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It is amazing how black men can keep their sanity despite the insanity that happens to them.
I remember one time I took my wife to a medical appointment at an office building, usually I drop her off at the entrance and I wait in my car in the parking lot usually listening to music or talk radio. Anyway this one time I decided to go in the lobby to use the rest room. As I exited my car this white lady was walking towards me, the look of fear she had or her face was palpable, she clutched her purse so tight her hands turned red. As usual I smiled at her to ease her fears, see I’ve discovered that when I run into white people on a one on one situation I smile just so they will feel comfortable.
I’m tired of smiling; I’m tired of having to worry about some stranger feeling comfortable or uncomfortable in my presence. Why is it that when I’m the only black person in an elevator with a bunch of white peoples, nobody smiles to make me feel comfortable?
Why is it that when I’m anywhere and I’m the only black person there, nobody smiles at me to make me feel comfortable?
The average black man will tell you, if he’s lived long enough, that he’s discovered certain mechanisms he uses to make people feel comfortable in his presence. So now another black kid is dead under unclear circumstances, another black community is in pain, and another policeman is on paid administrative leave.
By this time tomorrow we’ll know everything this young black kid has done since he left his mother’s womb, the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. I’ve got an eight year old son; I used to wonder about what college he will attend or what does he want to do when he grows up. As black men we’ve learned to focus our thinking on the present more so than on the future when it comes to our black boys.
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Thank you for your truthful commentary, Don.
It is a horror in our country that we always have to worry about making white people feel comfortable first before we think of ourselves. When outside, we make sure we smile to make them feel comfortable, we put our hands out so they don’t think we’re hiding something, we make sure we aren’t dressed in threatening ways (who the heck knows what that is because apparently, a hoodie is now threatening), we make sure when walking to our cars, our keys are prominently displayed so suspicious stares stop and cops aren’t called (I’ve been harassed in that manner and now whenever I’m in a predominantly white neighborhood, I make sure my car keys are prominently displayed so that they’re comfortable that I am indeed walking to my own car. I shouldn’t have to do that, but I must so that a group of white people aren’t threatened by one black person).
We make sure we don’t run in public because that looks suspicious (yeah, apparently running is suspicious), we make sure that we are 100% respectful to cops or your life may end that day. Yes sir, no sir, I’m sorry, sir. My hands are out, sir. I’m not holding anything suspicious, sir. I remember my shock and surprise when my white friend argued with a cop and I had to tell her to stop doing that because the person who’ll get shot first is me not her. I can’t even imagine the freedom that white people have to argue with cops and tell them loudly that they have rights. The thought that runs through my mind when I’ve been stopped by cops is the talk that my parents had with me. Be polite, make sure your hands are where they see them, say yes sir/yes m’am, never raise your voice, speak very softly, and it goes on and on and on. The prevailing thought being, good god, please let me be alive after this interaction. White people don’t understand that fear and pain where the cop isn’t there to serve and protect, but to shoot you first then ask questions later.
We make sure that we don’t raise our voice in public lest we seem threatening. I’ve been in coffee shops where white people raise their voices and everyone shrugs it off, but then a black person raised their voice while talking on the phone and a deathly silence filled the shop as people looked fearfully as though the black person was going to kill them. It’s insane.
We make sure that we never leave the house without any form of identification or company card to prove that we’re respectable and that still doesn’t guarantee your life will be safe.
The thought runs through your mind: Why are you as a white person not trying to make me feel comfortable in public? Why are you allowed to raise your voice in public and express your frustrations but I can’t? Why are you allowed to assert your rights with cops but I can’t? Am I not a human being too?
I’ll say it again. It is a horror in our country where a large swath of people can’t think about their lives and safety first, but have to think about others and making them feel comfortable just because of the color of our skin. We’re doctors, teachers, lawyers, business owners, parents, children, etc; but that doesn’t seem to matter when we’re out in public.
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Thank you so much for these powerful words.
I had a restless night. I have a 17 year old son. We live in Florida. There is never a night that he goes out that I shut my eyes, not until I hear the garage door opens. If he is one minute late, I find myself constantly texting him. I have told him don’t text when you are driving, yet I find myself texting him because I want to know he is OK.
It is a painful existence. No one should have to live this way. Not us as parents and not our children.
Every time there is another shooting, no matter how many times, we have had the conversation, we do it all over again. Last night was no different. As soon as my son walked in the door, we began talking about the latest child gunned down in this senseless violence.
That young black boys, even those in Middle School are somehow viewed as threats and so dangerous that they become endangered species, is unacceptable and a stain on this society.
The shootings become acceptable, because there is not wholesale condemnation. Instead, it becomes open season on the victim and families, as you alluded to. Last night I kept thinking, how do we fix this? How? Enough is enough.
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I feel the same way, Don. I have two adult sons who have to navigate these treacherous waters every day, here in the ‘open-carry’, no insurance for the poor, Georgia.
I have gotten to the point that I worry about the time they spend with their white friends, their travel, everything. Being raised in the Jim Crow south, it’s not hard to become almost paranoid. We simply do not know who to trust, all over again.
My biggest concern is my 13 year old grandson. He has Asperger’s syndrome. He is intellectually gifted, but his condition makes it difficult for him to function in some social situations. Aspie’s are often given to angry outbursts. What happens if my grandson has one of these in public? We are doing all we can to keep him protected. But, we can’t protect him against reactionary, trigger-happy, often anti-black boy policemen. It’s a nightmare living in this country. But, what can we do, and where can we go? It seems that there is no safe haven from anti-black racism. Sadly, we often turn on ourselves
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I just woke up, and you’ve got me crying already. My heart aches for his family, for your family, for all that feel the way you do. I have a son. I will never have to talk to him about the things that you have to talk to your son about. We get to look to the future and dream about the possibilities for his life. I don’t even know what to say. I have feelings of rage, of guilt, of sorrow and so many others just all welling up. This keeps happening, like the one before it never happened. We never learned. Never addressed the root cause. Never saw through others eyes.Fear gets stoked and some people make money off of fear…fanning even the tiniest uncertain ember into a rage of hate and loathing. I don’t think the majority of the country feels this way toward POC, but it doesn’t matter really. There are enough of these hateful, ignorant people spread all around to make life more than difficult and scary for far too many and that’s not acceptable in my America. Hardly exceptional.Not even close, for so many reasons. This bigotry and racism being only one of many.
I’m so sorry, Don. Saying that sounds empty to my ears. It sounds like I’m throwing up my hands and saying, ” Oh, well! That’s the way some people are.” It’s not even close to what I really mean, but saying it doesn’t even come close to what you and everyone else, deserves to hear.
We must teach our children better. We must instill in all of them that they are important and an invaluable asset to the human race…no matter the race. That they can rise as high as they can envision and the only thing they need to prove is they have a strong work ethic to reach the goals they’ve set for themselves and no one will stand in their way….not only that, but all of us will help them achieve their goals. If we can teach our children this…we will be on our way to becoming an exceptional nation…. Because when you put your son to bed at night, you deserve to feel that sense of hope and unbridled possibility that I feel when you look at him snug in his bed. We took that away from you somewhere along the way and it needs to be given back.
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NW & Don…have summed up so poignantly…what it means to be BLACK in America..
and now after the press conference….we see the beginnings of a cover-up…
.I have 4 nephews and 2 grandsons…I worry about them…and their chance to grow up..be happy…and be productive members of our society…
yesterday I attended a trunk party for my oldest nephew (18) he will be attending Howard University in the fall…he is an exceptional young man….polite…caring…generous…always ready to help…always giving….he is truly special…
Giving our children the talk…teaching them how to maneuver thru the racist scenarios arms them with tools to face the challenge…but as we know…it I not always successful…and you have to wonder what impact on psyche the “TALK” must have…
.but we must do more…….I saw a tweet from Bob…that shows side by side pics of dogs being used to intimidate and threatened blk protestors..
.how do we defeat this beast that time and time again rears its ugly head…how do we cut it off at the root…This attack on blk folks attacks the rights of ALL people…it breaks down the Humanity of the police along with the Humanity of society in general…
Bob says that …Humanity is in Balance…and so it is…
This is not a crisis that just threatens the Blk community it is a crisis that threatens all of America….
We must All see a stake in pulling this beast out by the roots…because unless we do…it will return…and return…threatening the Humanity of all…
because We Must…
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Don’s story and NW’s story is real life for us black folks.
I just got off the phone with my son. He called me out of the blue. As bad as I wanted to call him just to hear that he was okay, I refrained because you don’t want them to think you are always worrying about them. But it was so comforting to hear his voice – I didn’t care what he was talking about. I let him talk about all that he wanted to discuss, then I brought up the shooting in StL. He hadn’t heard about it, but he immediately assured me that he knows the drill – “Mom, I know” and I let it go.
Sadly, this is everyday life for us black folks in America.
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I have been reading all the comments regarding the murder of Michael Brown, as well as the so-called explanation given by the Ferguson PD. I’m sure there was a time the police could would not have had to even give a statement; their actions would have just been accepted and the assumption would have been that Michael Brown, by virtue of being a young black male, MUST have done something. It is even more of an insult that the police can give a statement so full of holes and EXPECT that it will be accepted.
I am the mother of a young black man. I, like other parents, worry about him from the time he leaves the house until the time he returns. I used to chide myself for projecting my paranoia onto him and being overprotective. But each day confirms to me the realities of my paranoia.
It saddens me that along with talking to our children about what they *can* be, we also have to talk to them about just being able to *be*. They are taught in school about civics — all men are created equal; rights and responsibilities as a citizen, etc. Then as parents and community, we have to teach them that they have to live by a different set of rules if they want to survive in this world; rules that are emphasized as they watch the news and as they go about their day to day lives.