it’s time to talk

this page is like a blank canvas. i get to say whatever i want. i don’t know if very many people read what i write and that’s fine. it’s a therapy, it’s a hobby and it’s a tiny little forum for me. maybe a soapbox.

i don’t write often, not these days. not because there isn’t enough to say. i don’t write as much as i used to because i’ve been struggling for the right words. as a writer, this is a terrible feeling. to have so many thoughts and not enough words to describe them. what sucks is that a lot of times, i find myself writing when terror strikes. it sucks a lot.  it sucks to me that 1) terror strikes and 2) that’s when i find my voice.

i’m writing this because a friend of mine posted on her social media about the need for discussion in this country about racism. suddenly i started to think about what i had to say about the issue. i have a lot to say about it.

we all should have a lot to say about it.

here’s the thing… racism is bullshit. i don’t know if i can say it any clearer. and it makes me angry. and it should make you angry. i should be able to drop the mic and end this post right now. what else really needs to be said right? but there is more.

what happened in charleston this past week was terror. pure terrorism. and it’s time to talk.

these events keep happening. why? because these are madmen? because these are crazy people who are just an abscess to society? or is the subtle tone of racism in our country becoming a little less subtle everyday?

the talk should not be about mental illness. the concept that only mentally ill people can walk into a church and shoot black people because “you rape our women… you have to go” is a lie. racism pervades our society and it’s not a mental illness. it might be a sickness, but sweeping these types of acts under the rug as “oh he’s crazy” is shallow and wrong.

we’ve got to start having real conversations about this.

i remember when i was probably in first or second grade, kids calling me names on the school bus, making fun of my skin color.  i was the only black kid on the school bus. i was also the only black kid in the school. and the neighborhood, and the town. i was different than what the other kids knew. i grew up in very white america. and that’s okay. i have fond memories of my childhood. i also have very painful and disturbing memories. but i learned to bury the painful parts. i learned to just tolerate it.

but that’s what we do. we tolerate. if we don’t like someone, we tolerate them. we don’t learn anything about them or get to know the backstory. every person has a story. we just don’t take the time to learn it. we do what we have to do to not let them infringe upon us. we don’t learn to love. we learn how to not hate, because well… hate’s a strong word. strongly disliking is acceptable.

this is my least favorite topic to discuss. i’ve always resisted this conversation. it’s a painful reminder of the struggles that so many people have had to endure for so long. i’ve experienced racism for as long as i have memories. some subtle, some blatant. i’ve experienced racism disguised as compliments, “you are pretty smart… for a black kid”, i’ve endured racism as stupid jokes “how high can you jump?”, “can you teach me ebonics?” i’ve had to answer the question, “yes i like fried chicken and watermelon and kool-aid! who the hell doesn’t?”  i’ve experienced racism as a threat to my safety and i’ve been called a nigger. as recently as 2013.

 so i don’t like talking about racism. i don’t like having to discuss my fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being mis-identified by police.  do you know how terrifying it can be to always have people tell me they thought they saw me somewhere that i wasn’t? i’ve had that fear since i was about 8 years old. don’t tell me it’s not a real fear.

but what does not talking about it do? ignorance and silence gives license to these kinds of hate and builds deeper fears. we may not murder because of our hatred, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t deadly. i used to think that talking about it and writing about it only gave voice and attention to the worst of society. i used to ignore it. when people would say, “James, you aren’t really black” or “James, you are the whitest black person i know”, i used to blow it off. because all of my white friends in white america were such experts on black culture. they even meant it as a compliment, that’s the amazingly sad part. it was racism in it’s subtlest forms and i knew they didn’t even realize how wrong they were. the concept of a black person speaking clearly and having intelligence was foreign to them. i was never really angry then, i was just sad for them. ignorance is a sad and lonely trait to carry. but the thing is, by me not addressing it, i was giving license to ignorance. not every black man listens solely to rap music and has a low IQ. but my white friends were stunned when i could form a sentence using proper grammar and my favorite band is U2. why is that? who set that up as a thought?

one of the saddest things i’ve read about the charleston case is the comments by the killer’s roommates. they’ve said he would make comments about black people, how he thought that black people were “bringing down the white race”. they said he wanted to escalate a race war. yet they said they didn’t take him seriously. really? they thought he was joking. really? we’ve got to start having conversations about this. it’s time to talk.

so where are we? maybe the question is, who are we? who am i? me, i am a black man. does that change anything for you? what is the first thing that comes to mind? what do you fear? why do you fear? where does that fear come from? there are many questions, probably more than answers. that’s okay too. we cannot live in fear any longer. fear of what others think, fear of each other, we have to start somewhere. the best starting point, i believe, is to start with ourselves.

it’s not just that black lives matter. all lives matter. we have to find a way to treat each other with the common respect and decency we crave for ourselves. it isn’t enough for us to tolerate, we have to come together. there has to be more. we have to learn to love our differences. that’s what makes us real. that’s what makes us the human race, our differences. not our similarities.


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