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.