faces of (the human) race #1
Name: LeAndre Daniels
Identifying Race: African
Current Residence: Los Angeles, California; United States
When was the first time you experienced racism?
The first time I felt racism was when I was growing up in Oakland, California. My cousin and I were in a local convenience store and we got racially profiled. This was a store that we frequented. On this particular day—I’m not sure if we did something that rubbed the store owner the wrong way—they started following us around the store…
I was 8 or 9 years old. I was real young, but I felt it. I knew that they were following me because of the color of my skin.
How did situations like these affect you as you grew up?
It affected me a lot, in both a positive way and a negative way.
My mother really showed me the importance of dreaming big and not letting any single person get in the way of that. She was a single black woman raising 3 kids and also had her struggle with the law and was in and out of prison. She’s seen it all. Me, growing up in that environment, seeing her go through those things and not having a father to depend on, really just made me be that much stronger. It made me just think, “Who cares what anybody thinks. They can’t hold me back for [being black].
I understand that if I walk around in a hoodie with facial hair, people will perceive me in a different light. Whether it’s wrong or right. I don’t think I should be held to a different standard just because I’m black, but I do understand the dynamic of how people think, and whether you want to believe it or not, it’s just a part of how society thinks at this current moment.
You said these things made you stronger, do you think it could have gone the other way and what would that have looked like?
It has gone the other way at times. This story I’m not too proud of…I was in college at WSU in Pullman, Wa. I was 21 or 22. We were at a bar late night, as things were closing up. This fair skinned guy was around, using the n-word with a lot of force.
I approached this guy and said, “Hey, I don’t really feel comfortable with you using that word.” I tried to speak out of respect, but his response was very negative and abrasive. He said, “I’ll do what I want to, n-word.”
That night, the alcohol really got the best of me, and I tried to slam this guy. I ended up getting into a physical confrontation with this person, just because I wasn’t comfortable with him using a particular word. You can’t always control yourself; sometimes your emotions get hijacked to the point that it gets physical. Now, it’s way better to use your words, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend that everyone has the emotional control to just use words. It’s a challenge to understand and say to yourself in that moment, ‘Hey you better just walk away from this situation,’—especially if you’re intoxicated.