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I look forward to the day…

I look forward to the day when I can no longer be afraid to leave the house. I look forward to the day that fear does not shoot through my body when I see a cop car behind me or riding along side me.

That day where I know my skin, height, and my mannerisms are not seen as threatening and are seen for what they should be.

You see the reality is I am no more threatening than the men who hung my ancestors, enslaved them, beat them, hosed them, attacked them with batons, and the men who allowed their dogs to attack them, yet for some reason I am and men who look like me are all seen as aggressive.

In reference to the acquittal of the officer who got away with murdering #PhilandoCastille.

I cannot actually say that I am shocked. I no longer am able to feel rage. I have literally come to expect nothing, but what typically happens when a black or brown person is murdered and nobody is charged. 

In all honesty as a black man my worst fear is usually being stopped and killed by the police. I haven’t committed a crime, yet I am worried about being stopped and killed by the police. I worry what will be said about me when I die. Will the vilify me and reference me as an aggressive person? Will my character be called into question despite what I have done in life?
What is even more appalling is the law allows for black and brown men & women to be abused by the very people they are supposed to serve and protect. This is why people like Amanda Seales are so PASSIONATE about how WE are treated.

This is why Kaepernick protested, because when we are murdered without cause we then get slapped in the face with zero justice! 
People say America is great and I love our country, but this country is not here for us in the same way it is for everyone else! That is not even a debate that can take place! 

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The Similarities

As a black man I wish I knew as a child what I know now. As a child I grew up with great friends of all ethnicities and cultures. I had friends from many different countries that spoke English as a second language, and had hard working parents just like mine.

As an adult racial biases would smack me in the face the world didn’t care how educated I was, what suit I wore, how many countries I had visited, how many people I had helped. I was still just a black man. I can recall the year I was pulled over 9 times in a 12-month span, illegally stopped, and falsely arrested. At that time I was a full time college student, I worked full time, and helped support my family. At the time my sister was undergoing dialysis due to kidney disease. My mother had recently recovered from two strokes and was then unemployed.

You see the majority of “us” (black men) no matter how well dressed, no matter how educated, no matter how well traveled, no matter what you have overcome, have had some sort of run-in with the law warranted or unwarranted and in most cases faced an experience like mine. Bias, Bias, Bias!

I’ve been at work where I’ve been treated significantly different than my peers of a different race. I’ve seen the treatment of others be significantly different thank there non-white peers or made out to be more aggressive (a biased and unwarranted stereotype).

So I shift that dehumanizing experience to another set that I have experienced. Being black and gay, interestingly enough I did not face many questions about my sexuality over the years. In the process I overheard countless homophobic jokes and disrespectful commentary about gay men, from people who did not know I happened to be gay (I have been told I don’t fit the stereotype). As my grandmother would said, “You don’t act like the rest of them…”

Over the years I have heard straight men and women refer to gay men as everything from “faggot”, to “queen”, to “sissy”. Imagine being a black person and hearing your white or Indian family, friend or associate say the word “nigger” in your presence. That’s what I felt. I could see then the bias that existed throughout society. It seemed like no matter how good of a friend, family member, volunteer, or even coworker I would still be viewed as (insert homophobic epithet). That bias existed. Though nobody directed those words directly at me I felt a certain sense of anxiety about it.

I have even seen ignorant posts and commentary about marriage equality opening the doors for bestiality or marriage to animals. Over the years I have seen family, friends, and associates hop in and out of relationships and then get married complete with white dresses a blessing from a preacher. I have seen countless straight friends get drunk, gamble, and party such that it led to pre-marital sex. Many of which would soon go on to get married. Yet we now see here that the sanctity of marriage is in question.

The past few weeks after SCOTUS’s ruling I saw so many bigoted and bias posts, reposts and pieces of commentary, I was shocked. I have seen more support for jailed murderers, drug dealers, and unwed pregnant women. It is crazy that our society and our black community would critique, criticize, and ultimately reject a group who can relate to the treatment blacks receive daily.

It is amazing that black people who were once not allowed to have civil liberties would advocate for the denial of another human being having them. While many would argue my religious beliefs or God doesn’t like “that” I would caution you to be sure you interpret your readings for your self and not just regurgitate information. I won’t go too deep but at one time the bible was used and twisted to unfairly treat black people. Don’t let abomination (which means culturally something is disliked) be thrown around when God called us to love one another.
Imagine if our black people joined together to support initiatives in our communities the way the LGBT community did. I won’t go into too much depth, but I know I don’t get nearly the response to volunteer opportunities that I do to anything related to a community service event and my colleagues I volunteer with gay and straight have long said the same thing.

Imagine if we eliminated racial biases or biases based on sexuality. Your friend that you love to death may not feel the need to be afraid to share with you that they are just a little different. I am so incredibly thankful that years ago when I shared my sexuality with my grandmother, mother, sister, and brother, and close friends they never loved me any less they simply asked, “Are you happy?” There only wish has been that no matter what I be happy. You see there is not much different between the LGBT community and the black community. Imagine no bias for race or sexuality. We could learn something from one another and move the chains so that equality wasn’t just based on sexuality, but even on race! The Similarities we overlook are glaring!
I’ve witnessed members of the LGBT community advocate for equality on their behalf. I’ve seen the LGBT community boycott businesses that openly made derogatory or discriminatory remarks against the community. Imagine if people of color did the same. Most recently the Hispanic community joined together to flex their power on Donald Trump. Again the similarities. Imagine what would happen if black people flexed their economic and political influence until equality was reached. This isn’t to say some aren’t working! I know great groups of thought leaders, organizers, and individuals who constantly work on the greater populations behalf, but it’s surely not the number we could see.

BE SAFE!

Be Safe!

Be Safe! I heard this while out and about the other day. A young student from the Ukraine studying in America was told by an American that lived in her apartment complex, “Be Safe it’s very dangerous out there!”, he said after learning she would be traveling home to the Ukraine for the summer.

I had to pause for a moment. The thought that many Americans have about other countries is that they are all “more dangerous” than we are. That some how traveling abroad would make one more susceptible to violence.

It made me think back to my own travels and experiences. Traveling to Norway and Brazil several times was quite an experience. I made those work trips pretty much alone. Yet I never felt unsafe. I can recall going for a jog in Stavanger fairly late several nights and never feeling like I would have to worry about being robbed or kidnapped. In fact Norway is one of the safest places in the world. They have some pretty unique benefits of being a native or resident. College students attend state schools for free, they have a great work life balance, and fathers receive a great amount of paternity leave when having children.

All that said one thing I learned was about how safe country of Norway was. You rarely see police; in fact police issue more parking tickets, than anything else. What struck me most about my time there is I never felt harassed by police or felt targeted. The gun laws are fairly strict there as well. You cannot obtain a gun license until 18 and you cannot obtain a handgun until the age of 21. To obtain a gun you have to even write a letter explaining why. Guns are required to be locked, in a gun case and police have the right to inspect homes where guns are thought to be improperly secured. The statistics as of 2012 showed at 1.75/ 100,000 people died as a result of gun violence. That’s an unheard of statistic.

It made me think of how often before traveling family and people who haven’t had the opportunity to travel abroad automatically assumed the places I traveled were dramatically more dangerous. They uttered similar words to the man I overheard earlier this week.

However when I look at my experiences in America my experiences have been far more dangerous or maybe it just feels that way. I can recall being a 20 year old attending a pool party and upon exiting the car and walking to the pool being met with a gunmen who mistook me for someone else. Thank God he took the opportunity to speak to me and realize I was not the one he had a previous altercation with. In that instance I realized my safety or so I thought I had was relatively non-existent. He was carrying a semi-automatic handgun. Something you would need if going to war, not protecting yourself or your home.

In 2014 on a work trip I was traveling with a colleague (who is from and lives in the UK) in Europe and we started to talk about his experiences in visiting America. I was shocked. He was actually quite nervous about returning. He mentioned that on his first visit while doing what I had done in Europe (going for a late night run) he was pistol whipped and robbed. It was so disheartening to hear this story. I can’t imagine his experience and the difficulty he had in the remainder of his first trip. Losing your wallet, means of pay, and identification while traveling abroad is not a fun experience let alone being assaulted with a weapon and having to make a hospital visit.
I still recall the night I was walking down the street after parking near a local bar I was meeting friends at. A cop rounded the block, lights flashing and randomly stops me. “Put your hands up!” he yells as his hand is on his gun and he and his partner approach me. “Put your hands on the car!” he says and I comply. I am searched and as I am searched I nervously ask, “Officer what am I being stopped for?” He replied, “You are in a high prostitution and drug trafficking area!” Those words still burn me to this day. I’ve worked my entire life to contribute to my community and to uplift those around me so I would not participate in either of those professions (they demean, degrade, deflate, and murder communities). It is in that instance I felt unsafe in a city, in a state, and in a country I have lived in from birth. I have never committed a crime. I have never succumbed to being a stereotype and I have never disrespected an officer of the law. It is in that moment that I did question what I should do after his response. My pride and integrity were hurt, battered, and I felt like someone had spat in my face.

What does this have to do with safety one might ask? In America we have a view of the world that is relatively different from others who live throughout the world. I would encourage those of us concerned or overly concerned with things like gay marriage, women’s right to choose what they do with their body, and whether or not Nene will leave RHOA to pick a cause that impacts more of us. Take up a cause on education, a cause on better gun laws, and/or laws that protect citizens no matter their race or culture.

I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunities I have had in life, to be able to travel and explore different parts of the world and different cultures and most importantly to learn. In America we like to think we have a considerably “better” standard of living! We are a blessed nation, but we could certainly be better. Be Safe!