My parents taught me to hate the police.
My parents taught me to only date within my race.
My parents taught me to never trust white people because they smile in your face and call you “the N-word” behind your back.

My parents were terrified that the same racism that they had endured would cause me the same tremendous pain and frustrating limitations as it had caused them. They wanted to protect me from the experiences of hate that they had lived.

That heavy shield of armor that they gently placed on my shoulders out of love was meant to protect me, but it also hurt me. Along with the protection came the story of a limited world, full of fear and glass ceilings.

The armor was a heavy load for me to carry. Even though they taught me to blame white people for racism, I began to think that there was something wrong with me. They showed me example after example of how white people had all the opportunities and controlled the world. They showed me how hate made me a victim in school, relationships, and in the workplace.

I understood what they were saying, but I didn’t understand why it was happening. I went through a phase of questioning myself. Maybe I was scary, ugly, stupid, threatening, and not worth the success others were withholding from me. There had to be some reason why white people wanted to hurt me and hold me down.

That phase of questioning my inherent right to love, abundance, and peace was very painful and it led me to begin searching for a new truth about myself, the world, and human relationships. I wanted to create my own vision of the world that was light and full of love no matter what my circumstances looked like on the surface.

After some soul searching, I came to a sad conclusion. The ideas of race that my parents had taught me did in fact protect me from some potential moments of hurt through racism. However, the armor and barriers I learned to put up were so strong that they not only protected me from potential moments of racism, they also protected me from potential moments of love and genuine connection with others who happened to be outside of my race.

In addition, I realized that the stories of race that were passed down to protect me, in my mind, also were preserving my status as a victim to racism. I believed I had to be careful to survive or fight to become equal. This caused me to lay low in many situations where I could’ve shined because I was afraid of calling the wrong attention to myself. It also led me to emphasize my German heritage over my black heritage for fear of not being accepted or having to assume the victim identity of a black man.

I have also learned that what I believe and expect of the world is my truth and will be validated for me. My learned story of racism is so ingrained in my existence that I perpetuate it every day.

When I’m in the checkout line in the grocery store, I take a step back and make an over-exaggerated look in a different direction when a white person is entering their PIN in the debit card machine. I don’t want to give them any inkling to start trouble because I know in my mind who the police will side with.

When I’m walking on the street and there is a white woman in front of me, I cross to the other side because I don’t want to startle her and have her call the police. Once again, I know who the police will side with.

After investigating these behaviors, which were fueled by the stories I had learned from my parents, I came to this conclusion:

Who knows if the person in the checkout line or the white woman on the street is scared of me or if a cop would believe me or choose to harm me. Their reactions don’t matter. What matters is that in my mind, I’ve already decided that they’re scared of me and that I wouldn’t stand a chance if the police got involved.

I live that racism in my mind before it even has a chance to be externalized in my reality.

Racism starts in my mind.

This is not an indictment of myself because I choose not to judge racism as a terrible thing that happens TO me. Instead, I see it as a gift that happens FOR me.

Therefore, I choose not to react to racism, but to investigate my story and accept the gift of growth, expansion, and the evolution of my soul that lies within every event that happens in my reality.

I had been fighting for years and that fight never seemed to end. I didn’t want to fight anymore, I wanted peace and I now know that peace has nothing to do with getting police officers to act “right” or fighting racism.

It has everything to do with me and my truth.

It’s all about the story I choose to believe. If I want to believe people are out to hurt me and the world is a cruel place, the war is taking place in my mind first and then being projected out into the world.

In the wake of the events of Ferguson and New York, I allow my anger and sadness to flow, but I give myself permission to dig deeper than my surface feelings. I know that my feelings are a call to investigate a story that no longer serves me. I continue to release my story of being a victim and having limitations and I choose love over fear, and I will continue to allow the world to reflect that back to me no matter how painful or uncomfortable the circumstances seem to be on the surface.

If you believe that you have the power to choose love, abundance, and peace, support the I Choose Project.

The I Choose Project invites youth to empower themselves by creating their own reality, starting with their thoughts and beliefs.

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I Was Taught to Be Racist for My Own Protection