Unlocking My Truth

From radical kid to radical man, this is a journey from where I sat to where I stand

I remember as a young black alternative rock and roll kid, I was hypersensitive to people staring at my punk gear. I was having regular battles with my folks, who loved me dearly and provided for me well, but were the quintessential mainstream parents that demanded their kid to be the same way – the Huxtable.

Totally understandable from their viewpoint, but detrimental to my self-esteem, I struggled to find myself. Ironically, I knew I was not going to be in that scene forever. All I wanted was to enjoy it for those moments. It felt like everybody and their mom was dead set against it, and vilifying me for it.

I was a youth who had not fully developed my identity and my set of values. I was under someone else’s house, operating under someone else’s rules, and it would take a long time to be emancipated physically, emotionally, and mentally. Until then, I felt broken and betrayed.

I struck out on my own, feeling like I had a bag of bricks on my back, the hurt and pain from being rejected, ostracized and targeted. I totally lacked the confidence to be my own person, and the peace to accept myself and the world the way it was.

I feel for young people today who are undergoing what I went through. This Judeo-Christian society is uber judgmental, and mechanized to fit people into types, boxes, and categories. So as our beloved young are suffering through the process of finding and claiming their identity, they must contend with the groundswell of facial and digital scrutiny, ill treatment, and at times, violence.

Young people are resisting imposed constructs they feel do not fit them, and are chastised by exploring sex and gender fluidity, challenging mainstream aesthetics, and creating their own sociopolitical norms. They are being blasted by adults who have unapologetically created this toxic society that they will be tasked to fix once they come of age.

There is a distinction between what is normal and the norm. Much of it is subjective, and much of it is mandated by people who have their own selfish agendas. We are besieged by media images that do not reflect us, perpetrated by the marketplace that only sees dollar signs, shoving a lifestyle down our throats that don’t fit us, all for profit and control.

But this is nothing new. It began in the post-World War II era, and it has exponentially escalated. Media serves at the pleasure of the empire, targeted by the few to the many, who grovel at their manufactured idolatry in hopes of having a sliver of peace, prosperity and dignity.

This is at the macro level. At the very micro, individual level, it is the young boy or girl who sits by themselves in some public space very uncomfortable in their skin, intense spiritual pain, desperate with questions with no satisfactory answers, praying that the world won’t swallow them up before they decide to end their own life on their own terms.

Though I have never seriously contemplated suicide, I have been there. It took a very long time to get to where I am now – centered within myself and unwilling to compromise my identity and values.

As a fully grown black man with dreadlocks down to my butt, I am fully aware of the range of stares, from mild observance and fascination, to horror and disgust. I walk with confidence everywhere I travel. I do not ask for anyone’s permission or validation, and I freely engage with anyone who crosses my path. I trust that people are generally good until they show me otherwise, and I will be my best self with them regardless of how they are with me, with the caveat that I will not tolerate any ill treatment.

I love people. I have grown to where much I do not take personally. Whatever foul will is directed to me is a reflection of who that person or group is, not me. This places me in a position of personal power, where I am no longer a target, because I exude otherwise.

I do wish that everyone possessed the perspective I have, that everyone is treated well and without ill judgement, regardless of how they look. Our aesthetic appearance has no negative bearing on our work ethic, capacity to love, civic engagement, or our ability to function well in society.

We should embrace our differences, and desire to have them around us, for this is a fundamental way in which we grow and develop. If we are around the same people doing the same thing year after year, then we stagnate. Yet we gentrify our way out of discomfort, instead of embracing it. Therefore, we are the agents of this disservice.

However, it would be unfair to me to heap expectations on others. They must be given the space and latitude to embrace difference in their own way and at their own speed, and if they never get there, which I believe is tragic, I still should not judge them.

I have long accepted and made peace with the fact that I am not Hollywood, or corporate, or any other entity that requires conformity. Those worlds were established a century ago, and will be the same long after I have settled into the dirt. Those entities will allow for a certain level of diversity, but only to its comfort level as well. It is the way of things.

So for my young people who are undergoing their experiences, all I can say is go through them. Toughen your skin, for the journey is long and arduous, but it is rewarding if you stick to your guns. You are the next generation to push the boundaries, break the walls, tear down the boxes, and speak new idioms.

Unlock your truth, and live free.

Ron Kipling Williams