You pass out our history papers, you place mine on my desk, and in big, bold red letters, I read, ‘nice job, good insight.’ My smile turns to a frown when I see the grade B+. I compared my paper to a classmate, she received an A+ for only writing half of what I wrote, and you sighted several grammatical errors telling her to pay more attention. I rechecked my paper, for I must have had grammatical errors as well, but there were none.

Then I realized.

You see my skin color, not the quality of my work.

You have a job with specific skill requirements, and I have those skills. I applied, and you interviewed me impressed with my skills. You are in awe at such a young age, and I have amassed such ability, but turn me away mumbling something about a skill not required for the job.

You see my skin color, not my qualifications.

I dropped off my paper on the topic we are covering, which interests me deeply. My writing is correctly cited and footnoted, and it meets all the requirements to be the foundation for my end-of-year thesis.

You return my paper commenting on how insightful and well organized it was, mentioning you wish the other students took such interest in the subject matter as I did. I’m pleased with the praise until I see the grade you assigned. Your recognition implied it was a paper deserving an A grade, but something you said helped me understand the B+ you gave it when you said, “I didn’t think someone like you could write so eloquently on this topic.”

You saw my skin color, not my ability to write.

I sit across from you in your office discussing my performance review. What I read and hear you say suggests you’re delighted with my overall performance. You go out of your way to rave about how artfully I handle a specific project, bringing it in on time despite all the pitfalls that befell the project. Your praise is that of exceeding expectations. But, you give me a lower rating while rating the department screw up higher.

You see my skin color, not my ability to manage complex situations successfully.

Time passes, and time has put us together at a conference. You see me across the way, hustle over to reestablish old acquaintances. You stick your hand out for me to shake. At first, I don’t recognize you, and then your face comes into focus. I shake your hand with enthusiasm and proceed to introduce you to my acquaintances. When one comments, ‘so this is the professor who told you he didn’t think you could write so eloquently on the subject matter which is the foundation of your company?’

I see your surprise and your discomfort. As I am about to address the issue, I sense the trepidation in your face. Apologizing for my colleague’s bluntness, I pull you aside and pull out my smart business card and tap your phone, and you see my information.

You are surprised. Understandably. Throughout my life, you or someone like you had always short-changed me in grades, job opportunities, job advancement, or just in general when we met on the street.

You never considered my ability to soar, grow, or develop in areas I expressed interest.

Your mind could not comprehend or handle fundamental truths,

All you saw was the color of my skin.

The darkness of my skin clouded your thinking, judging me based on some ignorant stereotypes you grew up with and were too lazy to learn the truth about people with my skin tone. Unwilling to change your beliefs prevented you from benefitting from my knowledge.

You felt comfortable marking my paper down, denying me a job, questioning my capability and ability to perform above average, refusing to promote me or give me a higher raise because of my skin color.

As my smart business card displays on your phone, you’re surprised at my title and amazed I run my own business, or that I’m the President of a college, or a globe trouting entrepreneur with a substantial Instagram following.

So in our conversation, I don’t degrade you, and you are surprised I am thanking you for what you did to me.

You saw the color of my skin, and you believed because of it, I wasn’t as bright as those who looked like you.

Your ignorance, prejudice, bigotry, and racism was the catalyst that drove me and sustained me. It propelled me to move forward and not stand still and accept your narrow-mindedness nor did it dissuade or discourage me from reaching for my dreams and making them come true.

I am not saying what you did to me because all you saw was my skin tone didn’t hurt. I felt the pain, and I was angry, but I used that anger constructively. That anger allowed me to rise to the point where your mouth is agape at what I’m telling you, and you are staring at my smart business card in disbelief and amazement.

I am where I am, and you are where you are because all you saw was my skin color. And you assumed my life would be full of failure because of my skin tone.

So, let me ask you, my skin color hasn’t changed. I’m successful, and you’re still plodding along.

Do you still see the color of my skin?

Or do you see someone who has become successful?

Wait! Don’t bother. I know the answer.

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twilson117AdLibKhiradMurphTheSurf3 Recent comment authors
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Very powerful piece, TW.

Sad but true indeed that too many people in this country NEED to see color as defining. Especially because such people typically have nothing else going for them, all that gives them grounding and self-esteem is clutching onto the concept that they are special and superior because they have pale skin.

Interesting that most of these people don’t see colors of cars, pets, houses, or much of anything else as mattering, only skin color because it’s really less about skin color than feeling they are superior beings solely because they exist and they can define it by looking down on others who have been historically looked down on.

But of course, people who are genuinely worthwhile and confident, don’t need to grasp for superiority, especially in such a superficial way.

As has been illustrated in many ways, the very people most obsessed with holding themselves up as superior due to their skin color as some of the most inferior people on the face of the Earth. Ignorant, sloppy and overweight, under-achievers, dependent on other external symbols to insist on their strength and value such as carrying guns or aggressively claiming to be “Christians”.

There’s an old saying about guys who talk a lot about having sex are the ones who get it the least. If it wasn’t so destructive it would be amusing to watch how racists who are the worst example of human beings howl about how superior the white race is. They can’t spell, they can’t think for themselves, they haven’t achieved anything meaningful in their lives, they become cultists, they are so much weaker than other Americans. Which is probably why they feel the need to compensate so severely.

I don’t know that America will ever be rid of the segment of our society that is bigoted, there will never be an inoculation for insecurity and ignorance. We’re going through this revival of racism right now but it has come in ebbs and flows and each time society has suppressed it, the pendulum has seemed to swing farther back to sanity and decency. But it hasn’t gone far enough yet.

Once we can put a nail in the Trump/MAGA era of inflating racism and tyranny, hopefully we can be better as a society at installing better barriers against institutionalized racism and future encroachments of bigotry on our democracy.


I’m digging that hole deeper.


And then you have ADD and were smarter than skin color but the nice teachers gave you a D+ just so you pass because you didn’t care.

Not feeling you. Say more. Because there is more there.


Just meet me in Arizona


As a very caucasion personage I enjoy hearing about getting an A- because you were black. Um, okay?


Holy shit, is that you? Holy fuck, sorry. I is the dickface.


I spent a slice of my life in the deep south and witnessed your experience a number of times. Of course as a kid I did not understand what was going on, but it was clear to me, even then, that something was very much amiss. To put some flesh on these bones…..I was and am terrible at math. I was in a stat class which I needed to get a “B (85%)” in to satisfy credentialing requirements. I was barely pulling a C. There was a black student who sat near me and he seemed to have the arcane subject matter down pat. For him, it appeared easy. He clearly had it down. SO…..I, and eventually two others, asked him for help. We met for an hour after each class to review what had been taught that day and prior to our next class met for a half hour to look over the work we had done for the class and for an extra hour in prep for tests. He helped us with our prep for the two major exams. I got a very solid 89% in the course having blown it for the first quarter. The other two did as well or better. It was not until the end of the course that we learned that he was consistently being given high 80’s and the occasional low 90’s grade but he seemed to know it all. Since this course had a segment that required an understanding of the underlying rationale for the theories and the application of the theory there was some subjective judgment about the quality of work by the instructor. What held his grade down were the awarded points for those segments. Even though the instructor could not keep him from getting an “A” it was clear that he was never going to end up at the top of the class. And, I have seen this time and again.

You put outstanding words to my experience.Thank you.


I think I have put out my experiences of growing up knowing racism from the “winning” side. Me and my dad still talk about it… my grandma was the most sweet and loving person… but… she would throw away a sandwich made by a colored person. She would never call you a N—— or even want you lynched. She just adored me and was born and raised in old Savannah, Georgia.

Not an excuse. In any case, I was brought up — well, it was a shock when my dad told me he used to be racist.

I’m sorry to say it’s an old story. It’s just llke I KNOW, not really, but I get it, and … I’m sorry for shitting over your own experience. I was a really poor ambassador.