June 10, 2020

A Conversation with a Friend about what it’s like to be Black.

“What’s up, man? How are you doing?”

“I’m tired, bruh.”

“You’re tired?”

“Yup. Everyone has to endure the everyday grind of what it is to be alive. The stresses of being a parent, having a job, operating in a relationship…it can get be a lot to carry. The weight is that much heavier being Black.”

“How so?”

“Being Black is an immediate identifier. It isn’t a political stance, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. It’s the lack of access to people free of judgment or opportunity of getting to know others without having to prove yourself. It isn’t just being considered different. It’s not being included. It’s being made to feel less than—my beautiful kids, my family, friends, and all of the people who look like me being made to feel less than.”

“What don’t I get? Help me understand.”

“I’m a Black man raising my Black children in a world where I teach and coach a carefully crafted, intentionally limited education to sons and daughters of parents who choose to ignore, dismiss, and devalue my existence. I have coworkers, friends, and loved ones who, because they don’t understand, rely on me to try to somehow be the conduit to the Black experience. I have random encounters with complete strangers who unfairly force me to be the ambassador of all things Black.

But fair has nothing to do with it. I have a responsibility. Despite my natural inclination to keep to myself, I have to use my voice. I have to be willing to shoulder the load, because who else will? I can’t leave the message to someone who is less equipped. I’d be doing the world a disservice. The world where we currently live and the world that I leave to those who are to come after me, including my children. We’re expected to suffer through the pain in silence, handle it with dignity, provide opportunities for forgiveness and learning, and then on top of all that, be the spokesperson to recognize the effort of those who offended you. So yeah, I’m f*cking exhausted.”

“Do you think things are going to change?”

“To be honest, no. Nothing long-term anyway. I’m not a pessimist nor a defeatist. I’m hopeful, but I don’t expect anything. I’ve seen moments; I haven’t seen any long-term change.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“Ask yourself this. Why are you so invested in aggressively discounting our experience? It costs you absolutely nothing to be open and intentionally listen. Especially when people around you, who are friends and loved ones expressing their authentic anger and pain, are really hurting. Why is your inconvenience more important than someone else’s actual sorrow? Don’t I deserve the attention and the effort? Are you unwilling or are you incapable?”

“So what can I do?”

“If you care about me and I care about you, then we’re tied together. If you are hurting, then I’m hurting and vice versa. Unfortunately, having meaningful dialogue has lost its way. Words have diminished value. Things like context, tone, and nuance are almost extinct. People speak to be heard rather than to listen. Conversations have become a competition of right and wrong. It’s a world full of trolls who live to be contrarians. The true purpose of us talking to each other is to exchange thoughts and ideas so we can leave with a better understanding for another human being in order to improve our connection with the world.

People don’t know what they don’t know. As much as you can’t understand what it is to be Black, I don’t know what it is not to be Black. I’m not here to cancel anyone. We have to give each other room to grow. People aren’t flat and linear; we’re round and spacial. I believe that most people are mostly good. That being said, there’s a huge gap between the romanticized idea of America and the execution of that idea. This is going to be uncomfortable. Sh*t, it’s going to be ugly.

But Black people are a loving people, a resilient people, and a forgiving people. Passion in our fight is often depicted as aggression; sift through that. Know that I’m with you—flaws and all, I’m with you. We’ll watch each other with soft eyes, we’ll listen with soft ears, we’ll elevate with soft hearts, and we’ll transcend all of this with soft souls…Together.”


Watch an anti-racism hour with Jane Elliott talking with Waylon Lewis of Elephant, here.


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