The Complex Upbringing of a Black Upper-Middle Class Trust Fund Baby
'Bad Boys for Life'
“People often ask me how I raised such successful kids. I tell them I did it by teaching them about hard work and letting them follow their interests,” Maye Musk wrote.
Unfortunately, I’m not a stranger to people presuming the origin of my privilege as a financially stable young Black American in the United States. Ironically, I’ve had a handful of them, close or merely acquaintances, set out to disconnect me from my “Blackness” in an attempt to raise their own value in Black American culture. I’m 96% African according to the recent ancestry DNA test that my father and I had taken, which makes me rare, but if my genetics are closer to the motherland than most Black Americans, why would those within my race who consider themselves conscious see me as a threat when I speak my mind? My parents were without a doubt “boujee” as both had high expectations for how they wanted to be treated by society. Both grew up in very low-income communities, enlisted in the marines, and graduated from historically Black colleges. My father is a successful electrical engineer and my mother was an aerobics instructor before a car accident that would leave her in a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis. I was homeschooled by them both after a period in a North Carolina public school called Rolesville Elementary School because the standards weren’t up to their liking. It wasn’t enough that I had to pass classes. I was required to get as close to scoring 100% as possible.
I constantly surprise adversaries in my community who don’t know that my mother is a history major when they try to challenge my knowledge of Black American history. There is always a slight satisfaction in humiliating anyone who feels as though they have the upper hand. While my father won’t admit it ever since becoming a “hippie” in his old age, he drilled capitalism into the heads of my brothers and me, so I took to the nature of business very easily since I wanted to buy whatever I liked. My parents paid us to read from the library of vast novels that the family had owned and my favorite books were ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’, ‘The Time Machine’, ‘War of the Worlds’, and ‘King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table’. We were also given $15 when visiting Books-A-Million, which I used to form my own personal collection at the time. My brothers and I weren’t allowed to purchase comic books/graphic novels until our teen years unless it was with our own money. Regarding allowances, we were forced to save a percentage of it, and could not access any of the amounts before the following year that we had started accumulating the total sum.
Our family’s primary household in North Carolina was located in a suburb and I would often hang out with my childhood friend, Armando, and others in the neighborhood. Due to my father’s career, we lived in many other states in America, including New York and Illinois, so as the technology to communicate rapidly progressed, it became easier to keep in contact with those that I grew up with. Despite my eccentric personality, as my father’s firstborn, I had to struggle to grow out underneath his shadow and inherited narcissistic tendencies such as the desire to be in control of everything. When I was fourteen (or fifteen), he had assaulted me during a conflict and left my eye blackened. He tried to cover this scuffle up by handing me a pair of sunglasses after deflecting responsibility to my mother who stood by and did nothing. Shortly after, I would make an attempt to run away and was brought back to be shamed for swearing as well. I felt more than hate at the moment. I felt freedom. I no longer had to respect him, a man who only cared about his disturbingly fragile ego, and I swore to myself that if ever put in a position where I would need to kill him, that I wouldn’t hesitate. He and I shared a boxing class at the Williams Martial Arts Academy in Rochester, New York, so his plan to save face was to no longer return to the gym. He predictably reneged on that plan and I ended up dropping out. I continued my training after I left home.
The reason why I didn’t was that I had a trust fund waiting for me once I turned eighteen. This trust fund was the result of a lawsuit stemming from the same car accident that my mother was in. I was seven or eight and had to be given a blood transfusion in order for there to be a chance to survive. The scars on the left side of my face serve as a reminder that if my parents, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, would have been given a choice in the matter of the procedure, I would have died. I’m unaware of every little detail, however, apparently, the insurance company did not want to pay out, therefore, my father sued them and won. I received the biggest payout because of the injuries that I had sustained. I appreciate my brush with death caused by my mother driving smack dab into a semi-truck because it taught me that life should yours to do as you please. I saw no gods and angels through the white light as I soaked in my own blood with glass in my flesh. I also saw no reason to rely on the possibility of an afterlife that was promised by the same world that creates the pain we hope to escape from.
For years after the car accident, I focused on learning how to enunciate my words because I wanted to be a musician and voice actor. My older music was criticized because the lyrics were incomprehensible by the average listener. I needed to improve how I spoke because properly displaying my extensive vocabulary in certain patterns relied on the ability to pronounce English alphabets the way it was intended to be during writing the lines. I would also be asked to repeat what I said when out-and-about because of the slur I had. As you might imagine, this made me feel unwilling to associate with the public. Of course, I went through an “edgelord” phase that brought me notoriety, and its past is slightly apparent in my older work, although I have matured since while still retaining provocative traits. One of my exes, “K”, would complain about my lyrics making her feel uncomfortable and would reiterate that they were the exact opposite of the person she knew me as. I explained to her the importance of me expressing my thoughts through art and how therapeutic it is.
My middle brother and I were video game programmers that designed titles and published them on yoyogames.com where we interacted with fellow designers from around the globe on the site’s forums. A member called DeathandGrim2, you know him as Gold Will (of the ‘Black Medium’ podcast, and I would form a bond that has lasted for more than a decade full of media that we have collaborated together on. Reaching adulthood provided me the opportunity to become my own man through experience and I traveled to Manchester, UK by myself. Sadly, this was around the time of The Boston Marathon bombing, so my return was met with unnecessary hassling from a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officer who seemed to be giving everyone a hard time, to be fair, and using the terrorist attack as an excuse to do so. I wanted the power to put him in his place for trying to make me feel inferior. Perhaps this is why I have such disdain toward gatekeepers and those who abuse their authority will always be infuriating.
As I get older, I see that I’m one half of my father and another of my mother. An athletic Black cinephile nerd who loves reading about everything that interests him, is passionate about studying history, and could be mistaken for a clone of his late grandfather due to sharing strong facial similarities. They are products of broken homes and while they grew, I cannot allow my children to be if there’s a chance that I can provide them with a much better foundation than what was afforded to me. Wealth is a step, not a solution, and if becoming a minimalist has taught me anything, it’s that happiness is dependent on how you choose to live. Anything that I’ve faced in the past cannot be used as an excuse for who and where I am today. I’m at peace with my parents and chose a few years back not to hold on to feelings that cloud my current state of mind.
One of my significant others told me that I don’t look like someone who does or is XYZ and I’ve had a peer refer to me as a minority within a minority. I’m not bothered by these particular remarks until I’m tested and that’s when I need to analyze if the battle that I’m encountering is worth winning. I understand the perspective of a bully because I fell to the path of one instead of depression. I don’t believe there should be an either/or, so disengaging, and learning to let things go has become my go-to strategy. Otherwise, I will obsess over what’s aggravating me to the point of heading for self-destruction. A beef (If one would choose to call it) between DJ Lone Wolf HD and I was recently squashed. We had started a podcast prior to the trend of doing so and fell out because of our egos. This is sometimes a problem among Black American men, and since, I do not publicly air out or fuel disputes if I do not have to. We need to hold each other accountable, remain professional, and build our ranks behind closed doors. I may not be a fan of Tyler Perry and Spike Lee, but you’ll never hear me disparage them for attention.
I honestly feel like seeing people who have passed away that I’ve wanted to work with for quite some time or at the very least, meet and pick their brains, such as Stan Lee, Melvin Van Peebles, and Sonny Chiba is the universe’s way of telling me I need to start making serious moves so that I can have more of an opportunity to do so.
There is so much that I need to see come to fruition from my imagination and I cannot let anything stop me from accomplishing what I continually set out to do. If there’s one thing that my parents did absolutely right, is to encourage their children to follow through with their creative endeavors. Whether I wanted to be a writer, voice artist, actor, artist, investor, musician, or software developer, my parents assisted how they could with increasing my skills in those particular fields. Actual LGBTQ-phobia and racism were non-existent, although the boundaries of dark comedy became pushed. They made sure that I “stayed out of trouble” and in comparison to my peers, I was spoiled by them. I also have a great relationship with my father, who I do seek advice from on occasion because of our current striking similarities in personality and habits, which can be contributed to personal direction that’s alike. It would be dishonorable not to appreciate the good lessons that I was taught to pass down to my children and only describe the dysfunction because I wouldn’t have sought out tools that will improve the outcome of raising the next generation of my family.
This is not me saying “Well, I turned out alright” or “I might have deserved it when this happened” as a way to excuse any behavior. I owe children that I may have a “New Game Plus” by giving them access to the knowledge, education, wisdom, patience, and opportunities that I’ve amassed from living. I owe them meaningful and healthy births that were planned and as little stress as possible. Anything else would be utterly selfish, knowing the state of the world that we live in.