying on my son.

Black men and women are some of the most accepting people in the world. We embrace all races with open arms when we feel safe with you. If you stand with us, you forever have people who will lay their life on the line for you. But many won’t do that for us, as we are disrespected and killed for minding our business or simply being us―Black, unapologetic, brave roses that grew from the concrete.

Author Ontario Frazier, a humanities student enrolled in UW-Madison's Odyssey Project. Photo courtesy of Ontario Frazier.

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