Come walk with me…

To my dear Non-black brothers and sisters,

The old saying is that you never know what it’s like to be someone or understand their consequences until you walk a mile in their shoes…Well, would you like to know what it’s like to be Black in America? Come with me and walk 3 miles in my shoes…

I got up this morning as usual, feeling refreshed and happy to be alive, put on my workout clothes and headed outdoors…into the fresh air, a little sunshine and the freedom that I see symbolized in my feathered friend who was the first one to greet me on my front lawn…

So, as I’m walking… about 60 seconds later I thought about what I was wearing. Tennis shoes, sweat pants, a hoodie and a skull cap. And I thought of Trayvon Martin and I thought  to myself, boy, I’m glad I have this skull cap on because I’m not sure if I should put my hood on my head. And then I noticed that my hands were in the front, central pocket of my hoodie holding my phone, keys, and ipod so that they wouldn’t fall out…plus my hands were cold. And then I thought to myself, gosh, what if someone looks at me and thinks I’m up to no good? That I actually have my hands on a gun and I’m looking around for a house to burglarize or someone to mug or if they didn’t see the outline of my breasts, that I was a black male looking for an innocent white woman or girl to rape? Boy, in this small town of Charleston, am I really safe? And then I started walking faster and I wondered, am I’m walking faster because I’m in better shape or is it because I’m trying to run away from fear, from someone who may want to emulate Zimmerman’s actions and mistake me for someone “up to no good?” And I noticed I was keeping my head down more than I ever have on my morning walks. Before these thoughts, I used to look at cars, in cars,smile at people as I walked by but today, this morning, I don’t remember seeing many cars, or at the minimum, I don’t recall  looking up much to see them. When I finally looked up, I noticed a white woman helping what looked to be perhaps her mother up the stairs to a house and a white male standing on the sidewalk looking around. I wondered what his actions would be as I came closer. I kind of kept my head down then I decided to just look at him and smile as I usually did. He smiled too and we said good morning to each other. Nice, right? Well, instead of feeling normal, I felt relief. Whew! Got through that I thought. And then I saw a white female on her morning walk with a red hoodie, ON, covering her exposed head and I thought to myself was she feeling any of the things I felt? Does she feel safe wearing her hoodie? Maybe she was trying to make a statement which I appreciate if that was the case, but at the same time, it’s not really the same image when you see her attractive white, young face. Is it? Any way, I kept walking, and towards the end of my walk I ran across a white, young male with headphones on and jeans. We smiled at each other and mouthed “Hi” giving into the fact that if we had said it outloud neither one of us would have heard each other thanks to the music that filled our ears individually.

Did I also tell you that I was paranoid every time a car passed by me? Yep. I thought of the black people who were shot while they were walking just for being black. I thought of the black people who were kidnapped and raped and lynched after being picked up by strangers because they were black. I thought of the black people who died after a “hit and run” …cases that were never solved but the word “nigger” was heard being yelled out the car window as the car carrying the suspects zoomed to freedom or its next victim. And as I saw my house of “safety” I thought just a few more yards and I’ll be ok.

As I walked through my door, I thought of how lucky I was, and then I immediately thought of Trayvon again and began to write my thoughts down in this blog. I thought of how similar our paths were…how frightened he probably was because a stranger, in a car he didn’t recognize was following him..and I wondered if he was thinking the things I was when he put his hands in his pocket to grab his skittles and I wondered what this black male was thinking in his masculinity, his gender performance that dictated either fight or flight. But it didn’t really matter what he thought because someone who thought he looked “suspicious” took his life. Trayvon Martin is no longer with us, but I am….however, on any given day or night, it could have been me easily because I am guilty by association. I am black, therefore, I am at times, judged by the company, the constructed image, I keep.

I am terribly sad. I’m sad about so many things. Sad because I believed and was taught that if you were a good person, didn’t cause trouble, you were safe. I have learned that this is not always the case.  Sad, because despite my Ph.D., despite winning Associated Press awards, Emmy awards, despite living a life of excellence and doing “everything right” I walked in fear today. None of these accolades, accomplishments, or even a life record of being a good person or good citizen will ever change the perception of “trouble-maker” or “antagonist” because of the color of my skin for some people.  Is this the first time for me you may ask that I’ve had this experience? No. Like most Black Americans, thoughts like these are a daily burden most times. Not because of who you are, yourself, but because of who you are or are perceived to be by others.

And so, there you have it. This is what it is like sometimes to be Black in America. You have walked 3 miles in my shoes on one brisk morning. Something to think about…the real Black Experience that goes much further and deeper than just a good tan, knowing how to dance, talking in black slang, wearing certain clothes a certain way and so on. Some things just cannot be emulated and if I had to bet my last dollar on it, they wouldn’t want to be by the average American…or even by the real Black Americans themselves. But it is what it is….

Have a great day, thanks for walking with me and remember the privilege that you have as you walk in your freedom today without questioning if you will be killed because of the color of your skin. It is not your fault but it is your prerogative to be aware and enlightened if you so choose. I pray that by sharing some of myself with you, you will connect to me on a human level that you may not be familiar with but will make us stronger and bring us closer together on one accord of goodness as we continue to walk many miles together, protecting each other, shielding each other from harm.

Despite it all, in spite of it all, I have decided that the next time I walk on a cold day, I WILL engage in my freedom and put my hood on and will remember the smiling faces and welcoming greeters that I interacted with today…every person is not the same…this is my belief…therefore, I believe and have faith that there is a rainbow behind the storm. Wish me well.

I am Trayvon Martin

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