The final What’s Underneath episode of our month-long celebration of Black Lives Matter and Black History Month features a force of positivity, resilience, and a strong, proud “mama’s boy.” That is to say, our new What’s Underneath stars Rafael Ramirez. His journey exposes the racial stereotypes that continue to mar society, “When I took the train in high school, people would clutch their purses tighter if I wore jeans and sneakers instead of a collared shirt and a blazer,” Rafael reveals. And, though he was accepted into Columbia on his own merit and heroic drive, people automatically assumed that he was there due to affirmative action. As Rafael tells us, “I can only work to not discredit my race. No matter what I do, I will never be a credit to it. It only works in the negative.”
But Rafael’s struggle with incessant prejudice has only fueled his voice and sense of self. Put under surveillance by the NYPD, Rafael nonetheless co-founded M.O.V.E (Mobilize Our Voices Everywhere) and was a focal point in key actions for Black Lives Matter, including Millions March and Boycott Black Friday. He finds his sense of purpose in the warmth and strength of the community where he grew up and still lives -- the Edenwald Housing Projects in North Bronx. “Being black connects me to a struggle that challenges you and makes you grow,” Rafael explains. “How can you know who you are or what you’re made of if you’ve haven’t been pushed? There’s a spirit in black that never gives in. I don't think I'd be the person I am if I wasn't black, and I like the person I am.”
For the full story on a man whose passion, insight, and brave vulnerability will open your heart, watch Rafael’s episode above!
Follow Rafael on Twitter: @rramirez942
Rafael's video was edited by Andrea Cruz
What's Underneath is produced by Elisa, Lily, & Mona
Thank you, Glowing Co, for sponsoring Rafael’s episode.
All editorial decisions were made by us (StyleLikeU) and are in keeping with the mission of the What’s Underneath Project.