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Inequalityville: If you didn't know, well now you know


“Go back to Africa” they said. “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” they asked. If you know what these words really mean you’ve lived in Inequalityville.
Inequalityville: Realities of Black Lives in a World of Inequality

“Go back to Africa” they said. “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” they asked. If you know what these words really mean you’ve lived in Inequalityville. My story touches on a regular day for me as a black man, father, husband, and immigrant. From the moment my eyes open to start the day to walking out of my front door, all is well. My strength to walk out the door is drawn from what lies within these four walls I call home. A place my queen loves on me and showers me with reminders that I matter, a place my children empower me and refresh the right spirit within me to keep leaving to fight for our freedom, my refuge where God reassures me that I am deserving of life because He is “the author and finisher of our faith.”


It is when I step out of the door that the war begins. It doesn’t take 30 seconds for the fight to begin because it takes about the same time to call the elevator and for there to be a white woman and child going down. If I’m lucky I’ll get a response for smiling and greeting them. What’s more likely is the woman pulling her child closer and tightening her grip on her purse as they shuffle to the farthest corner of the elevator. This is followed by the deathly silence in that awkward space where all I can do is keep my eyes front and hold my breath. One wrong move can lead to a world of hurt. Why? I’m a black man in Inequalityville. Like surfacing from the depths of a body of water I gasp for air once the elevator doors open. I can finally walk out of that momentary prison and off to the next war ground, my car.


I pull out my keys from my pocket and point the remote directly at my car to unlock it, not too low but high enough for any spectators to confirm that this vehicle belongs to me. Why? I’m a black man in Inequalityville. I jump into this chariot and prayerfully begin my journey to my next war. My mind is alert but wary. My prayer is that I get to come back to my four walls called home because with each turn on this journey there’s a significant chance that my prayer won’t come to fruition. So I get to work and waiting for me is an inbox filled with demands of what I should do and when I should have it done by. Another normal day in my world. But today is a little different, today there’s a demand of me but I’m hearing it for the first time. If my assumption is right it’s another one of those projects that’s been conceived in my absence but the expectation is for me to fix everything or take the fall if it doesn’t. It’s happened before on this team, and did I mention that I’m the only black person on this team?


True to the cause, lest I get BLACKlisted, I attend the meeting. Just as I guessed, it’s an assignment that requires my skill set but it’s been a year since this work started and now pressure is mounting from the decision makers on progress and completion. Another war, another fire to put out that I didn’t have a seat at the table early in the game. All I can do is accept because failure to do that will have me BLACKlisted. I decide to head over to the Cafe to grab a tea and true to form I’m treated with the usual “Go back to Africa!” I’ve started to grow numb to the feeling of inadequacy because I’m not the only person foreign to this land. I’ve become a master a keeping a smile yet deep inside my heart bleeds. My heart bleeds because my children are born in this country. Yes, I have a country I originated from but there they don’t consider me one of them because I chose to be in the diaspora versus staying to struggle. But the journey continues. I head back to the office and muster yet another few hours before heading back to my refuge. I’m plagued with emails where my name is butchered email after email and yet my email address and signature give the correct spelling. But hey, it’s another day for a black man in Inequalityville.


The day is done and it’s time to head home. Head down, mask up (Covid still out there), I head back to my vehicle. The same routine must be applied, pull out my keys from my pocket and point the remote directly at my car to unlock it. Not too low but high enough for any spectators to confirm that this vehicle belongs to me. My prayer this time is that my dreadlocks don’t influence how people view me as I drive home. All I’m trying to do is get home. I pull up to a red traffic light. A police officer pulls up next to me. I’ve learnt to keep my eyes front and slide my grip of the steering wheel to 10-and-2. All I’m trying to do is get home. The light turns green, I take off a second later than the police vehicle because I can’t afford to drive off before them. Eyes front is the mantra. Stay behind the police vehicle at all cost is my goal.


Inequalityville is a peculiar place where life and death are divided by outward appearance. For some it’s a place of great privilege, peace, and success and for others the war on everything opposing the ability to succeed and live in peace. Which am I? Well, if you didn’t know, now you know.


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