Urban Male Chronicles: What Are We Supposed to Do? What Are We Supposed to Say?

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I was grabbing lunch with an acquaintance of mine that also happens to be a Black male HR professional. He’s the HR expert assigned to my organization by his massive and well-known company. Despite our frequent email exchanges, occasional meetings, and catch up calls, we’d never really gotten to know each other outside of business. Our lunch turned out to be the most productive conversation we’ve ever had.

The conversation started with jokes about the shortage of Black men in the HR profession. I asked him if he knew any others in the field, and the only person he could think of was me. This turned into a conversation about each of our career progressions and some of the challenges we faced along the way and to this day. Then somehow we got on the subject of our experiences in networking and interacting with like-minded brothers, which then turned into a bigger conversation about how our achievements have made it harder to identify with many of the men that look like us, but chose to take their lives in a different direction. I don’t mean they became lawyers and engineers and we became HR people. I mean they never left the hood and chose to take a road too commonly and unfortunately traveled.

Chris and I had a lot more in common that either of us could’ve expected. We exchanged stories about what it means to be a Black HR professional in America, but more importantly what it means to be a “successful” urban male professional when interacting with people who…well, haven’t been so successful. Chris told me one story in particular that had me thinking up until the time I wrote this article. He also raised some questions that I’ve asked myself time and time again.

A couple years ago, Chris went home to visit his family in the Bronx. He ran into a guy (We’ll call him Donte) he went to high school with, who was accompanied by a kid no more than ten years old. After a brief cordial exchange, Donte asked him if he heard about Mark, a person they both knew from around the way. Chris said no and the guy informed him that Mark had been shot and killed over some hood beef. While that was shocking in and of itself, it’s what happened next that sticks with Chris to this day.

With the younger kid standing nearby and watching these two talk, Donte lifted up his shirt to show Chris the gun that he had tucked at his waist. “They may have gotten Mark, but they’ll never catch me slipping,” he said. And to the kid standing there, this was okay. It became clear to Chris that the youngin’ looked up to Donte. And unless there’s some serious intervention over the next few years, this kid will most likely grow up to be just like Donte or end up just like Mark.

As much as Chris wanted to say something, he didn’t know where to go with the conversation. He just realized how little he and Donte had in common after all these years. And not knowing the kid that was with him, there really wasn’t anything Chris could do but tell them to both be safe, say peace, then go on about his day. But when he walked away, he found himself asking questions: “What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say? How am I supposed to identify with that lifestyle?” Chris went on to tell me about other people that he grew up with, saw out and about, but avoided because he didn’t want to go through the conversation about where he’s at in his life today. If you’ve been in those conversations with someone that “hasn’t made it,” you know how awkward they can be.

I’ve found myself in similar situations when I’ve headed to upstate New York to visit my family. I still remember pulling up to a McDonald’s drive-through window and seeing Lamont from the old hood reach out to collect my cash before recollecting our times on the corner. He was excited to see me,  but as our (very) brief conversation went on, his eyes dulled as his enthusiasm waned. The jokes he made years ago about me talkin’ white weren’t so funny anymore. “Baggin’ b*tches” was a language I could no longer understand. Thank God for the car behind me that beeped and broke the growing awkwardness of our conversation. I pulled away and thought to myself then, “What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say? I really wasn’t trying to brag. I just told him about my life.”

I remember running into friends from middle school a couple years ago at a local mall. I remember how difficult it was to understand what they had chose to do with their lives, and how reluctant I was to share what I’d done with mine. From previous experience, I knew how it’d be perceived. I wanted to say something helpful to them. Something encouraging. But after not seeing them for years and them appearing content, it just didn’t seem like my place. We were no longer friends. And quite honestly, there was nothing I could do for them. But again, I found myself walking away asking “What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say?” And for these reasons, the only people I look forward to seeing when I go home are members of my family. Whether or not they’ve made career decisions similar to my own, we have blood in common. And with that, there’s always room for conversation.

But from time to time upstate and in NYC, I still find myself asking…

“What was I supposed to do? What was I supposed to say? What is my obligation?”

SBM Nation, have you had a similar experience? How do you handle conversations with people that have chose to walk a path with no commonalities to your own? Do you find that as you progress through life, it’s harder to identify with people from back in the day? What exactly are we supposed to do? What exactly are we supposed to say? All other thoughts are welcome. 

Looking for the right words even when I’m not writing,

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  • njwilson789

    An absolutely great post and something I've had to deal with many times. I will say this. You're lucky to even have a black male professional to have lunch with.

    I've lived in Philly for some time, and I haven't had a meaningful lunch with another black male professional my age (I'm 28) for years. I've gotten so used to eating alone, it doesn't even bother me anymore.

    One of the worst experiences I had was when I wanted to hit a nice lounge and my old buddies from the neighborhood didn't want to come. They said I was too "wall street." In actuality, no, I'm just a white collar black man working in a city filled with blue collar – at best – working black men.

    There is NOTHING to say in all honesty. The best solution I can provide is to create a medium where black men can constantly meet up with each other better.

    My recent post 3 Effective Things Dwyane Wade Can Do to Solve the Issue with His Ex-Wife, Siovaughn

    • PEYSO

      "One of the worst experiences I had was when I wanted to hit a nice lounge and my old buddies from the neighborhood didn't want to come."

      This is the same shiznic that happens to me. I cant even take none of the old homies out for a drink. Either they dont feel comfortable, or the way they talk to women make me cringe

    • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson

      We're on the same page about creating the medium. A work in progress and something I've been thinking about for a while.
      My recent post Cooling Out on Credit: When I Realized It Was Net Worth It

  • skipfrombk

    I really liked this article because it happens a lot. I graduated college a month ago and have met people that only have their high school diploma in my neighborhood. It is hard to relate because they live such a different life than I do. I never knew you were an HR professional because I got a degree in HR management. I find that cool because I look up to you a lot. Hopefully I can make some progress and get up there with the looks of you and Chris.
    My recent post The Theory of Absolute Value

    • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson

      Holler at me on email: slimjax at gmail dot com. We can rap about some things.
      My recent post Cooling Out on Credit: When I Realized It Was Net Worth It

      • cynicaloptmst81

        Y'all mens gon' make me puddle up today! *holds back thug tear*

        *pats Slim on the back* *gives approving nod*

      • skipfrombk

        I emailed you so whenever you get the chance just check it out. I could always use tips to better myself!!
        My recent post The Theory of Absolute Value

      • StacyAustralia

        Awww I live to see young professional black men helping out one another, that's awesome!!

  • http://ponderingsofablackman.blogspot.com Miles Garvey

    Wow!! Slim you're reading my mind. I've had this conversation over and over with myself for about 6 years now. It's like I still see a lot of the guys I grew up with but things aren't the same. I'm not where I want to be career-wise but I take the bar exam next month so I do have plans that I'm working on. It's like a lot of the guys I grew up with are into what I feel are petty street beefs, running the women even if they're married, and/or just doing what teenagers are doing even though we're all in our early 30s.

    Great post!
    My recent post I'm Glad President Obama Doesn't Think Like A Lot (certainly not all) of Black Folks

  • http://ponderingsofablackman.blogspot.com Miles Garvey

    I'm reading the comments and I can definitely relate to what everyone is saying. This is cathartic for me. Thanks y'all.
    My recent post I'm Glad President Obama Doesn't Think Like A Lot (certainly not all) of Black Folks

  • vzzyscorpio

    Thank you for the post slim. I am dealing with the same issue. I am the only male associate under 30, at my 95% minority company. Your issues as well as Chris and other brothers goes a bit further for me. I am trying to find identity in a company that is 80% women 20% men. And of the 20% half of them have attempted to "sway" me per statements. (HR involvement). Other males are right about 50- 60 in age. I listen to wisdom and advice but that's about it. Per friends back home, plenty of awkward conversations , I just had to learn to curb some enthusiasm when stating how well things are coming along. Where is the blame? School systems? I mean I made it right? Nurturing? We were mostly cut from same cloth! I think is boils down to the ambition and how hungry you are.

  • Ms. Smart

    Maybe it's different because I'm a woman. But I never feel like I am expected to or have to SAY anything. I was educated in Detroit. In school, I was mostly surrounded by kids who ended up right with me today. However, I still have relatives and close family friends who went down a completely different path. Thanks to FB, I'm in touch with most. When they requested to be added to my friend list, there was usually an exchange (phone or email), about why I'm in DC. I leave it at that. When they call me, it usually NOT to shoot the breeze. It's usually a real issue like they need a reputable lawyer or tax professional. And I am sure if I ever went back to visit Detroit and I need some 'insert shady thing they know about' I would call them.

    The other thing is that because I grew up around them but not educated with them, there has always been a bit of a difference just under the surface. From middle school on, my friends didn't live in my neighborhood. And even before then, my family was always flying back to NY, I was always going to sleep away camps, etc. So maybe that also lessens the pressure for me to say something to any of them about how they live their lives.

  • Alakaii Hawaii

    Slim, yes.

    Just. Yes. To this ENTIRE post.

    I've found that people less fortunate than I am really just need a helping hand and to have their struggles understood because it's easy to hit a certain level of success and become blind to the human condition. So, even though I had a rough home life growing up and really all throughout my life, the fact of the matter is I still have it leagues and leagues better than most people. I just became altruistic and self-sacrificing. Here, come to my house. I'll shelter you. I'll feed you. I'll love you. I'll hear your struggles I'll go through it with you I'll help how I can, do everything in my power to get you to a better life. Because at any given moment I can be a lawyer, or a Senator, or dream up some fortune 500 company. Why not help? I would just say empathy and dedication to improving their quality of life. Going through the journey with them as a true companion will do so much for someone in a bind and especially living in inner cities and impoverished areas just providing them a way out and giving them the tools to make it.

    • Alakaii Hawaii

      As far as identifying with people goes….it's harder for me to identify with black professionals. I have no idea how it feels to pay a bill or have student loans or pay rent or have a car note; I can't identify with the process outside of knowing how to relieve the pressure/ having to be responsible for other people's livelihood and that motivating me in school and in my profession. It's a really hard adjustment going from helping those who aren't successful to understanding how I fit in with people who are. I was cheesing MAD hard reading the beginning paragraphs of this though like YES brother, brag!! I felt so at home lmao.

      I LOVE when people have that tone of superiority and pride about who they are and their accomplishments: It makes me feel supported in the sense I'm in the company of quality but still a level of upset because I'm entirely too gassed out to care about my own accomplishments anymore — so I can just listen to other people brag about theirs while feeling like an awesome human being. It put a smile on my face.

  • Rhenewal

    Great post as usual, Slim.

    I’ve had this issue a few times meeting people from my high school. One time in particular, I was in the elevator at work when this woman from food services started up a convo with “you went to x high, right? You’re y, right? You a tech here?” I replied that I’m a nurse. She said “oh, so you’re an LPN.” when I corrected her, she went silent until the elevator opened and let her out, pushing a cart of discarded patient trays.

    It was sad. Humbling too. Because I could’ve ended up like her. But, as you said ” Quite honestly, there was nothing I could do for [her]. ”

  • http://twitter.com/essem_SEE @essem_SEE

    Man this post hits pretty close to home. I'm a couple credits away from graduating from college and me and my closest potna's (since 14) friendship isn't like it used to be. Now that i've seen and experienced some newness and want greater and better all our conversations seem to revolve around A. old high school exploits or B. "Where da hoes at?" and both of those are getting pretty trite.

    • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

      This was me a little less than 2 years ago, suddenly i found myself having the same cnversation over and over again…suddenly it went from talking all the time, to only on certain occasions, to now its see you when i see you

      • Alakaii Hawaii

        I'm like that with my family. The moment I turned 18 I was avoidant of them to the point I even stopped attending funerals. Now that I'm out of school and I'm stuck here I have this irrational level of terror like "I've GOT to make it out of this family!!!" I can't generate tunnel vision or motivation or energy. I have no intention of working a stereotypical 9-5 or getting my masters or heading any of these projects. I feel cold. I don't care anymore.

  • Mr. SD

    We all have different paths, you can't save everybody. However what you can do is say a prayer for them and keep it moving. At the end of the day Gods got them.

    • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

      +1

    • Peter Parker

      Pretty much….Hopefully you can be the example that they can look up to and say, "My dude did it, so can I." I always tell my friends back home that it's never to late to accomplish your dreams and goals, you just have to be hungry for it. Ambition reeks success!

      • http://twitter.com/KeeshJ @KeeshJ

        I completely agree with your comment SD as well Peter Parker. There is so much that you can do on your part. If they don't have the hunger or ambition to get out the hood and better themselves then its on them. Just pray that one day they realize that there is much more to life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/williamstewartthird William Stewart

    I have had they pleasure to be both. Started out on the wrong path full throttle. I only changed my life when I had my first child. By that time I also had a few felonies too. That second chance talk is a lot of times is just that. I only was able to get minimal jobs no chance of advancement. Went to college only to find out felonies bar you from a lot of professions. So for me it was either venture out on my own or back to what I know them streets. Every day I am thankful for my business that is doing quite well. But find myself more distant from the streets. I don't like to mention how good I am doing because old friends feel I should help them and give them or their spouse etc a job. I tried that and it does not work. Now I try not to mix the two. My old friends say I have become soft no longer "Hood". At first I questioned it now embrace it. If soft means being legal, being able to provide for my family, watching my kids grow up, paying my bills and not worried about going back to jail I think I like the soft life.

  • yngblkmale

    "I think is boils down to the ambition and how hungry you are."

    I agree. This is certainly a large factor in the success of any individual – black, white, blind, deaf, paraplegic, et. cetera. I recently listened to Steve Job's address to the graduating class of Stanford in 2005. After telling a truly motivating and heart felt story of his life, he ended the commencement speech with, "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish."

    Those of us who have achieved success in their careers through formal education and the attainment of post bachelor degrees, professional degrees and professional licensure would most likely attest to the constant need to stay hungry while keeping your eyes on the prize (not necessarily the monetary incentive, but more so the goal oriented fulfillment as attaining these types of achievements is often paired with the reality of delayed gratification.) and steering clear of distractions or anything else that could derail you on your path to achieving your dreams (Another problem with some folks is they don’t have any dreams for themselves or their lives, but that’s a whole different story; and I digress).

    However, with that in mind, I truly believe that at the most fundamental level, we are all alike. I meet few very few successful urban male professionals that can say they "did it all alone." That just isn't the way this world works. Someone helped each person along the way by reaching down and pulling them up to where they were by providing sage advice from life experience (acting as a mentor), an opportunity to show them what you were made of (that first job/internship), or perhaps that hand-me down equipment to get your business/idea/start-up off the ground.

    So, when approached with a situation like running into an old friend or acquaintance from back in the day, I too am often at an initial loss of words and sometimes breath as well. I am so far removed from where I was a decade ago, that it is almost painful to show empathy or attempt to relate. I normally just listen for an opportunity to chime in and attempt to lend them a helping hand. Sometimes that opportunity presents itself, but more than often it does not… (and that is mostly because – as Slim mentioned, “quite honestly, there was nothing I COULD do for them,” except listen empathetically.)

    • Alakaii Hawaii

      yeah. At first I was wondering how come all these people don't help people in the hood and then I realized they COME from the hood and had to tunnel vision. And I guess at this point in my life I can relate to it and having to seperate myself from certain people to focus on what I need to do for myself. As someone said upthread, I work with really old white men. I'm young and I lucked out when it comes to the people I come into contact with so I always end up having my own version of mentors and advisors and people just dropping wisdom which is a support system I love so I take what I get from a streamlined career and give to others. The thing is, if you guys don't WANT to get involved just say that but there are *plenty* of organizations in those areas that need volunteers and funding. That show 'Secret Millionaire' is the perfect example of both.

      • yngblkmale

        I have often thought about why folks here in the U.S. don't look out for one another like we could be doing. I've had several long-time friends who were (or their parents were) originally from the Caribbean – along with some newer acquaintances from the Asian Pacific islands – remind me of the stark differences between U.S. culture and that of 2nd and 3rd world countries.

        For example, they would describe what occurs in a village or small town when one member gets extremely sick. It is not just the immediate family members coming to the aid of the person, but the entire village pitches in to do their part and care for a beloved member of their society. From my experiences, our capitalistic, productivity driven society makes it nearly impossible for us to emulate that type of compassion for each and every person within a city or town.

        That being said, I do think you’re correct, and if we as urban male professionals really possessed a desire to help and get involved, we could definitely make a significant positive impact in the lives of others. Maybe not so much in the lives of friends from back in the day that we randomly run into who have surpassed their formative years and already made irreversible choices (eg. multiple felony convictions) that have set off a chain reaction of repercussions which effectively limits their perspective on life (Bringing about, in my opinion, the “tunnel vision” in which you mentioned. That hood tunnel vision can be the vice of all vices.). But there is certainly an abundance of young black males, many of whom are without a positive male role model in their lives, that we as urban male professionals can reach out and help…

        • Alakaii Hawaii

          ……………

          (…..*prints out this comment and tapes it to the kleenex box i've been cuddling with all day*)

          …it's so simple…

  • Bree

    have you had a similar experience? Absolutely I have. I don't really talk to anyone from high-school outside of facebook. My best friend since grade school and I both have college degrees. She has her Masters and is a nurse now. I've had similar experiences with a few people in my family.
    How do you handle conversations with people that have chose to walk a path with no commonalities to your own? I talk to them about life in general. I answer whatever questions they have and we talk about the people we know and whats going on with them.
    Do you find that as you progress through life, it’s harder to identify with people from back in the day?
    I'm originally from Philly, so yes and no to that question. It's not that hard for me to identify with anyone because I have memories, and remember where I came from and what I saw growing up. What makes it hard for me to identify with people there and who still have that "hood" mentality and gangbanging is that I was raised differently. As a child I was shielded from a lot and didn't experience much of it firsthand until I was in high-school. It's hard for me to identify with folks in B-more hoods too because of that.
    What exactly are we supposed to do? Well, what you shouldn't do is question it too much and apologize to anyone for your success or feel bad for those that didn't make it because it's not your fault. If your that uncomfortable you simply try to avoid those folks when you go back home to visit. I don't know though, I know for men I'm sure the experience is different than it is for women. It always seems like men have to constantly "prove" their manhood and manliness.
    What exactly are we supposed to say? Honestly Slim I don't know what to tell you beyond keep convo's brief. As a woman that is experience is different for you than for me.
    With women, even though women get jealous too, we don't have to constantly prove our womanhood to each other. We don't feel any pressure like men to be "tough" "strong" and "be down." With women even if you do have girlfriends that may envy your success rarely do women show it or say it outright. You may never even know your girlfriend or sister is jealous of you or envies you. Women are typically more supportive of each other no matter what.
    I did have a girlfriend who was a "hater" and I dropped her like a bad habit. One life lesson I've learned is that as you climb the ladder of success old friends and some family that can't or won't climb with you or support you as you climb will drop off and fall by the wayside, and that's ok. You gotta let them go and keep on climbing.
    If they allow you to as yngblkmale stated you can let them know that you can help them to help themselves. In your field you can help folks with resume's and interviewing skills. But only if they ask and want your help. If not, then nothing you can do or say but, Pray for them.

  • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

    SBM been striking all types of chords with me lately…

    have you had a similar experience?
    All the time, i visit the old hood every now and again and its always the same thing, at first it was “lemme get a job where you at” then “where the college heauxs at”, now its talk of loans and crashing at my place (love my team but “uh……nuh” -Michael Kyle)

    How do you handle conversations with people that have chose to walk a path with no commonalities to your own?
    I usually keep it on reminiscing, memories don’t change. Also it helps that i’ve always been modest even as kids we walking home someone is angry over a failed test and im just nodding away with an A+ in my bag. Regardless of where their life is truth is I still aint ish, and nowhere close to where i want to be yet so how can i flex anyway

    Do you find that as you progress through life, it’s harder to identify
    with people from back in the day? What exactly are we supposed to do? What
    exactly are we supposed to say?

    I wouldnt say its hard to “identify” because i lived that same struggle. Stay humble, dont forget you were them at some point and never let no one know how much dough you hold #Bigtaughtme. I’m supportive whether its a rap career or they about to have they 3rd kid by the 3rd different chick on the same street (true story smh). I guess to answer the question what to do, what to say……nothing special.

  • http://learninglover.com/blog AfterMath

    I can relate.
    My recent post Sorting Algorithms (Take Two)

  • talkingtwice

    I've been reading your blog for some time now and I felt compelled to comment. As a woman (like a sister previously stated), we don't really get these feelings. I've always been in some type of specialized academic program in JHS, HS, and college so most of my childhood friends are handling life well. But there are others, that I still consider friends, whose grades always sucked. I've perfected the modest "head-nod" as one brother stated as they complained about their "D" while I had an academic scholarship.

    Sometimes just listening and being a good example can make a difference. I tend to offer suggestions as to what can be done to try to do better. Their response determines my next step, which is typically "Good luck with that!"

  • tylisa06

    As a female it maybe a litte bit different but I've had those conversations with men and women. I usually try to be as vague as possible. If i see someone from the neighborhood and they ask me how I'm doing, I usually say something like "Just trying to make it, whats good with you". Most people love talking about themselves, so that gets me off the hook. I do that to save myself the awkwardness and also you never know what people are into these days. They may think you have tons of cash on you and set you up to get robbed. Unfortunately I've seen it happened.

  • cancergirl08

    As a female, growing up, most of my friends were similar to me. On the college (and sometimes) graduate school track. A few of my girls enrolled into the Air Force or military so I don't see them as much as they are serving in other countries. I think its great that you two black men in the same field can have lunch and bond.

    I wish I had that but as women, I feel like there's always a competition. Some are up front about it, while others 'pretend' to want to be your friend, only to find out what you know and how they can use it against you. I"ve been praying as of late about developing more fruitful personal and professional relationships. Kudos to you as it appears you've been doing that!

  • http://www.sonicbids.com/thesbp Stephen

    Great piece.

    As someone who has maintained friendships with people from every spectrum.. from couples who should be on the cover of Ebony to struggling single moms, from people with PhDs to those with Pole hugger Degrees, I have to say that I learn just as much (sometimes more) from friends who lead lives that others may look down upon.

    The point you made about blood always giving you something to talk about couldn’t be more untrue in some instances.

    Lastly, I think our job as upwardly mobile black men is to find ways make positive changes when and where we can. We should be as encouraging, uplifting and non-judgemental as possible to those we encounter. It is crucial to know that a persons current situation is not the end of their story! Who knows, by hearing our stories, they may be inspired to make positive changes to theirs.

    • Muze

      "astly, I think our job as upwardly mobile black men is to find ways make positive changes when and where we can. We should be as encouraging, uplifting and non-judgemental as possible to those we encounter. It is crucial to know that a persons current situation is not the end of their story! Who knows, by hearing our stories, they may be inspired to make positive changes to theirs."

      pow. all of that.
      My recent post muzeness: @NicknotNikki i like summer breezes. but being ice cold when it's 80 degrees outside is a fail.

  • CPT Callamity

    SBM Nation, have you had a similar experience?
    Sure. A brisk drive through the old neighborhood always turns into one of those experiences but for the most part, everyone is doing okay. A few didn't make it, but mostly everyone is doing fine.

    How do you handle conversations with people that have chose to walk a path with no commonalities to your own?
    No need to handle anything. Live and let live. Life is about choices and not everyone thinks like myself or the people that helped raise me. You just talk like regular old people and be out. Nothing to it. If they need help like a job or something, I'll do what I can.

    Do you find that as you progress through life, it’s harder to identify with people from back in the day?
    Not really. Most of the people from my past I've caught up with and we're just doing out own things. The only people I don't get down with are those who do nothing all day but stand outside, bum money and do absolutely nothing with themselves. It's always the next blunt, dippa or drink to them…can't do it.

    What exactly are we supposed to do? What exactly are we supposed to say?
    Nothing and nothing. Say whattup, give daps and then step. No love lost.

  • PEYSO

    Slimothy,

    I hear your pain. I feel your struggle. Everytime I'm in the old hood i feel this way. I dont have much to say because me and my old friends have diverged. I even feel this way about many people in my family. Real rap, the only person in my family I really have much to talk about with is my pops. Other than him, the rest of them are kind of clueless. For instance, I left a pretty solid NYC government job to go to law school. Everyone in my family thought it was the dumbest thing I could ever do. It was like they couldnt see the bigger picture. City government will allow you to raise a family, but it doesnt allow you to create wealth.

    Slim, your problem is also compounded by the fact that you're in a field that is dominated by women. I think it is important to make sure you click up with some folk outside of the profession. I think the reason i've been able to survive is because while there arent many minorities (black men especially) doing the damn thing, I've been able to link with a good amount of those who are. Its especially easy in NY.

    • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

      let's not even get into family. almost no one in my fam understood why i was in school for so long. instead i should have been out having kids and raising a family. -_- i kind of hinted at the fact that i kind of want to get my MBA. there were side-eyes all the way around.
      My recent post Take Me Back to 1953

  • PEYSO

    Also, I got lucky that my college roommates were all from the hood and now all are doing well.

    • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson

      Definitely all about the networking outside of the profession as well. Was just an interesting conversation with a brother that happens to do what I do. New York is great for networking. Despite how big the city is, it's pretty small when we talk about professional black men in specific fields.

      My recent post Cooling Out on Credit: When I Realized It Was Net Worth It

  • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young

    I'm not from an urban background but I can relate. I meet lots of people I know who just never considered leaving the are where we grew up which is rural and economically depressed.

    How do you handle conversations with people that have chose to walk a path with no commonalities to your own? – Many times we just speak about the town now and what we think about it. If dudes talk about their work lives it's still good because many of my friends went from blue collar to white (Or gray). Our roots are our commonalities but often that's it. I will say that one of the coolest people I know works in a sawmill and he's a stand-up guy. Never any tension when he's around he's just Jimmy.

    • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young

      Do you find that as you progress through life, it’s harder to identify with people from back in the day? – On some levels. For a lot of cats it turns into an odd competition about what you have and how much you make. (Which is similar to many of the conversations back in the day.) I'm not cool with the 15 years after high school pissing contest. I usually end the convo or take it somewhere else.

      What exactly are we supposed to do? What exactly are we supposed to say? For those who are clearly taking part in activities that won't end well I'm usually at a loss for words. If a cat in the early 30's has made is mind up about the path he wants to take, all the time knowing how it will end what do you say that hasn't been told to him before. If it's a close friend I try to persuade them to do something else but at the end of the day you just dap the brother up and pray for him to see the light. It's an odd place to find yourself.

  • cynicaloptmst81

    *tears & sniffles* AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW at the male bonding going on today!!!! (sings) Brothas gon' work it ooooouuuuut! Brothas gon' work it oooooouuuuuuuuuut! LOL!

    Naw, seriously…I'm just enjoying reading all the men folks experiences…the supportive "I feel you, man" stuff thats going on today. Most of the folks I grew up close to are doing very well today. Granted, I lived in the hood from age 10 but I refused to go outside and went to good schools outside of the hood…so I didn't have many hood female friends…if any. But the fella's from my old block? Sad…just sad. Ain't doing nothing with themselves. I ran into two of them sitting in the car in a mall parking lot smoking weed…in the middle of the day during the work week (I was heading to the food court for my lunch break). No jobs. Still living at home. I kept it short and sweet…went on about my day. What can you even say to that?! Smh…

  • PEYSO

    Sidenote, aint nothing better than when you run into someone from the old hood that's doing the damn thing. I was at a gala last year and ran into a dude who lived in the next building from me. We were literally shocked to see each other. Almost, made me cry.

    • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young

      "Sidenote, aint nothing better than when you run into someone from the old hood that's doing the damn thing. "

      You're very right about that.

    • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson
  • http://biggerthomas.wordpress.com/ madscientist7

    this happens to me all the time when i go back home. i see dudes around the old way who used to make fun of me for taking AP classes and talking about college. back then being called a "geek/nerd" wasn't something that made you cool. now i see the same dudes working at the mall selling sneakers. in this day and age i don't even have to do that. all i have to do is log into facebook and look at my feed. dudes my age with 4 and 5 kids by 3 different women. my high school reunion a couple years back was the worst. i have some friends whom i still keep in contact with from high school (just so happens those were the friends that ended up going to undergrad with me as well) but everyone else just fell all the way off. well perhaps they never were on. but you get my point.
    My recent post Take Me Back to 1953

  • Beef Bacon

    SBM Nation, have you had a similar experience? Not really.

    How do you handle conversations with people that have chose to walk a path with no commonalities to your own? We just talk about life in general. I get off on dialogue with different types of people. I get bored dealing with people like me.

    Do you find that as you progress through life, it’s harder to identify with people from back in the day? Not really. Although I may not have much in common with a person, a conversation with the person may still teach me something. Inspiration comes in many forms.

    What exactly are we supposed to do? Access why you feel awkward. Having a chat with someone that has chosen a different life path may come in handy one day.

    What exactly are we supposed to say? You are supposed to say whats in your heart. For example, with the gun situation, he could have said something to get his message across in an way that it would have been received.

  • http://twitter.com/Amaris_Acosta @Amaris_Acosta

    I had two friends in all of grade school, and NO friends in high school. I'm feeling a bit better about that now.

    But maybe since every job I've ever had involved me meeting, getting along with, and finding commonalities with people in order to get my work done, I don't really have an issue with bumping into people from my past. I also had a unique childhood growing up around a lot of old people (and, subsequently, a lot of er, death) so I don't form attachments easily. I say this because I believe some people feel an obligation to maintain the same connection they had with childhood friends upon their return-and feel they have personally done something wrong if they can no longer relate to them. That's really not your responsibility (unless your name is Christopher Wallace, and someone took a charge for you so you could go to college).

    • http://twitter.com/Amaris_Acosta @Amaris_Acosta

      So-What are you supposed to do? Realize that your journey is not theirs-and that's perfectly okay. Neither of you are obligated to see the world thru the other's eyes. Just respect their view, and keep your pity to yourself.
      And, What are you supposed to say? Try hello. Find something nice and give them a genuine compliment. Ask them about their children and let them tell you something great that they did, even if it was just stepping outside and being alive. Current stuff. You can talk about how hard you work without discussing how hard you play. And you are not obliged to making the convo long. Some people are in your life for a reason, a season of a lifetime. Celebrate the role they had and move on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.a.legend Ben ALegend

    As you can tell, I for one live in a rural setting yet nonetheless, as a conscience being I have seen the same pitfall members here in my own environment. Now Latriecia Brown I would like for you to not misinterpret what shall follow after this sentence. IT IS OUR FAULT FOR THE OUTCOME OF EVERY INDIVIDUALS LIFESTYLE IN MODERN DAY SOCIETY! Through the six degrees of separation along with the law of attraction, ALL OF US CAN SAVE ONE ANOTHER yet most people CHOOSE not to. I fault those who regard themselves as finally arriving to a destination of contentment while leaving others behind. NONE SHALL BE LEFT BEHIND, retorted YHWH! So how come the rest of present day society feel as if it s OK to not intervene, if its OK to allow acts of dishonesty to occur, that its OKAY to pass by those less fortunate without "Teaching A Man How To FISH, instead of giving a man a Fish". The time is now for ALL of "civilized society" to become accountable for our actions that we allow to affect others. And what I mean by this is knowing how to become EMPATHETIC and remembering that we too were in need of a helping hand. PASS ME NOT O' GENTLE SAVIOR was a song sang by all @ one point as we've struggled to "get by". Inquiry: If we are all ONE yet leaving others behind for selfish purposes has now become a trending pattern in today's society, How could we ever proclaim that We've Finally Arrived Anywhere?

    • cynicaloptmst81

      I hear your heart here but…even YHWH gave man free will. Men chose for themselves. You can't force people to be responsible. A 30+ man living in his Momma's basement with no job or job training knows full well he is dead wrong. You don't need anyone to explain why showing off your gun on your hip in the presence of a child is wrong. The real question is how do we combat that level/type of contentment or acceptane of what is wrong? We could preach for days on end to folks about what they ought to do differently but if the mindset doesn't change, the body will not comply.

  • http://www.ministeriallife.com Spencer

    Unfortunately, I have dealt with this situation more times than I care to remember–especially since returning to my hometown for PhD studies a few years ago. Aside from my own personal realizations about my inability to relate to my former environment, I usually get two reactions: 1. People seem a bit too happy for me, 2. People go out of their way to try to make me feel bad for "making it." It gets old.
    My recent post The Age-Old Question

  • Asea

    It's sooooo lovely to see the men expressing themselves and dominating the conversation for once! *wink* So, I'm posting here for the first time… Well written, awesome, heartfelt, relevent piece…__My advice would be to figure out SOMETHING to say. There is always something to say, especially when the akwardness hits. You're in a position of power at that point because try as they might to puff out their chest and lament about the joys of their 'pimps up hoez down' lifestyle, deep down they know they deserve better and owe themselves better. Black men, and men in general, need to find the words, even if it's one sentence, and provide that encouragement to eachother. I know it can be difficult because you don't want to come across as preachy or superior, but the message is needed! Your heart (or God, or whoever you believe in) is telling you that you missed and opportunity to uplift someone, and so many of you guys who have posted feel the same. So why the apprehension? Just DO it :-)

  • Larry

    Great post, brotha.

    I don't go back home to my old neighborhood much where I grew up at since my moms moved across town from there and I rarely/never talk to anyone from the old hood. I see some on Facebook, but since I never go to their pages they rarely come across my feed.

    My friends from H.S., though (I moved to a different city for H.S.) , the ones that didn't "get out" when I see them it's usually a straight forward convo….I just give very little detail bc sometimes it's just a lose/lose in those cases. I mainly get side-eyed, though, not because of how much more relative "success" I've had compared to them, but for the fact I still dont have any kids and the such.

  • Streetz

    One of the best posts on SBM for real and a great topic.

    See the thing is this… What should he have said there? It depends on how close he felt he was to him. I go back to my old hood occasionally because my fam still lives there and I see my peoples. Fortunately, they have all woken up at different points, got on their jobs, and made it happen.

    I feel close enoughn to do the brotherly thing and caution them in that situation. Sometimes, all you can do is tell your peoples to be safe.

    I made a decision years ago not to be the n-word on the stoop not going everywhere. Sometimes people wake up, but you cant force it. Its tough, but all you can do is offer comforting words and keep it moving.

    My recent post #BeTheBetter Fitness Log: Entry 5

  • readthinkwriteteach

    Love this post. Sometimes there is NOTHING to say.

  • http://twitter.com/KeeshJ @KeeshJ

    Amazing article!

  • Muze

    this post is why i really hope every single one of you men commenting are a mentor to some young man (men) who doesn't realize that there is an alternative. sometimes, presenting a positive alternative that is present in their life and that they can relate to, is all it takes.

    i've worked with urban youth (otherwise known as "disadvantaged") since i was probably around 15 years old and they all have one thing in common, no matter how harsh or temperate their countenance, how dire or "okay" their situation… they all believe that they don't have a choice, because if your heroes are the dudes on the block, lil wayne, and lebron… what do you need good grades and school for? if that's ALL you see every single day and no one is offering any counter to that life, that's what you're going to think you're supposed to do.

    take the time to show a young man who doesn't know, that you CAN be cool and smart. successful without a ball. get good grade and still get girls. you'd be amazed how much of an impact you'll have on his life. and on yours.

    • http://www.aworknprogress.com Diana

      This is what I was going to say! I came from a suburban, solidly middle class, two parent home – so I don't have these tales. But in my last job I ran a program I liked to call 'Girl Scouts in the Hood' and went into some rough areas trying to get little Black and brown girls to go camping and sell cookies. And although we were the same skin color, we didn't have the same story or journey.

      And I wish there were more people (especially men!!) who came back, volunteered, mentored, spoke with a child and said you can make it out because I did. From yesterday's post and today's I keep thinking about the quote 'evil prevails when good men do nothing' – and not just evil, but complacency, hopelessness, a sense that this is all there has to offer because no one tells you there can be another way or something better. You have to speak in a way that's comfortable for you whether it's becoming a mentor, starting HR workshops on Saturdays for those who wouldn't normally have access, or getting your Cutty from the Wire on and opening a boxing gym. It should be real and authentic. But remaining silent helps no one.
      My recent post Tuesday’s Thoughts – The Best Judge

    • Robynwitha’y

      THIS^^^^^^ !!!! I can’t begin to tell you how true your comment is. I cringe some times when I come home from work sometimes. Seeing all of these young males with a world of potential but no guidance or positive black male role models is truly sad! It is especially important for young black males to see a successful black male who’s made it despite the many road blocks and disadvantages out there.

      A lot of these young men don’t think long term (I.e. career, networking, building wealth/saving or investing for the future) instead they’re focused on the latest Polo rugby and air yeezys….I dont want to go on a rant here but its very frustrating. Im sure many of them can do so much better and see that there are greater things out there if they are pushed and motivated. There is a bigger world out there outside of your three block radius smh. that’s why I absolutely adore Geff Canada and what he’s done for Harlem. Without ‘the Zone’ who knows where a lot of these kids might be.

  • http://twitter.com/soulpowercoach @soulpowercoach

    Looks like my comment disappeared. *sigh*

    Soo the gist of it was

    * Nice post thanks for sharing
    * I had to learn that those encounters say more about how I perceive myself than they do about what that person thinks/said about me They bring to the surface our own limiting beliefs about who I am, what I've done & what I deserve
    * We are not so special We see what we decide to see Successful black people are everywhere and in every field NAAAHR.org started by Nate Alston, a black man in HR Maybe you'd like to connect to the multiple black men on their BOD
    * Success is defined by so many other life areas than just a career path As we think "but for the grace of God", perhaps they were looking @ our lives & thinking the same thing
    *Own your own choices & consequences and allow others to own theirs
    *Don't ever allow anyone make you feel guilty or superior because of your success

  • Robynwitha’y

    Long time lurker here…love this blog by the way! This post has perfect timing. I’ve experienced

    The same scenario, especially coming back to my neighborhood in harlem after the school year ended smh. Talk about awkward!! I find myself ‘code switching’ a lot so the guys around my way and my girlfriends from high school don’t think I’ve “changed up on them” lol. I go to school in Maine and I’ve noticed that my quote-unquote hood accent is almost gone only after my sister pointed it out. But like Slim mentioned, stuff that we used to bond over back in the day don’t interest me as much any more, especially if you have been introduced to bigger and better opportunities, positive environments, etc. I ran into one of my really good friends from junior high (this probably hints as to how old I am lol) and she’s expecting twins in two months. She told me how she’s trying to get a job at the Childrens place so she can get her babies some free clothes *blank stare*….I honestly had nothing else to say to her but congrats and wish her the best of luck.

    I can’t begin to tell u how many baby showers I’ve been invited to over Facebook. And these are young girls I went to high school with a little over 3 years ago. Smh….tragic

  • http://twitter.com/BlackPhilospher @BlackPhilospher

    This post rings startlingly true to a lot of black males. I've heard it from my brother, as black men are still struggling more than African-American women, to leave the streets. And while a lot of women still do not make it from the hood, the rates of them getting killed in comparison to men is slightly smaller. As a college student who has stepped from the world of gunshots at night and apartments with roaches and fried chicken grease stuck to walls, I can relate to all of this.

    I went home just last year and a very close family friend was gunned down by another drug dealer after just having gotten out of jail. On top of that, I ran into some of my brothers other friends and my father and couldn't even hold conversation for more than five minutes. It was trying because I couldn't relate to that hood mess that they were about, too much common sense told me to leave the room with the crack alone (though I never smoked it, it was always there) and I had to learn to give up certain things… I think of the hood like a high school friend. It's good to keep in touch, because she once meant a lot to you. But at the end of the day time has split you two and she has grown, changed into a new woman but so have you. And sometimes you are just too mature for her.

    Great post!

  • Robynwitha’Y’

    A big kudos and ‘amen’ to this post! Long time lurker here….I love this blog by the way.

    Slim I couldn’t agree with you more. Going to school in a wealthy rural town in Maine and coming home for Summer breaks makes you realize that ‘around the way’ aint what it used to be in high school or when you were younger. I caught myself code switching a lot when I got back from school so that the old fellas on my block won’t think I’m “acting brand new” or “changing up on them”. Smh …some times there is nothing to say but I atleast try to make friendly conversation and ask how the fam is doing.

    I ran into a friend of mine from junior high (yes I’m quite young lol) and she’s expecting twins in two months. She pretty much dominated most of the conversation. I asked her if she was going to finish school, but she’s put that off and is now trying to get a job at the Children’s Place so she can get her babies some free clothes *blank stare*….those were her words not mine. I wished her the best of luck and went on about my biz after that.

  • Robynwitha’Y’

    Lol sryy …thought my comment deleted.^_^

  • Imoteda

    It's funny coz I think my experience is probably the opposite. I come from an upper class family (not to be a snob but it's the truth) but that's about as great as it gets on paper. I went and became a baby mama to a no good man, had the common sense to break up with him at least but then that landed me the dreaded single mom role, graduated from University (after about 7 years and dropping out twice) with a degree that's more uesless than the paper it's printed on and instead of using my considerable work experience (yes I was working when I dropped out) to get a job in a bank or at least some sort of decent firm , I went and became a makeup artist. And to Nigerians makeup artist might as well be synonymous with Macdonalds cashier.

    I run into friends who are lawyers and doctors and hr pros and the like and I can see them struggling to understand why I'm not doing more or doing the dreaded offer to "put in a good word" with their boss or dad. Then they look at my kid and I can literally see them making excuses to walk away. Despite the fact that chances are I make way more than they do and am probably better versed in the finer points of their jobs than they are.

    I think there's a snobbishness attached to becoming a working professional that makes people shut down. Obviously I'm not so bad that I can't do a nice lounge and I'm pretty far from ratchet but still the fact that I don't have an actual JOB and can decide not to work for a month if the wind moves me that way makes people assume they have no common ground with me and they don't bother trying. Someone once advised me to stop telling people I'm a makeup artist and say that I own my company instead to make me seem more like an entrepreneur. I find that stupid and pretentious. I may own my company but when you ask me what I do I'm gonna say "makeup artist" because that's what the heck I do. I paint faces and teach people how to paint faces for a living. If you think that makes me less than you then… *kanyeshrug*.

    Okay not sure what the point of this rant was really… Hope someone finds it. I think it's that it might just be a case of a self fulfilling prophecy a lot of the time. You assume you don't know what to say to bring you guys together so you don't try too hard and then you feel uncomfortable and that makes the other person uncomfortable and so on…

  • WisdomIsMisery

    Great post. Sorry I missed the comments in real-time. I grew up in the Burbs so I can't front like I'd have to travel "back to the hood" by any means. Most of my hood-tales involve family or dudes I went to college with and became friends by association and proximity (dorm rooms, etc). However, I fell off with most all of those guys because we were never really good friends. Fortunately, I have a pretty good circle of friends who have risen up through the ranks with me via the traditional high school, college, career life. I've also always been really big on networking – a point I try, often in vain, to share with my fellow like-skinned looking brothers. There are a few friends, especially at this age, where the conversation gets awkward as some of us ascend the corporate ladder while they seem content surviving on the fringes. All the more weird that they choose to identify with the hood-life when we all had the same middle-class upbringing but that's another issue, I guess.

  • Shan

    Great Post. Sadly so true. I even have problems relating to my college friends that chose to go back home (to the hood/ghetto/country) after graduation. Now when I go home to visit I try my best not to leave the house. I avoid going out in public back home to try and not have one of these situations.

  • King Jordan

    dope post man.

    most of the folks that i grew up with, are all doing their things, so i can't relate too much..but all you can do, is pray for the best. like someone else said, each person have their own path, their own walk, they must undergo.

    but at the same time, you could steer a quick convo into what you want to do…and how you can be of service for what he wants to do/achieve. i dunno, just a thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PorshiaJay Porshia J Arnett

    It makes me sad to see so many people say "you can't do anything" or " all you can do is pray. True enough you can't save everyone and you probably can't save that particular person but what about mentoring? I feel there isn't enough of that in the black community. I guess it's just the naive thought of a young woman still feeling like we can save the world or at least us. We find success and leave the rest behind and that saddens me a lot. Whenever i imagine myself achieving my goal i always include part of that success as me giving back and mentoring. I know we cant save everyone though.

  • Lonnie F

    I’m caught between 2 worlds. I still live around the way until I can find a job that will get me outta here. I finished a B.A. and am considering doing a M.S. or M.A. I know cats that are doing much better than me and much worse than me. Just because of how I carry myself, people think I’m doing much better than I am and I get that awkwardness every time. If it was someone I was really cool with I’ll talk to them no matter what. Anybody from the fringe gets a cordial greeting. “What’s good man. Oh me, I’m just out here tryin to make it happen. That’s all.”

    I really keep myself isolated because everyone I came up with is gone. These people out here now don’t know me and don’t need to know me. I’m only seen in passing and only rarely. The exception would be parents of people I knew. They’re kinda like damn you’re still around here? How come I never see you? My one remaining homie from way back is hard to talk to at times, but we still bust it up. I just can’t get intellectual with him or talk about any sort of future plans. Everything is right now or back in the day with him.

    I wish I had a broader circle. There’s one cat I’m really cool with and he has a PHD and we’re so alike and in-tune he’s like the brother I never had. He just doesn’t have the time to really hang out, but when we do it’s always fly, always productive, always solace. If I had no such person like this in my life… I might go crazy. Otherwise, I had yet to actually run into a former classmate or friend that’s “really” successful. It’s possible that I just don’t have access to their circles.

    One day I was dressed to the 10′s for an event and my childhood bully walked by with 2 of his goon friends. They couldn’t stand to look at me. He knew exactly who I was and I gotta say it felt good. That 2 and half strikes havin ass nigga! Like they say the best revenge is to live well and I’m not even there yet. At the same time, I don’t doubt they would try to rob me if they thought they could get away with it.

    • Alakaii Hawaii

      Yeah. I'm there too. I don't live in the hood or anything but I have to interact with people there to get this program off the ground that I started. I put everything I had into it as a person AND financially. Now I'm stuck at home and the fact that I sorta ruined my family dynamic when I was born resulting in a split marriage and just general disdain for me, wanting out of a dark place is something I can relate to. My job allows for me to have a way out; otherwise, I isolate. Viciously. I isolate from friends, family, I stop talking, I stop everything — which is exceptionally unhealthy — and like you I have that ONE person I can relate to. As far as broadening of the circle, I found it funny the guy you talk to has a PhD.

      • Alakaii Hawaii

        I'm oblivious. Like my twitter account? I got it because I can vent and no one can hear me….but then this lady followed me. and this company. and this other company. and this other business. and at first I was like cool….but then I looked into them: Harvard grad releasing a book on entrepreneurship, publishing company, motivational speech empire, random international people. I think it shows where we're going. If that's your choice. It wasn't mine. But as a man it shows the direction you're heading and the people you draw to you.

      • Lonnie F

        I met that cat when I was just starting out and he was about to graduate undergrad, but we kept in touch. I wouldn’t trade him for 10 average/regular friends. My concern is just that I’m too close to the action. It still goes down out here where I’m at (Philly). The longer it takes for me to bridge the gap I feel like I get closer to gettin caught up in some BS. So yeah I lay low.

    • King Jordan

      "I wish I had a broader circle. "

      not sure about where you live…but perhaps getting in touch with your college…the black/minority alumni chapter? maybe they have one in your area? or a NAACP/National Urban League Chapter nearby?

      just some ideas i'm throwing out, that kinda worked for me.

      • Lonnie F

        Not a bad idea. I should’ve gotten involved in something like that before I graduated, but the organizations I knew of had too much frat influence and I don’t believe in that. If I go back for grad school I’m definitely gonna look into it.

  • kalistetics

    I know the most comfortable response in an uncomfortable situation is to say nothing and pray, but need to stop being so passive and be active in the change we want to see. I also grew up in Detroit (Hey Ms Smart!) so I know what it's like in the hood. and I lived in a rough neighborhood, but because of the people who looked out for me (family, neighbors, educators, etc.), I "made it out the hood".

    I now mentor a 4th grade black boy in a predominantly Latin school (I now live in LA). My goal is to mentor this kid until he graduates college. I don't know this kid from Adam, all I know is I want him to succeed because the odds are against him. It takes a village, people. You don't have to do everything, just do your part. #MyPart

    Slim, thank you for this post and for being transparent.

  • Matt

    This post really spoke to me.
    I'm new to this site but I already feel like this is a place for me. Though I live in a poorer immigrant neighborhood, I have (until my graduation this year) attended a mostly white private school (thanks to my hard working immigrant parents). Even in this early stage in life my conversations with my friends (I use this term loosely here) in the neighborhood are awkward. Since we've gotten into the teen years the things they do don't interest me and the same goes for them. I hope as I progress into a full adult that changes, and that they get off the path to nowhere.

  • JDisRagin

    This post (wonderful. best i've seen from ths site) struck a nerve with me, but it wasn't until i read the comments that i felt compelled to comment, frankly, as an outsider.

    a little about me. I'm 26 black male.. spent 3 semesters in 2 different colleges, and for various reasons i dropped out. High School diploma. no kids. weak marriage prospect (if any). and bored out my mind working 3rd shift at a call center job (where i'am currently actually).

    I know that i'am the "other" person in all of your stories that i'm reading here, and it's fascinating to me.

    I always wondered how my friends (high school and college) see me as they progress in their, educations (degree after degree), careers (promotions), and lives (starting familes). And this is giving me great insight into what's behind those gazes, or long stretches of no communication.

  • JdisRagin

    I do feel a responsibilty to give school ANOTHER shot (my fourth), because all i do with my time is read books (currently reading Marketing in the Age of Google and I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell), work this call center (40-60hrs a week), video game, and i still chase some kind of social life but…
    Look i have tried to be in your position, and when i read these stories i can't help but scream, "I'm sorry". I could have (and still can) been the other black professional in your field. I really wish i was.

    Yet here i'am… paying back a loan i didn't even really use. nothing to show for. Grateful i have no children (my older brother has nearly 10 with… 4 or 5 baby moms.. he has that department covered), but losing my mind (slipping in and out of depression) about everything i'm missing.
    To tell the truth i do envy you all, and the great positions you have or will soon be in.
    i realize i have no point. No final statement. So i'll leave it here. Appreciate your attention.

    • Lonnie F

      I think it depends on what kind of energy you have and whether it’s stagnant or ambitious. I think people can relate if you’re striving toward a better life despite being in different circumstances. Usually, it’s the cats who are doing nothing and loving it (or nothing positive) who get the cold shoulder. I’ve gotten this treatment from people when I was down and out. I felt like I wasn’t living and sometimes I still get jaded. Now that I’m mobile again my energy is different. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m further along from where I was. One thing that keeps me motivated is not all the people I lost, but all the people I stand to gain when I get where I’m going. Stay up.

  • Mr_Q

    Hello everyone, long time lurker and avid SBM.org reader.

    To answer Slim’s question; yes. However, this awkwardness was well before I ‘arrived’

    Growing up in South Central Los Angeles (not far from the epicenter of the 1992 riots), being bigger than most children (source of much teasing), having older parents (source of being ‘wise beyond my years’ and more teasing), and the resident nerd, I was some what of an outcast amongst my peers. I excelled in my studies, graduated high school a year early and even did a partial tour in the U.S. Navy. Due to family circumstances (only child and dad having a severe stroke), my military career was cut short and school became my secondary focus. With my parent’s failing health, working full time and tending to them, continuing my education was not an option at the time. Sadly, I lost them both three years apart, moved out of the old neighborhood.

    Today, at the age of 32, I stand at 6’5” tip the scale around the 250lbs mark, single with no children. I hold a management position with a major city agency, make a nice salary and have made a pretty decent life for myself. I consider myself blessed…

    A few of the guys from the old neighborhood hold blue collar positions, have 2+ children and a host of drama I can’t even relate to. The few times I visited the old block (an attempt to keep myself grounded) I find it difficult to connect with them. A nod of acknowledgment a quick convo and I’m out.

    Ironically, my current peers cannot fathom how I stand shoulder to shoulder with them WITHOUT a college degree.

    Great blog, keep up the good work!

  • StacyAustralia

    This is an excellent article!!! I deal with this a lot. I would often go home for Homecoming or other activiites at my high school and not know what to say or how to interact with my peers who would have a lot of kids with them. I'm a therapist with a Master of Social Work degree. After living and working in Charlotte, Nc for years I just began working in my hometown of Columbia, SC. Here I am with my professional attire walking around doing my groups and therapy sessions and so many people I went to school with work there as custodial or kitchen staff. I went to lunch one day with a coworker (Bojangles chicken) and the person serving my food was a classmate. She remembered me but it took me awhile to remember her. I felt a little funny. I felt as if I did something wrong. We both came from the same 'hood'had some of the same opportinities but people make their own decisions. I guess you have to really decide what you want to do and how you want to live. Even though I felt bad, I shouldn't – we each have a role to play on this world. Even if we consider it a 'menial' job someone has to do it and they deserve the same respect.

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  • JONA

    I enjoyed the post, now let me share my perspective! I am also an African American HR professional, but I am currently not working for an employer, just working as an Independent Consultant until I can land again. I have been laid off twice in the profession which, led me to try work independently. I have found that many people in the profession don’t look like me as you have Slim, and as a result I have very few networking avenues. HR is a tough fied to even crack into for a male because it’s a predominately female driven occupation; and for a black male it’s even harder to delve into. Also, take into account the geographic location because in some states racists attitudes towards black men in leadership roles such as HR are prevalent therefore, drive, hunger or education will not matter without opportunity. To me, instead of being challenged with what to say to any of our old acquaintances who may not be doing as well as our individual selves, share your success, as well as, your plight in getting there. This may spark an interest or attitude for success in he/she. Perhaps, they didn’t receive the breaks that you or I did. Remember, each one teach one!

  • Clarity

    Coming to the party waaay late, but just discovered this site. Awesome job, bruh. Here's my take: Having been at all points of the opportunity spectrum (solid middle class start in the Midwest, suddenly poor after mom left dad and moved us back East, poor black kid who went to elite white schools including Ivy League, middle class wage earner and now entrepreneur of fluctuating means), I realize that as AA males the difference between all of us is often no more than one positive or negative childhood influence, one good or bad response to peer pressure as a teen, one right or wrong move as a man. "There but for the grace of God go I" is what I bring to these encounters, and I keep it light, encouraging and respectful. Hell, I need go no further than my own extended family to experience this. As AA males we should all keep in mind (esp. those whose "thank God I'm not one of them" existence depends on someone else giving you a paycheck) that if the rug were pulled out from under you tomorrow and you were stripped of all your resources, trappings and accolades, that after a while you might not appear any different to the majority than those whose conduct and mindsets now leave you appalled. I get the frustration but let's keep it grounded in reality and respect. And these folks' so-called choices may not have been choices at all…