What will you be remembered for? That is the thought that is constantly racing through my mind; how will the world remember me when I’m gone? Will they remember me as Wylliam Smith, the strong black man, or will they remember me as Wylliam Smith?
It seems like a small difference, but it has actually been a defining factor of my life since I was born, and sadly, it will follow me to grave and beyond. That tagline will always be attached to my name. Wylliam Smith the standing representation of black rights, Wylliam Smith the well-worded black reporter, Wylliam Smith the black man. I cannot escape that title no matter how much I try.
I want to be remembered for who I am, not the color of my skin. I want my victories to be my own, not my race’s. I want my goals to be set by me, not dictated by the amount of melanin in my skin.
In a sense, I understand why acknowledging black accomplishments is important. The beginnings of African-American history are truly horrific, and the progress and milestones made by African Americans is something worthy of celebration.
But that is a lot of weight to put on one 19-year-old college student’s shoulders. Just because I’m black doesn’t mean everything I do is race-related.
Last year, I was a crime reporter, and I had to go to the police station quite a bit to write a number of stories. But no matter what the story was, I always seemed to get questions from various officers like, “As a black man, how does it feel to be here?” or, “As a black man, how do you feel about police?” And I didn’t receive this treatment just from police officers. I got countless people asking me to report on black topics specifically because, “the black community would feel more comfortable around me.”
I am not the avatar of the successful black man in America. I am not the token black person who can do whatever needs to be done or answer any race-related question asked. Not just because I don’t want to be, but because it would be impossible for me to represent millions of people accurately.
And that goes for all minorities. Just because someone fits a label doesn’t mean they fit the stereotype.
Again, I want to clarify that I am not “disowning my black heritage” or saying that “black history and appreciation is unneeded.” Yes, I have faced racism, and yes, a lot of my battles are against racism. And I am proud to be the man I am today despite being set at a disadvantage because of my race.
What I am saying is that I am an individual. I am Wylliam Smith, and I am not defined by my skin. Do not remember me as Wylliam, the strong successful black man. My achievements are not just skin deep.
If I am remembered at all, remember me for being Wylliam.