Black Like Me: An Open Letter
As a black man in this country, I constantly live on the defensive. My size and my skin color leave me with one persistent objective as I navigate in society - deescalate their perception of danger by any means. The paranoia is exhausting.
But I play it cool. Wanting to enjoy the fruit of my labor and not be labeled as the ‘Angry Black Man’, I’ve often reserved discussion of race relations for my family and like-skinned friends, but I hurt deeply (and often) at the sight of racial injustice.
I hurt when unarmed black men and women are snuffed out unjustly at the hands of those who disregarded the sanctity of their lives. As a child, I vividly remember having rocks thrown at me by a group of white boys who yelled out N***er while they did it (I also remember my mom going to the lady’s house and giving her a strong rebuke lol).
I didn’t understand my father’s pain when his career got ambushed at the hands of his white counterparts who didn’t want a Rasta man as the head of their department. I understand now, and I hurt. But what hurts the most is people’s unwillingness to validate the glaringly obvious truth in our nation: racism exists, it is has infiltrated our system, and it affects black and brown people the most.
I am George Floyd - a black man with a history you could find fault in if you dug deep enough. I am one misunderstanding away from being a hashtag. One perception of ‘resisting’ away from yelling out for my ‘Mama’. One wrong move away from being ripped from my family’s life.
To my white friends, if at any point while reading this you rolled your eyes or sighed in annoyance, then you’re not ready for what I’m about to ask. I love you, but keep scrolling to the next post. To my white friends who read this and felt some sense of sorrow or empathy, continue to read...
You may be urged to feel sorry for me. Please don’t be. You may be urged to confess your awareness of your white privilege. Please don’t. Apologies and confession are sincere, but do nothing in regard to change. I (this is just me) don’t want you to forfeit your privilege in the fight against injustice, I want you to leverage it! I want you to use the privilege you have to boldly speak against racism in this country - not just to say, “I’m not racist”, but to say, “This ain’t right!” Change happens faster when those who look (not act) like the carriers of injustice speak out against their actions.
To my friends in the police force, I refuse to vilify you. The actions of a few bad officers does not give me the right to paint all cops with one brush stroke; if I did, I’d invalidate my plea for people to not judge the black community for those same reasons; there are definitely way more good cops than bad. I urge you, however, to consider the impact of your voice on the front lines. I can’t imagine the stress of your job, but please don’t allow that stress to make you apathetic to brutality when you see it. Call it out, and demand it to stop.
This war against racial injustice has been fought since the beginning of America, and won’t be solved in one generation. Still, we have a collective duty to strive toward eradicating it.
In the Bible, a woman named Esther was met with a similar opportunity we have today. She belonged to an oppressed people, but by the grace of God, made it to the palace of the king. Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, urged her to speak on the people’s behalf. He appealed to her with these words...
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
If we remain silent in this generation, another one will definitely rise up and fight for change. But, who knows - maybe we have been placed in this time, in this 2020, for such a time as this...