Being tough

By Bryan Richardson

Boo! Did I scare you?

I apologize if I did. It’s just that Halloween is Wednesday, and I really need to prepare.

I still don’t have a costume, so I’m open to suggestions. I’m leaning towards something scarier than my costume last year when I went as a character from the TV show South Park. I was Token Black, the only black kid at the school.

I imagine that would have been scary during a different era, but in today’s world it’s just a funny reminder that I’m often in situations where I’m the only black person around.

This typically wasn’t the case when I was growing up in Houston, where I went to schools in which minorities were the majority. This is just the way it was until I attended the University of Missouri.

Because of my college experience and my life now, sometimes I’m asked what it’s like being me in this type of environment. Speaking for myself (because I don’t represent every black person), it’s not that bad in the sense that I’m not openly antagonized.

Sure, it’s frustrating when there are guys who thought it would be a cool joke to spread cotton balls in front of the Black Cultural Center on campus during Black History Month.

Sure, it’s insulting when a drunk woman says “Oh my God, please don’t shoot me” when you’re standing on the corner waiting to cross the street at night.

Sure, it’s terrifying when you alarm the police by reaching in your hoodie pocket while being questioned about a robbery you fit the description of perpetrating.

However, my life doesn’t solely consist of scenes from “Roots.” There’s a lot more of “What was that about?” type of situations.

Let me explain. There are things that aren’t overtly terrible, so they don’t really hit you in a special way instantly. Examples: Being asked the whereabouts of the other black person in the class when you’re not friends with her; being asked after getting jumped if it was a gang initiation; somebody assuming you celebrate Kwanzaa.

These aren’t exactly hate crimes but should probably be addressed if for no other reason than teaching somebody things they shouldn’t do. Except I usually don’t. By usually don’t, I mean never do.

Actually, I guess I’m doing so now. So let me take this opportunity to advocate the avoiding of saying things based on assumptions you made racially. For instance, I’m black and half of President Barack Obama is as well. That doesn’t automatically mean he gets my support.

That was actually easier than I thought. What makes me afraid to assert myself like this more often?

I’m not a confrontational, in-your-face type of person, so I tend to let things slide more often than I should. Just like everybody who has ever made an Internet comment has found, it’s a lot easier to write about something than to actually confront someone on the topic.

With this new found freedom I’ve discovered momentarily, let me explain the best I can my feelings on being black. It’s kind of like being a K-State fan.

In my two-plus years in Manhattan, I’ve met more than a few K-State fans who are upset about how the Wildcats are perceived nationally.

As I understand it, there’s sort of a paranoia that’s built up over the years based on past slights that doesn’t get better when those slights continue.

Even if K-State gets love from its own community and outsiders, any shot at K-State’s achievements can bring a fan back to those times when the team didn’t get the respect it deserved.

I’m sure K-State fans understand like I do that the world isn’t out to get us. It’s just the actions of others can rub the wrong way and make things seem worse.

During times of struggle — K-State being ranked too low or that racial joke that makes me cringe — we can all remember No. 5 in the Wildcats’ 16 goals for success: Be tough.

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