Black Excellence

I Moved to New York to Escape Racism. I Was Wrong.

moving to new york, moved to new york, racism in new york, black people in new york
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“You’re a nigger!” The man screamed as if this was something I didn’t know. I hadn’t been called that since I moved to New York, 6 years ago. That was part of the reason I was halted in my steps. The other reason was that I couldn’t be entirely certain he was sane. I wagered he must have been. It was 1:30 PM on a Saturday at 42nd Street, Port Authority. Why was this dude picking on me? Better yet, why was he even saying this?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I am a veteran. I’ve been to Iraq. I’ve been to Kuwait. I’ve been to Somalia. But I also spent six years in the South. I’m not saying that I would prefer those places to living in southern states, but why should anyone be treated like a hostile when not abroad?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]To a certain extent, I feel that I’ve been shielded from the brunt of the impact of racism. I’m initially from Chicago, a place so segregated that I can’t remember when I saw my first white person. I spent years just around blacks and white people were just spoken of. So, there’s that. Of course, like most kids brought up during the early ‘90s I watched tons of TV, so I imagined whites were all like Kevin from The Wonder Years, Zach from Saved by the Bell, and Punky from Punky Brewster. It was a simpler time, to be sure.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Then I moved to the South in 2004 and man did my world change. I got called “boy” and “Nigger” so much that I started to believe that’s who I was. A boy, a Nigger, a piece of refuse at the end of the day on a hot Florida sidewalk. Between the epithets, getting pulled over randomly, and often, and not being served at restaurants, I discovered that I was too good for the South and the South was not big enough for me.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But New York was supposed to be different. Purer somehow. When I moved here, late 2010, I remember thinking I would get shot, and I wagered that the best places to get shot were Queens, Brooklyn, and Harlem. Little did I know, I wouldn’t even be threatened in these places. What I would find, however, were tiny pockets of racial evil buried in the fabric of the city.

RELATED: Should I Tip My Bad Server Well To Teach Them A Lesson? [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]moving to new york, moved to new york, racism in new york, black people in new yorkA major beauty of the city is its acceptance and diversity. Gosh, how it’s diverse here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But there is a subtle racism that I have always felt about the city. And it’s something I’ve been fine with because, as scientists believe, we’re all a little racist. I actually prefer this kind of bigotry over the overt racism I experienced while living in Virginia, Florida, and Alabama.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the past few months, and within rapid succession, I’ve seen bigotry practiced between black and white, white and black, Asian and Hispanic, and, believe it or not—Native American to common white-as-Wonder-bread American. A Black woman almost slapped two white guys when one of them accidentally touched her with his hand.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Keep your goddamned White hands to yourself!” Shouted the Black woman. As expected, everyone on the train turned toward the sound of the ruckus. New York is a land of many sour exchanges. And if the woman had left off the white part of the sentence, surely patrons of the C-train would not have stared as long as they did. Most people, as I noticed, kept their eyes cautiously applied to the images of the woman and men until she got off at 59th and they at 72nd.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“You a Trump supporter?” The Native American man accused rather than asked when a passerby stared too intently. Poor white guy. I suspect that the man was drunk when he slurred the words at the frightened passerby.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The Hispanic woman spouted obscenities at a Black man who seemed to be accosting her. Each one of her sentences ended in Negro, and every one of his comments were about illegal immigration.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The most bothersome thing I’ve become accustomed to is that feeling of expecting people to act in a discriminatory way in my presence. Sure, I’ve had to make myself announced when approaching a group of whites at night since I moved here. I’ll whistle a familiar tune or walk upright and pull my hood down when coming from behind a single white woman or group of Hipsters. I read somewhere that maybe that’s a good idea.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But what is this all about? I moved to New York because I eventually ran out of patience with the dark hand of racism. I hate that it followed me here. And I hate that it’s getting worse. I can’t imagine the rest of the city and its inhabitants putting up with this much longer, either. And that’s a worrying prospect—angry, racially-charged New Yorkers turning the city back into the 1970s. I shudder to think it.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Alex Miller

Alex Miller is a freelance writer living in Harlem. His work has appeared in Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other places.