"I want people to know I'm perfectly fine, and I'm not going to hurt anybody or do anything bad." — Maddox, 10 years old
A new documentary explores what it's like to grow up black in America.
Joe Brewster and Perri Peltz released "A Conversation About Growing Up Black" earlier this month via The New York Times. The short documentary, just over five minutes long, provides insight into just some of the many unique challenges and fears black boys must face.
Several interview subjects brought up the issue that's been on everyone's mind: police violence.
17-year-old Malik touched on the topic, discussing how it hurts him that violence or abuse might come from the people who are supposed to protect him.
Jumoke, also 17, brought up that he feels like he and other young black men are being "hunted" by police.
Another struggle brought up in the video is that black men are often more likely to be seen as a threat to strangers in public.
Miles, 13, describes a time he was walking home with a classmate. "I was walking home from school with this one white girl and we had just gotten off the bus," he says. When they were almost home, they approached a crowd of black children who'd also just gotten out of school. The girl turned to Miles and said: "Oh, let's cross the street. There's a group of black kids. I don't want to run into them."
25-year-old Marvin talks about one of his teachers, who made him take off a wristband because "it looks gang-affiliated." And he discusses what it's like to have the world see him as a potential threat.
Racism in society takes many forms and is far more subtle than many people realize.
I am white. Because of that, I'm never going to know what racism feels like. I can't say, "I know how that feels" because I don't. I can't.
What I and others who have benefitted from institutional racism can do is to start listening. We can start sharing the stories of men and boys like Miles, Jumoke, Malik, and Marvin.
Because as Bisa, 17, explains, understanding the hows and whys of racism is a complicated process that young men like him have to deal with from a very young age.
And Maddox, just 10 years old, already knows that society unfairly expects him to grow up to be a threat.
No one should have to grow up like this or go through life like this.