He Grew Up Thinking Racism Was Basically Over. Then Life Happened.

Maz Ali

Jason Raikes just graduated from college. Here, he's reflecting out loud on what he expected of the world as a child and the reality he's been facing as a young adult.

Jason Raikes: What's up? I'm Jason Raikes. I'm from Bridge Park, Connecticut. Just came back from New York, going to school. Learned a lot through my experiences over there. It's been like a long journey of self discovery, growth, intellectual reflection and all these other things. So, I figured I'd share it with the masses a little bit. So, jumping right into it.

I wanted to talk about the concept of power dynamics. It's like, as children, we feel, more than any other feeling, the feeling of powerlessness. The fact that our fates and every other decision around us is determined by the people who are taller than us, stronger than us, wiser than us, richer than us, and all you can think about is, "Damn, wait 'till I get to that point you mother..."

You know what I mean? So, it's like these moments, where we wait patiently, conniving until we get to this point of adulthood and that we finally reach it, just to realize it's a battlefield just to survive on a day-to-day basis. And not only just in terms of surviving with the constant competition of getting a good job or getting your bills paid on time, or finding the right girl and/or boy, whatever your preference may be. There's concepts of just keeping your sanity, keeping the innocence inside you alive that made it possible for you to smile, and laugh, and play when you were younger. Now, these trials come through your life and you end up just bitter and cold because these emotions, these experiences take a toll on your heart, kind of thing, you know?

I wanted to jump back in time to a point where I was at least three or four. No, a little bit earlier than that. I wanted to jump back in time to a point when I was at least seven, seven or eight when I started reading about Martin Luther King and the times of civil rights movements and the times of equality and the fact that we had come so far and the fact that, "Oh, we can be in the same school as white people and we can get the same rights and get the same houses and all these things.

I think a lot of us, from the 90s, had this notion that everything is all said and good until we're hit smack-dab in the face with reality and realize that racism is still a thing, prejudice is still a thing, sexism is still a thing. It's not gone, it's just taken a different shape and form to the point where it's more subtle and harder to pick up on. Like, if you were a fan of "Game of Thrones" or "House of Cards," you could see some of the ruthless, most ambitious people in the world work on the most subtle basis. Frank Underwood is a cold-blooded killer, but he's not out with the cold-blooded. His under-toned, conniving, subtle manner is what gives him his power. It's the fact that he has the ability to control the masses and to control the masses' understanding of who he is as a human being. The same thing with the "Game of Thrones," everything is a power-play movie. No matter what, it's inescapable.

So, when I look at the concept of say, racism now, I think it's more along the lines of an idea that people put inside our heads that one particular person is inferior, whether they are or not. It's not the fact that if it's true or not, it's the idea in which they are able to pass on to us because true power is influence.

I have some experiences being in New York, where I've had times where I went to Korean town with some of my friends and waiters didn't want to serve me and there was honestly no plausible reason why they wouldn't want to serve me until I started making a fuss and saying, "Oh I'm not going to eat anything." Somehow I suddenly get my food first before all my other friends.

It's not that I want to jump to the aspect of racism right off the bat but I just had to put it out there that is a plausible reason as to why they would treat me with such hesitation or disdain. It's baffling, it's confusing and it's frustrating to understand that this a world in which I didn't ask to be in, but thrown into and it's already so fucked up. What do I do in this kind of situation?

There were times where, I think to myself, "I want to jog somewhere" or "I'm late to a party," and there are instances where I am pulled over by the police in New York, yelled at, telling me, "Open your bag, what's in your bag?" And all I could think, "What am I guilty of? What right do you have to open my bags for? Even if it's not a book bag, even if it's just a grocery bag from a store, why would you automatically assume I'm up to something because I'm jogging? You know damn well you see white people jogging every god-damn day but all of a sudden I'm jogging and it's an issue? That doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense."

I don't want this to be an inquiry on racial relations or anything like that. I'm just trying to get ya'll to think about the concept of power dynamics. It's not necessarily about the concept of one person being better than the other, it's the fact that we have to look at who holds the power in our society. I feel as though it's not even necessarily the police, it's the authoritative figures that hold the keys behind the ones that are going behind the locked bars. I wish I could say this in a more articulate manner but I'm doing the best that I can.

As I continue to do my little bit of research on these concepts, I started looking into jail systems, mainly because I wanted to understand the concept of good and bad, right and wrong because I've seen a lot of good men and women that I've known throughout my entire childhood go to jail on foolishness, foolish charges. And yet I read about white men and white women and just people in genera,l killing young boys in Florida or killing a bunch of people, drunk driving and get away with it because your mom and dad had enough money to pay the right lawyers. I mean, is there a such thing as justice or is it the idea in which we instill inside the minds of our children that stay with them until the point when they get older and develop these ideas for themselves?

It's so much so to the point where you realize all the lessons, the life lessons in which you were taught as children, like to treat your neighbors the way you want to be treated, all these things... you get to a certain crossroads when you're in like college, or at least in the 20s when you realize that there's a good amount of the stuff that they taught was bullshit that can't apply to the world we live in, because the world we live in follows different rules, rules that are changing every single day, and we are the ones orchestrating it and half of us don't even know it. The power is in our own hands and we're oblivious to it.

So, I wrote this thing, because it was really just a place in my mind that was just bothering me, so, I had to write it in the only way I knew how, so I did a little spoken word and it was like:

"Don't you feel strange, when people treat you like me and you ain't the same? Take a listen to these thoughts as I take it to a higher plane, I'm on another level."

"I mean, will they put you on to the devils that aim to rule you from the subliminal criminal to the Wall Street bandit, I'm hip through it, I'm peeping. These schemes that intend for me and you to be the perpetual footer for the United Federal machine that pushes out that dollar green that turns us all into vanity crack fiends, man please it's too much to explain. I'll give you a migraine as your mind strains to comprehend this lyrical liquefied ambitions pumping through my veins. I aim to shed a light on the authoritative figures that claim to work in your best interest and yet invest in the deterioration in your intellect and you ain't upset yet?"

"We are sheep going to the slaughter. This is no new concept. Streets paved with ads and posters, designed to sway our emotions. We drown in it as if we get lost in the ocean. We lose focus and get lost in the hocus, pocus, and you know this lifestyle we see on TV is just an illusion that we invest in specifically, so we forget about the issues at hand like poverty and inequality, but quite possibly, there's a greater scheme in hand orchestrated by Uncle Sam to beat us into submission worse than John Claude van Damme, busting in our houses and kidnapping our whole fam. We're slaves to the system, break free if you can."

So yeah, that was basically it. I wish I could do it smoother, but again, this isn't necessarily something I do as spoken word, but it was just something that was on my mind that I couldn't get rid of. So, if there is anything that I want people to take away from this rant, I guess, is the fact that power is not necessarily what you can and can not get away with, it's not necessarily what you're born into, it's about the power of influence. Influence is the most universal understood power that we have as cognitive beings, beings that are aware of our own mortality, that are aware of our sense of self. Our whole world revolves around our understanding of the world we live in.

Our understanding based on our perspective, our subjective view on how we understand and perceive the world around us. So, if you can put yourself in a place where you can see yourself being more influential, more substantial, more psychologically developed as an individual, so you understand your own needs as a person to develop and work on them instead of letting someone else do the thinking for you and telling who you can and cannot be, then, maybe we all will be better off. Black hippies, peace.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

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