I was in Junior High. Fear, embarrassment, and shyness gave way to courage, as I approached my friend’s house… I was going to ask her to be my girlfriend. I fumbled through my words, yet her responses tore through me like gunshots.
It’s not because you’re black…
I was in high school. Hanging out with a group of friends, who were all talking about their ancestry. I’m Irish”… I’m Italian.. etc. When it came to me, I said, I’m African, to which they (no, none of them were black) said:
no you’re not… you’re black.
Also in high school. I had already begun my ministry. I told friends that I was going to preach. When they asked me what kind of church it was, I told them it was a black church. Can I come? they asked. Of course you can, I replied. They never did, never really wanted to. All they heard was “black church”.
Story after story, situation after situation… people feeling it is ok to compare me to every single black man, to point out what they think of my history, and to think that the one or two things they hear is outrageous, when for me it is living black in this country.
I have been denied jobs, housing, relationships because my skin is dark. I have watched as people in positions of power or influence in this century have stated that “they (meaning black people) were so much happier when whites were in charge” – and these people are still in those positions of power. I have watched responses to the protests, people starting out with “if they” or “those people”…
Words hurt. They absolutely do.
My elders have told me that I have to be 3 times… 5 times better, stronger, faster, more responsive, more intelligent than my white counterparts in order to be considered equal… and even then, I am not, because as soon as I have a little emotion in my voice, I am an angry aggressive black man.
I have all kind of words flowing through my head…
where are you going? where do you live? can you prove it? do you have ID?
What if I didn’t have ID on me when I was coming home from a business meeting, and was stopped 100 feet from my front door? Might my situation have been different?
Can I help you with anything? Do you want me to hold that at the register for you?
Am I so weak that I cannot hold a trinket as I look for other things I want to buy my loved ones while on a business trip? Why am I the only one you are asking?
Some have asked for me to respond to recent events, but I cannot. I can’t, not because I don’t have anything to say, but because for me, these events are not just recent. They are a lifetime. I remember growing up listening to people like Richard Pryor talking about the very things that are happening today. None of this is new. The Blue-eyed/Brown-eyed experiment happened in 1968… why are people shocked to see it right now?
My action is coming as is the action of many. I think we have seen tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people who are not just vocal, but voting. Not just marching, but managers. Not just crying out, but are creating change. So my word for the day, in the midst of the hurt, anger, tiredness and frustration is
I have hope that my world can become like my family – full of an array of colors and differences, but bound together by something deeper. That we do not feign acceptance by stating that “we don’t see color”, but rather, I see you in all of your glory and splendor. I may be black and you white, but I appreciate what you bring to the table and love that you appreciate what I bring to the table.
More words are coming. More action, more conversation, and hopefully more change. The good thing is, while I have seen the horror, almost on a daily basis (you may name the name of George Floyd and if you are really on it, Breyonna Taylor, but there are hundreds, if not thousands of victims of living while black), I have also seen many who are not black being open, vulnerable, accepting, even taking responsibility for their own biases. I have seen all that and more.
Romans 12:21 says, Don’t let evil get the best of you. Get the best of evil by doing good. Gotta admit, evil almost had me, but I know the weapons of my warfare, and have seen it in full force around the country. It may not come tomorrow, and it may not come in my lifetime, but it will come.
6 Replies to “Words”
Thank you for your words and for your heart. I’m sorry for your experience and how different it’s been than mine…and for all the ways I’ve allowed that to perpetuate by inaction in my past.
I know we’ve talked and you’ve said you don’t see me as having been inactive. And I own that…but. As long as you have to be more _______ in order to be equal, then my actions need to be more as well.
Love you Ken,
the good thing, Keith, is I don’t have to be more with you. 🙂
I was told in High School about Affirmative Action and it sounded like the blue eyed and brown eyed kid experiment from the 60’s
Then I watched as over the last 40 years a conscious effort to give the jobs and scholarships to the brown eyed kids.
I had no special privileges growing up broken home lived with friends.
Actually that’s not true I had lots of privileges I knew the language here. Great friends, got to know Jesus. Blessed in many ways. Great Country,
I did have one girlfriends parents tell me you will never be part of this family because I wasn’t one of them.
And my Mexican friends mom use to clean their house for extra money. It was a pretty mixed group in Milpitas
It’s all good.
I’ll come to your black church
I went to a white church once where they sat in silence for so long it was painful.
I think we all had it pretty good
If I was one of those guys that said something stupid
I am sorry
I’ve said a lot of stupid things
thank you for your reply Tom
I am sitting on my front porch with my cup of coffee and feeling the morning air. So peaceful, so fresh. It’s like reading your articles, so fresh, so out of the gift box opening new insights and new thoughts. Like reading a captivating #1 best seller. All I have left to say is “thank you”.
I can’t thank you enough for your comments Lorraine. It’s what make me keep going 🙂 .
The next good thing is coming very soon.