...currently writing from: Austin Texas
I can recall the evening I went with my friend to his friends home in a ritzy area of the San Gabriel Valley...
When we walked into the home, I entered first. We went through the kitchen and removed our shoes. As I entered closer to the living room, I heard laughter; at least 20 people were playing a game...
But when I walked in, they went from laughing to stone cold silence.
There was a complete shift in the atmosphere and in the countenance of the people there.
Before I knew it, these words left my mouth:
“Don’t worry, I'm not here to rob anyone.”
Shortly after that, my friend walked in behind me and there was a palpable sigh of relief. My skin color represented a negative ideal to them in the moment. Their thought process was that I was there to inflict some type of harm, when in reality I was simply there to join in the festivities.
Flash forward: I'm currently writing from Austin Texas... I came with my friend and decided to have an extended stay...
I dropped my friend off at church and went back to a predominately white neighborhood by myself to change and get ready for the service.
But as I entered the community and approached the home, an intense fear and anxiety came over me. In my mind flashed a full on visual of one of the neighbors seeing me attempt to get inside the vacant home and call the cops on me. And little would they know that I was just being a harmless Christian on my way to a church service...
But given past experiences like the one I just described in San Gabriel:
This fear is not invalid.
This fear is not unwarranted, it is not arbitrary.
It comes from a solid understanding that there is a risk I take everyday by stepping outside as a black man. And understanding that who I am isn't fully understood. That I pose some type of threat.
This is truly no way to live.
You literally feel imprisoned within yourself.
You feel rejected and lesser than.
I have to CONSTANTLY tell myself that I am great.
I have to intentionally build myself up to believe what God has said about me in a world that dehumanizes, vilifies and defames my character before even getting to know me.
The interesting thing about my upbringing is that I did not grow up in the projects. I grew up in modern day suburbia since childhood. I went to great magnet schools. I was afforded opportunity, and exposed to many cultures and belief systems.
My sister and I were raised by a single mother who fought hard to make sure that we operated in excellence. I have never been high or drunk a day in my life. I have been raised in the church and raised on Christian values since adolescence. I am well spoken, and I believe in treating others the way I would want to be treated. I believe that kindness and humility go much farther than talent or skill. These are morals and values instilled in me by my awesome mother. I attribute who I am today completely to her.
I absolutely detest injustice.
And no, I am not only talking about injustice towards black lives. I hate injustice in all spheres and have fought against sex trafficking & poverty. I've had the chance to mentor inner-city children along with middle & highschoolers - showing them a good example.
But is any of that enough to not be targeted?
If I were to step outside wearing a black hoodie do all of those noble things just disappear???
That is the plight of being a black man in America. Misunderstood. Disadvantaged. And targeted simply for the tone of his skin.
The system put in place has taken away our fathers so we haven't known what it truly means to be a son. Media portrays us as pant-sagging thugs with ulterior motives. The education system has white washed our history. Have we not made any progress as a people?
We ABSOLUTELY have and continue to positively impact culture through invention, innovation, & creativity. But we still have much farther to go. There is a groan in the black community that I still hear loud and clear, regardless of my upbringing.
I want to be a part of the solution. And that lies with ownership on both sides of the fence.
As black people we cannot continue to be a victim. We have to use our pain and make it our progress.
For white people my prayer is that they would not avoid what makes them uncomfortable but they would put a mirror in front of themselves and ask hard questions. My prayer is that guilt would not overtake them, but that they would use their authority to create a paradigm shift.
As a black man I do not feel that I am owed an apology. I earnestly just want to be understood.
I believe that when we place a mirror in front of ourselves, an authentic empathy begins to bubble up.
Then we can understand that it's not about pointing the finger but it's about claiming "Yes. We should all be seen, heard, & validated as equals." All of the sudden we are not made uncomfortable by emotions that we choose to not feel, but we are challenged to partner with a community that has been disregarded, dismissed, & disabled for centuries.
White people are not my enemy.
Police officers are not my enemy.
There is a much larger picture that we are often oblivious to.
A picture that suppresses and oppresses.
A picture that was created by my people, but not for my people.
It's a blood stained picture that represents supremacy.
That represents hatred and fear of the unknown.
It's a picture that has claimed the lives of many and still continues to claim lives, but I believe that this picture can be repainted.
And that even though we can't take the blood off of this picture we can pray for the redemption reformation and perfect justice of the bloodshed.
I pray that there would be a virus to infect the matrix. That we would all be able to unplug from a harsh reality.
After all, we all have a choice.
We all have either the red or blue pill to choose.
Which one will you take?