What does it mean to be black in the 21st century?  

To be black means to devour greasy fried chicken, to be loud and love to party. That is the first thing that comes to most people's minds when they think of a black person.  

Hundreds of years of pain, suffering and heritage limited to just 28 short days of the year all in the name of inclusion and diversity. Learning about my people once every blue moon like I’m not Black every second.  

We’re taught that it was Thomas Edison who made the light switch when it was a darker man who made that light flick.  

I was 9 years old when I realised my life would be different to most. Sometimes I feel the melanin in my skin is like a lethal dose, making me a target to those who don’t look like me. Knowing I have to work twice as hard as the people I know I’m better than ‘cause I need to do double what they do so I can level them.  

The only time you’ll see thousands of white people cheering for the black kid to win is in a stadium.  

The loud thud of my heart when I hear a police siren because I’m scared, I’ll become a statistic. One in every thousand black men is killed due to police brutality.  

Those are the odds we’ve been given to beat. 

It’s “I’m not racist because I don’t use the N-word,” but when you see a black man on the train you clutch your purse just a little bit tighter because we strike fear into your hearts. But the same situation is ok for a white boy. For example, a black man without a criminal record is less likely to get a job than a white felon or maybe it’s because we’re lazy? And we don’t work hard enough but 400 years in the same field, literally is an incredible resume. 

A classmate once told me when I was speaking on slavery that the past is in the past that I should just let it go. 

Yeah right. This isn’t Frozen and my name isn’t Elsa, we can’t just freeze and forget all that happened. 

This isn’t a movie; my life isn’t a hashtag that happens once a year. 

The only thing you should be letting go of is that gun you have aimed at my face because you believe I’m armed. That is my reality. 

Oh, I’m making you uncomfortable. I’m sorry, try a cramped slave ship. 12.5 million Africans transported to the Americas like an amazon parcel to work for the white man. Out of that number only 10.7 million disembarked alive. 

 Let me put that into perspective for you. That is 125 percent of the population of London being forced into a backbreaking life without the liberty of choice. Being paraded around like a zoo animal because of the melanin in my skin. 

Now tell me, are you still feeling uncomfortable?  

But it’s fine I guess, because slavery’s over now, right?  

No. Just because I wasn’t picking cotton off the ground back then, doesn’t mean I’m not affected by the laws made back then. People need to realise that institutional, systemic racism still exists in 2022 people just hide it better. 

I wish I could trade shoes with you so you can know my pain. But there are 2 sides to every story and now you know mine.  

That is what it means to be black in the 21st century. 


About the Author  

My name is Jebril Umo. I am a 14 year old black male from South east London. I have always had a passion for writing and it is something that I am good at. Being a young black boy comes with many challenges. However, I always stay resilient to them and I never give up something my mother had taught me from when I was young.  

I would love to say thank you to everyone who made this possible, to everyone who supported me through my journey. Growing up I had a headteacher in my primary school and she would always say “when you are famous don’t forget to quote me,” I’m not quite famous yet but this is the closest I’ll get. So this goes out to, Mrs Maragh, Ms Hoad, Miss Hilton, Mrs Murray, but most importantly my Family.