This series of interviews was intended to celebrate Black History Month by lifting voices within the black community. Black History Month may have passed but, that doesn’t mean we should stop boosting black voices. We’ve done a series of interviews discussing race and its place in the modern world. Please enjoy, never stop learning, and meet Nathan.
The interview has been edited for clarification.
SB: Are you comfortable with your racial identity?
Nathan: Yeah, over the past few years it’s been really inspiring to see how positive the black community is in terms of empowering ourselves and really embracing self-love so that has made it way easier. I don’t think I’ve ever really felt uncomfortable with my race but there’s definitely been a lot of negative connotation to being black in America and I think it’s good to have so much positive reinforcement coming to the light- having that become really popular and just being something that everyone embraces.
SB: And I think it’s super helpful that people are finally starting to realize how implemented racism is, as well. That kind of goes with the next question; How important is representation in the media and in history for young black kids?
Nathan: It’s really important. In terms of Hidden Figures that came out recently, it’s really good to see that there are people of color, women of color, presented in a positive light because often there are certain narratives that come along with black people. Like this angry black woman single mom type deal, there definitely is a woman out there like that but there are other narratives of black people that should be represented. It’s really good to be able to look up to that and think “wow, people who look like me are doing great things and making advancements in society.” Especially in America.
SB: Are there any other movies, TV shows, or novels that have proper representation of people of color?
Nathan: Well for books you have to look really hard - but, in terms of general media I think Blackish is a good example. It’s a great show to see really influential black people who are really modern taking control of their lives in America. I like that the show talks about issues that face black people today and it’s kind of like a modern Cosby Show type deal and I really dig that. About novels, though, you have to look specifically for where black people of color are represented in a light that’s different than other narratives.
SB: I’m going to shift away from the art aspect a bit more into news media. There’s been a massive increase of hate crimes against all minorities, specifically people of color, and I think it was the mayor of Greenville who said something like, “These kinds of attacks happen in the fifties and the sixties, they shouldn’t be happening in 2016” when the historically black church was vandalized. How does it make you feel that so many people are starting to think it’s somehow okay to be hateful against the black community?
Nathan: Well it’s easy to think of it as something that's faded away but those people in the sixties passed that behavior down to their kids and it's still deeply rooted in American society. The increase in hate crimes toward minorities is really disheartening but I’m glad that now people are having it shoved in their faces so they’ll see what’s going on isn’t okay and people of color aren’t going to stand for it anymore. There’s definitely steps that the youth have been taking, especially on social media to make people understand and become aware that these things are going on.
SB: What do you think is the best way to combat racism?
Nathan: I think educating people is one of the best ways. There’s always going to be people who don't care and don't want to be educated but reaching out to those people and helping them understand what people of color are going through - what black people are going through and why it’s not okay - is really important. It’s easy to just want to lash out and not help the situation and sometimes that’s understandable because it’s not always everybody’s job to educate someone who’s ignorant and doesn’t want to listen but, on the other hand, reaching out and making that effort to plant a seed in someone’s head and make them think about the situation instead of just continuing the way they’re going about things is helpful in the long run.
SB: Right, a lot of kids in high school make random comments and don’t even know why it’s wrong. The idea of planting a seed seems especially helpful in that setting.
Nathan: I live in DC and it’s a very liberal city, super blue, and my school is kind of small and super liberal as well. The topic of the DC bubble came up because in cities you’d like to think that everyone in the country is liberal like you when in reality there’s this whole middle of the country and different points of view that a lot of people don’t think about. And not everyone is as liberal or as lucky to live in a city like DC or New York where it's generally frowned upon to say something super out of line that's bigoted and racist but even in those cities there are people like that. I think dealing with it on the school level is really important because if you talk to your peers and have those discussions- my school is really big on having discussions and socratic seminars- having those different ideas built up to understand where someone else is coming from and so they understand where you’re coming from is really important so that maybe later on they’ll know why you’re upset about how they’re going about something and why what they said was hurtful. Instead of just lashing out you can share ideas and just talk it out.
SB: Right, so it’s furthering where you planted the seed in someone’s head. What does Black History Month mean to you?
Nathan: It’s kind of sad that it’s only recognized and publicized in one month because it can be represented and recognized all year round. But I think it’s a good start - it helps people look at all the contributions black people have made in America. In terms of representation, especially in recent years, it’s good to move away from the stereotypical Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and look at other figures in American history that were black and have contributed to building up this country. It’s uplifting but it can be built upon more. And I think this generation is the kind of generation to do that. A lot of people on social media who are outspoken about these things are some of the ones bringing these thoughts to life.
SB: This kind of goes with the last question - Who do you look up to and why?
Nathan: There’s a lot of people I admire on social media who are constantly speaking out about things. Like @sageaflocka, she’s super outspoken and since I’m on the east coast the Art Hoe Collective is really prevalent around here. Seeing all those people come together not only in art culture but also to bring awareness to black people and other POC. I really look up to those people who are holding up the collective because they uplift the issues facing minorities today.
SB: How do you see yourself?
Nathan: I see myself as someone who’s constantly changing and shifting. Especially as a teenager, I’m still trying to find myself and realize not only how different parts of my identity come together to make me a whole person. Changing, shifting, still developing.
SB: Is there anything else you want to say?
Nathan: In recent light of Trump’s presidency and everything surrounding it, I think being complacent is one of the worst things you can do. Especially in the black community it’s easy to think something doesn’t matter because it doesn’t directly affect us like we’re not worried about it. It’s important for a lot more of us to pay attention to those kinds of things. Not just black people but everyone. Complacency is the worst thing that we can do right now because so many people have slept on Trump being president and he’s already reversed so many things that Obama did during his administration. In terms of the pipeline and the refugee situation, it’s really important to be aware of what you can do to help the situations. Protesting is important. I talked with someone about social media presence in those terms and while social media presence is important, if all you do is talk about your views and not act on them it doesn’t help in the long run. Reaching out to your local congressman and understanding local government to see how it affects the rest and finding what you can do to help smaller problems, that’s what we should focus on. This year and the coming years. Less posting about it and more getting out there and doing something about it. ✉
piece by: sydney bradford