*Can we talk? No, but how about you listen. A conversation about the “open secret” among African American men and boys has opened up on social media and radio. Think about it, no one ever asks black men to talk about how the struggles they go through every single day affects them.
And if you are one of those who are already judging them because you’re tired of hearing the word ‘racism’ or you think they’re just whining — slow your roll. Or better yet, don’t read this.
This is not about men complaining.
So if you’re someone who truly wants to put your ear to a conversation on how strong, proud black men face the challenges many people don’t have to even think about, listen up.
Two men, one a law professor the other a blogger, share their experiences with being racially profiled. One talks about a time he had to explain this to his kid, who asked “What was that about dad?” Also, these men actually (and probably innately) do things to appear non-threatening.
And one talks about how his being a ‘proud’ black man in a world that forces him to say, “you’re doing this because I’m black” gets lost in the defense.
Personally, I hate that assessment; the one that makes us state (or even think) that something is being done to us because we’re black. That automatically assumes being black as a bad thing. I’d rather assume its because you’re ignorant.
But that’s just me.
So its great to hear from the men in this article because, although black women face their own share of challenges living in this race-conscious society, there is no doubt it doesn’t even compare to the challenges black men of every socio-economic status face daily.
Below are some of their experiences.
Paul Butler is a law professor at Georgetown University and Doyin Richard is a blogger at Daddydoinwork.com, a parenting blog. The two men speak on the how their experiences as black men living in America affects them.
On being racially profiled:
Prof. Butler shares a story about how he was asked to prove that he lives in the home he was about to enter: [I was] walking home in my beautiful upper-middle-class neighborhood in D.C., when the cops start following me —kind of like this cat and mouse thing. They are in their car, and you know, every time I move they move. And we get up to my house and I just stop on the street and say ‘what are you doing? And then they say ‘what are you doing?’ I say ‘I live here.’ They say ‘prove it.’ They made me go to my porch, and then when I got there I said, ‘you know what, I don’t have to proof nothing.’ I knew this because I am a law professor. They said, ‘we are not leaving until you go in the house, because we think you’re a burglar.’ I say ‘you’re doing this because I am black.’ They said, ‘no, we are not, were black too,’ and that was true. These were African-American officers. Even they were racial profiling me, another black man.
Blogger Doyin Richards tells how one profiling experience forced him to have a conversation with his four-year-old daughter, he wished he didn’t have to: When I was out with my oldest daughter, who’s [four-years-old], we were in a shopping mall, in a garage in Los Angeles…and there was a lady, who was with her husband. And I could tell they were just really nervous around me. And then we went to an ATM — I had to get some money — and there’s another couple and I heard the woman say ‘Hurry up, let’s go, let’s go.’ Like I was going to rob them, and my daughter was all like ‘What happened dad? What was that all about?’ And I have to go into this conversation, ‘Well honey, sometimes people look at the color of my skin and they think I am a threat to them.’
On how to appear non-threatening:
Richards and Butler both share what they have had to do so that white people won’t be afraid of them in everyday situations: Sometimes if I am walking down a street or something, I am whistling Frozen songs just to prove that … ‘Hey I have kids, I am not a threat to you. I just want to go home to my family,’ says Richards, who adds,
So often people just view this as, ‘Oh gosh, you’re just whining,’ or ‘they are just making excuses or pulling out some mythical race card that doesn’t exist.’ This is a real thing.
Note: Yes, it is real. And sometimes judgmental people in our own race admonish black men and some of the things they may feel forced to do just to be treated justly. I recall one woman once remarked that her date was being entertaining to the white people around them, “just to prove they shouldn’t fear him.”
Butler is not crazy about society pushing him in such a corner, but also says he understands why it happens.
When you’re in an elevator or walking behind somebody and you feel like you have to perform to make them feel safe, it’s like apologizing for your existence. So I am in an elevator with a white woman and I have to look down to make her feel comfortable. It’s like ‘excuse poor black me.’ And you get angry and you get tired. But as a prosecutor, you also kind of understand where some these attitudes come from. Because while most black men don’t commit any crime, of men who commit crime, a disproportionately number are African-American. And so yeah, sometimes there’s a tendency to say, ‘Well, gee if you other brothers weren’t doing this, I wouldn’t have to be in this position.”
On being proud of being a black man.
And Butler adds (and I am so happy he said this), “One problem with conversations like this, is it doesn’t get across that I love being a black man. I feel connected, like when I see President Obama‘s swag, I get that as a black man. When I hear Jay Z‘s cool … I kind [of] absorb and relate as well. Sometimes we don’t talk about the joy of this identity, and how proud I am to be African-American and a man.
Brothers: Can you share an experience, and how you respond to it as a proud black man? Sisters, how do you support your friends in this struggle?