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My daughters have a very different childhood than I did. My goal often times has been to give them everything I never had. Because of this, they enjoy an abundance of material items that I never did. But that comes at a cost; when am I giving them too much? Sometimes I wonder will they think everyone in the world has similar lives. Will they be oblivious to the struggles of so many and become cold, callous people with no moral compass?

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I started my professional career right after college and I immediately recognized in my industry of planning and engineering, African Americans were far and few between. In a city like Baltimore where over 60% of the population is African American I’d think we’d make up more than the handful of professionals I know. On average, I don’t think any of my jobs ever had larger than a 15% rate of African Americans employed in that office.

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A few years ago when Lamar Odom famously was found unconscious and almost dead at a bunny-ranch outside of Las Vegas, I remember the media response was brutal. As reports rolled in, most of the stories dealt with the hard facts but as the days wore on, the commentary piled on. Much of what I remember hearing revolved around Lamar being “so stupid.” I mean he’s filthy rich, plays professional basketball and was married to a Kardashian (well the last part may suck but you get what I’m saying).

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Not too long ago I was sitting at a picnic table outside of my daughter’s gymnastic practice in suburban Maryland. As I sat there with my headphones on and hoodie up, I began to wonder, am I being smart? I mean let’s be honest; I’m a black man sitting outside with my hoodie up minding my business, but to a lot of people this is seen as a threat or suspect.

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Every day we make decisions that have short and long-term consequences. Often times when you’re in the heat of the moment, the choices you believe you have can be clouded by emotions. This is the realty that so many of us deal with when an unexpected pregnancy occurs. When I was 18 I got my girlfriend pregnant and I wanted the child (I feel she did too). During this time, I was young and wasn’t sure where I was headed, so having a child seemed both meaningful and purposeful. My girlfriend; however, was not 18 and an abortion was forced on us by her parent. Years later I went off to college and I saw opportunities I never knew existed.

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So there are two ways I look at acceptance. The first way is when I want something to be accepted. Maybe I’m buying a house and want my offer to be accepted. Or maybe I made a mistake and want my wife to accept my apology. The second way I look at acceptance is the exact opposite of the first. Instead of offering something in hopes of it being accepted, I’m accepting or receiving something. Maybe I’m accepting a gift from a friend. Maybe I’m accepting something about myself.

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After recently watching my 4-year-old daughter playing soccer, I realized the best lesson I’ve learned from growing up without my father was how to be a father. My father left when I was around three. I grew up with my mom and older brother. I also have a younger brother who grew up with my father; he and I share different mothers. I don’t fully know or understand the views my brothers have of our father; however, my experiences are a blend of love, miss-trust, anger and resentment.

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To better understand my racial insecurities I explore my childhood years in Germantown, MD where I grew up with my mom and older brother. Life was pretty “normal” for me until three significant events changed my understanding of normal. First, around the age of 12 my mom lost her job and from that point on holding down a steady job became an ongoing battle. Shortly after my mom lost her job, my older brother moved to Atlanta removing the one person not scared to check me on my bullshit. Finally, my mom made the decision to remove me from my zoned school and place me in a better school in a more affluent area.

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During my first semester at Towson University I experienced two drastically different situations involving my race. I had a very strong will to succeed while at college and that led me to constantly participate during classroom discussions. One night, while in a dorm room talking with two female black students, one of the girls recognized my voice and asked if I was in her Mass Comm class. The class had stadium seating and therefore she never actually got a chance to put a face to a voice. When I responded yes, she replied, “I thought you were white.”

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