Talking as a Black Man

My son, Pastor Anthony, wrote this on his blog, and I wanted to share it because I think it speaks volumes.   

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Race. It’s hot button issue right now. I guess it has been for has long as there’s been diversity in the world; however, with where the American climate is right now on the topic, I figured I’d share my perspective. No, I don’t want to argue about your hashtag or read you a list of statistics. That’s not the tone of my heart going into this blog. I simply  want to give you a glimpse into my experience as a man of color. What you decide to do my testimony, is up to you.
Through the grace of God, and the hard work of my parents, I never had to grow up in an environment common to most young African American males. I never had to worry about gang violence. I never had to worry about which route was the “safe” way to get home from school. We didn’t live in poverty. I was never blatantly discriminated for my race; I don’t recall falling victim to any hate crimes. I’ve had people call me “that word” before. I’ve had bottles thrown at me from moving cars as I’d ride my bike along the side of the road. Just the other day, I went to visit a building for work and the owner confused me with another man of color when I corrected him he simply stated,”oh well, you all look the same anyways, right?” I’ve had stuff like that happen…but none of the “bigger” realities of African-American youth made up my story. And so, I’m not going to sit here and try and fabricate something for the sake of an engaging blog post.
So, you may be thinking to yourself, “what’s the issue, Anthony?” You may be thinking, “see this is a great point! Those thug black people who are getting shot on the news must be asking for it because you’re not like them Anthony and nothing like that had ever happened to you! You’re different!” You may be thinking these things or you may have had those thoughts before (especially if you’re friends with me). However, in those statements lies what I want to talk about.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Anthony, you’re not really black. You’re the whitest black guy I know” growing up, I’d be one rich brotha. What people mean when they say this is, “Anthony, you don’t act how your race is supposed to (sometimes stereotypically) act.” And the truth is, no I don’t fall in line with what a lot of the African American culture represents. I’m a heavy metal listening, Toms-wearing, longboarding, man with a degree in English and the dance moves of a three-legged cow (as my wife would testify). I am who I am, and I’ve never tried to be anything or anyone else. However, there has been assumptive stigma put on that kind of thinking…because I don’t “act black” I’m immune from the realities of being a minority in America. This is simply not true and (I love you, my Caucasian friends) comes with some ignorance.
I remember when my family moved to the North Reno area (I was around 12). We moved into a quiet suburb, which was nice. However, one of our neighbors, down the street, hung a confederate flag over their house. I remember my mom cautioning us about this because the way to the local skate park and 7/11 involved walking past this house. “My family was nice!” “They would like us if they knew us!” I remember thinking…what did we do to deserve the feeling of having a knot in your stomach every time we would ride our bikes past that house, I thought. When I’m in the grocery store with my (white) wife and I catch people giving us looks, I know it’s not because we scored a killer deal on new sippy cups. When I’m driving and a cop is behind me and the thought goes through my head “be extra careful…you are black.” Even though I’m most likely driving to or from church and the cop behind is probably an awesome man or woman…the thoughts still surface. Why? Because at the end of the day, no matter how I talk or how I spend my free time…the color of my skin is still black, and there certain realities that come with that. I will have to pray for my children has they grow and head out into the world in a certain way because of their race. I will have to pray for my step daughter in a certain way because of the dynamics of growing up with a parent of color. It’s simply not as open and shut as “you don’t have anything to think about because you don’t act a specific way.”
Again, my desire isn’t to start a debate or accuse all white people of “not getting it.” I simply wanted you (the reader) to step into my shoes for a couple of minutes. Maybe you do need to seek a true understanding of what living as a minority looks like. Maybe you need to have real talks with your friends of a different race than yourself. Maybe you need to guard yourself against speaking too quickly when it comes to these sort of matters…especially if you’re not willing to do the work on the relational understanding end. Like I said earlier, what you decide to take away from this is up to you. For me, I think of all of this and I enter into a place of worship. Why? Because despite or even in spite of my race…heck even my actions, I am loved deeply by Jesus. Jesus, the son of God who’s grace and hope is for all colors, all races, all backgrounds, all heights , all weights, and all nations. I worship because, in His eyes, I’m not labeled as a “black guy” I’m called His friend, His family. In Him, that’s my identity.

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