The feeling of being out of place is ever present with me, and probably all Black people if we’re being honest. I actually imagine what the feeling of being “in place” is like. I was born in the United States with a “qualifier” to describe me because access to being considered a full citizen as far as the country is concerned, wasn’t meant for me in the first place. The treatment that comes with the qualifier given to me (and all those that look like me) is akin to being at a lower rung in the caste system of other countries…but this is the land of the free, the American dream, and all of the other marketing that goes with describing America.
When I was growing up, on the West side of Chicago, I felt accepted in my environment; however, I was surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, police brutality and violence. The system has told me repeatedly “that’s my place” but I don’t believe that’s a place for anyone, rather the place “they” would prefer me in. Even in that place designed for me to be trapped in, I didn’t really fit in…but no one does, because no one desires drug abuse, poverty, police brutality and violence to be a daily part of their personal lives and there is no real comfort in that environment either. It’s cool to watch on dramatic TV shows or to feign empathy when seen on news segments, but no one is saying “goals” to that lifestyle. I’ve traveled the globe and lived in various places, not just for vacation, I still felt out of place due to language barriers in other Black environments or the more obvious visual cues of not looking like the local population in others.
As a Black man, experientially speaking, I don’t believe I can truly capture the feeling of being out of place. To me, it’s equivalent to describing what it feels like to be alive since I don’t really have a frame of reference to the contrary. It just is what it is really. Even in my current living situation, though I’m comfortable, I get the looks, the constant questions about what I do for a living and awkward moments of people trying to force a connection. It’s not malicious in nature, just uncomfortable due to the systemic separation of races in the country. I believe we have far more in common than we care to acknowledge but peace and unity aren’t really all that sexy
I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking too deeply about this prompt. There have been times where I misunderstood the dress code and came in more casual than normal clothes, That’s technically out of place. There was another time that I cracked a joke about Jehovah’s Witnesses not knowing the 2 people I was speaking to were Jehovah’s Witnesses, what are the odds right! That was more awkward and ill timed though. What I do know is we need more candid conversations about race. Yes, they’re uncomfortable conversations to have for many people, but until those folks leave their comfort zone, out of place will likely remain the status quo for Black people…or at very least this Black guy. When we are widely accepted as equal and our pain isn’t commodified as entertainment for profit, when we are equally considered Americans without the need for a qualifier, then I would be able to describe the feeling of being out of place. That’s just my take.