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When you’re young, you have limitless potential. When you’re educated, you are blessed with the knowledge for change. And when you’re Black, you’re an endangered species.

So for me, I’ll be lucky if I make it past 25. Because when you’re young and your skin is dark, it doesn’t matter where you’re from: It will always be open season on you.

I think maybe it comes with territory of being. Being scared, that is. I’m told that if I work hard, I can be anything I want to be. I’m told if I’m kind, I won’t be judged. I’m told that if I cooperate, they won’t kill me. But when your skin is dark, they don’t care what you want to be. If you are kind, they’re convinced that you’re still a threat. And if you cooperate, they still might kill you.

So I should be afraid.

Afraid because I have less protection than a gorilla. So I had to grow up. Fast. I had to learn that certain rules apply to me and no one else. That when a Black man is murdered by cops, the media prints his prior records, but when a white teen rapes a girl, they print his swim times. That when you stand straight, speak right, and dress well, then maybe you won’t die.

It’s okay for everyone to be Black though, to pretend to be.

To wear it like the hottest fashion statement and appropriate the culture, saying “nigga” in the pale quiet company that they are accustomed to keeping. It must be nice to pretend to be Black. I’m sure it’s fun. Being Black is fun! It’s empowering to have all that f*ck the man energy running through your veins. I know I love it.

Until I realize that this isn’t a costume, that Halloween isn’t going to stop for me—that wearing my skin is a permanent trend, and as cool as it is, sometimes I think—what if I was white? Would I be a little more protected? Maybe the police would even be friendly to me. I could go into stores without being followed and apply for jobs with an equal chance, just like anyone else. What a life and what a fantasy.

But I’m not white, I’m HUMAN. I swear I am. Why is that so hard to see?

I’m blessed to be young, Black, and educated, but to some, I’m already guilty.

Of what? The only thing that I’ve done wrong is being Black, young, and educated. I’m no less than you because of the color of my skin, and I’m no better because I show pride for who I am. Recognize that you can chain us, lynch us, and shoot us but we will not waver, we are not afraid. We are motivated, and we are a force that will not be stopped.

I am Trayvon Martin. I am Alton Sterling. I am Justin Jenkins, and I am Black. Just don’t forget I’m human.

Justin Jenkins

I’m a California boy who’s an undergrad at Howard University. I religiously work out, write, and turn up with my squad. #BlackLivesMatter

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