How I’m Feeling, as a Black Man
Thursday, June 7th should have been a beautiful day. It was a warm 80 degrees outside in Los Angeles. Given what was going on in the world, I took the morning for myself and made an iced latte. I stepped outside and man, for a moment, the sun beaming on me in my driveway, it felt amazing. My neighbor, who was out for his routine of a morning cigarette, waved at me and asked how my day was going. I walked over to him and we began to chat. While we were in conversation a lady who seemed to be out for a morning stroll walked from across the street, approached us and yelled out, “My Life Matters, why don’t you go inside, because I matter..” This Thursday should have been a beautiful day, but my white neighbor got to experience what hate sounds like. This Thursday should have been a beautiful day, but my white neighbor got to watch me experience what hate feels like. This Thursday should have been a beautiful day outside of my home, where I feel safe, but someone decided to take that away from me.
A few days before this Thursday my friend asked me, “how I was doing?” And for the first time in our friendship, my white friend asked me, “How I was doing today as a black man?”
A few days before this Thursday my friend asked me, “what is it like?” And for the first time in our friendship, my white friend asked me to articulate what it is like to be a black man today?
A few days before this Thursday my friend asked me, “what can I do to help?” And for the first time in our friendship, my white friend asked me, “How could he help to amplify my voice today?”
The past couple of months have been such an emotional roller coaster, I mentally broke down. My usual methods of compartmentalizing the mental traumas of the previous days and filing them under “black man problems” do not work anymore. I am faced with answering the question: how am I doing today, knowing that right outside my door someone doesn’t want me in the neighborhood. So how was my day today? Well, that day fucking sucked.
As a black man, I am conditioned to prove every day that I am a non-threatening, intelligent, willing to be a “team-player”, composed, a little bit urban but not too urban member of society that should be grateful to sit at the table. I am not sure about you but every morning having to do all that work before I leave my home is exhausting.
So today as a black man, when you ask me how I’m doing, don’t be shocked by my brevity when I tell you “I’m fucking exhausted.”
The feeling of exhaustion seems to be a common theme among the black community. Recently, a friend of mine sent me a poem on a post written on @justjohnnywebster’s Instagram. The title of the poem was “Tired” and as I read it I began to cry. Here is a small section of the poem
‘Tired of being told how “articulate” I am.
Tired of being told “you’re not really that black”
Tired of being told “you’re not really that black”
Tired of being fetishized.
Tired of being the only one in the room.
Tired of being oppressed.
Tired of feeling oppressed.
Tired of talking about white privilege.
Tired of experiencing white privilege.
Tired of talking about inclusion.
Tired of being excluded.
Tired of hearing “we gotta do diverse”
Tired of your whitewashed stories.
Tired of having to make you feel safe in order to exist.’
The last line of the excerpt of that beautifully articulated poem struck a nerve so hard for me. For the first time, I read what others in the black community understand as an exhausting morning ritual, making you feel safe.
One of my greatest challenges as a black man; is knowing most of the people and places I engage with daily do not have an equal representation of my community. This awareness at times can propel the narrative of feeling unsafe but more importantly unseen. Not because I don’t see anyone else like me, but because of the amount of work I have to put in before I even get into the room. As a black man walking into a room and being the only one, I’ve been conditioned to help make YOU comfortable with me. I’ve been conditioned to make sure you know I have a college degree. I’ve been conditioned to make you aware of my accomplishments. I’ve been conditioned to make sure you know that I can and deserve to be in the room with you. I’ve been conditioned to make you aware that I am not a threat.
Now you imagine how much effort I put into all that before I walk into a room with you. A piece of me died the day George Floyd was murdered in front of the world. That piece of me that subconsciously made sure you were okay with me before I was okay with me. So I hope you take this information and do with it what you need to because we still have a lot of work to do. Continue to use your platform to amplify the voices of the black community. Continue to strive to allow room for more members of the black community to have a seat at the table. And continue to hold businesses that you work with and for to not just speak about but BE about it.
For ways to support black-owned businesses in your area please check out the links below.