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I am a dreamer. A very ambitious dreamer. I am also a very firm believer that the world owes you nothing, and everything that happens to you is ultimately your fault. I oppose anything in this entry being construed as a beckoning for a violin. In my movie, I am 100% bulletproof, and nothing will stop me from proving the statistics wrong. 

Fate, they say, is the biggest prankster. I have not a single doubt that if I had a fair start, I would already be the successful and accomplished member of society I want to be. However, fate, with its cruel sense of black humor, decided that I would be a perfect candidate to get a range of mountains tossed in my way. Thus, I came into this world with two strikes against me. One strike is a Grand Canyon. The other is a Mount Everest. My Mount Everest is the reason that I have always been aware of my color.

At the top of my personal guidelines is the motto, “Perception is everything.” I apply this motto daily. Perception is something I have come to hate, to be suspicious of, and to be forced to fear.

No matter how much I assimilate, what roads I travel or who or what I try to be, I have an inescapable perception engraved on my existence. Most of the world calls it being Black. I call it being Cursed.

In reality, I am also half Italian and Native American but that has never mattered to society. Black has followed me to every corner. It haunts me day and night, hanging over my head like a humongous signpost. From my childhood to school to identification to society, I wish I knew why the hell I couldn’t just be a human being. It is so sad how many lives go down the drain because of one little stroke of circumstance.

The so-called White side of my family rejected me because of this skin of mine. The so-called Black side rejected me too, which put me in the foster system. On adoption days, White families would frown and shrink away from me and the rest of us Black foster kids. 

At 18 years, I aged out of state foster care because I could never get adopted. Now it’s me versus the world. In trying to get jobs, trying to get help, being Black stood in my way. In trying to date, trying to have friends, being Black stood in my way. So I gave up on all of it. I became bitter and asocial.

Society basically says: If you’re Black, you should rob and steal, sell drugs, gang bang, and rap about the thrill of it all. In my experience dealing with White people, 90 percent of them have held these expectations against me. Ninety percent of Black people disdained me because I don’t want to live the lifestyle society wants to force on me. 

Don’t get me wrong, when you have no family and you’re homeless and it’s snowing, you either survive or you die. I have stolen to eat. I have done illegal things to survive. But I cried in my soul the entire time. Failure was my best friend. Every day, I am trying to create a grand plan to overcome the odds and climb my Mount Everest, despite the target on my back. I’m determined to beat the system.

Those of us who refuse to fit the statistics are labelled “misfits.” We are forced to become lone wolves. Who is to say that one of us couldn’t have the potential to make the next phenom discovery the world needs — cures and solutions, inventions and other accomplishments.

Hatred, discrimination, prejudice. I have starved for being Black. I have been left on the side of the street in my car seat for being Black. I have been bullied, feared and beaten for being Black. I have been told to get out. That my “kind” isn’t welcome. Half beaten to death, so I can be persuaded not to date White men’s daughters. Despised because I sing country music, I dress formally, and I use reserved and refined speech. 

I’ve been lied to and thrown in jail for being Black, and all the proof I have to show my innocence has done me squat because I am Black. So here I am in a jail cell, shoved in a closet, forced to await the indefinite hiatus the coronavirus has forced on the courts — telling anybody who’s on the outside looking in about how hard it is being Black. 

I would tell you that it sucks being Black. However, I am an extremist with a love for conquering extreme challenges. Being Black is an extreme challenge.

So please, next time you get the opportunity, try not to judge a book by its cover. Try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you want to judge, in this world where you can’t be loved just because of the color of your skin.

Black Lives Do Matter.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Devan Graves is a writer in Florida.