I am a Black Man. I have scars on my back; they are deep, they are blistering, they hurt, and they bleed the blood of my history, but I bear them. I bear them for the struggle and the pain endured by people who lowered their heads, kneeled, marched and died so that I could stand. I have scars on my heart; they are deep, they are blistering, and they too hurt. These scars sometimes hurt so badly until there are moments when I feel my heart may burst! But I bear them; I bear them for the undying love of people who continue to love me, who taught me to love them, taught me to love you, and more importantly, taught me to love myself, even under the most hateful of circumstances.
I am a Black Man covered with scars. Please recognize that with all of these scars that have been inflicted upon me, my soul is not damaged. I will not allow your infliction to get close to my soul or crush my spirit because my father taught me that defeat is not an option. My father told me that future generations are depending on me to be strong, to teach them, to nurture them, to protect them and to love them so that one day they might have fewer scars.
I hurt. Though my pain is severe, on most days, you will never know. You will never know because I stand proud, and I take seriously my responsibility to future generations who, through their innocence, deserve that I lay my body down for them.
If you do see my pain, please make no mistake – it is not a sign of weakness. Showing my pain is not a sign that I’m giving up. Showing my pain is my way of letting you know I am about to shift into a higher gear.
I didn’t ask for this, nor did I do anything to deserve this. I find it interesting that you continue to believe that I owe you something. The belief that I owe you because I learned to read and that I now have an education. Admittedly so, I have an education you didn’t want me to have, an education I obtained though you said I was incapable of learning. Yes, I have an education I obtained despite the fact you didn’t want me in “your schools.” Is this why you are sometimes jealous and envious of my educational achievements?
You tell me that I should dress a certain way or wear my hair a certain way to assimilate. You told my sister and my daughter that their hair was too ethnic, not professional, and that their hair was distracting. You forbade them to wear those styles to work and to school. When they stood up, you fired my sister and expelled my daughter. You then cut off my son’s hair in the middle of a wrestling match! My sister, my daughter, my son, my family – I carry them on my back, I carry them in my heart. And if history has taught you nothing else, it should have taught you this: I do not break. Your petty, privilege, power grab will never pierce my soul.
You tell me that if I comply, then I can be successful in business and life. I beg to differ; because when I do so, you place more obstacles in my path. All of this so I will fit into your perfect world. Well, your world is flawed; it is not perfect.
You tell me that we are all free and equal, and I should not fear the police. Please understand that the police have murdered me multiple times over. Even with videotaped evidence of the harsh reality of my murder, few are held accountable, with no consequences, no retribution. Your brother and sister have called the police on my sister and me because we simply showed up. The result of many of these calls has led to my family burying my sister and me, also many times over. Yes, I hurt, and my family mourns.
You tell me lots of things, but you don’t listen well. Please listen to this. I like my hair, I like my clothes, I like my music, and I love my swagger! If you pay close attention and look around, you will see your children trying to emulate my style and my flair. You may as well get used to it because I’m not changing. Quite frankly, why should I? You won’t.
When I exercise my right to speak up and speak out, you view my passion as a threat. That’s a personal issue with which you must deal. Other times when I speak up and speak out, you say I’m playing the race card, you say I’m playing the victim, you say I’m too sensitive and, sometimes, you even call me a thug. Well, I have a two-word expletive for you. Please feel free to fill in the blanks. You will not silence me.
You asked me a question, and I hope it is sincere. You asked, “What can you do?” For starters, if you simply care about my life as much as you cared about Michael Vick’s dogs, that will help. You see, I am not really asking for a lot. I would like for you to understand that my story is different from yours. But both stories represent our truth. If either story is filled with hatred and animosity, then we need to get to the root of the matter and get rid of the rotting pieces of that root that are inhibiting growth.
I challenge you to sit back for a moment and close our eyes. I would then like for you to visualize civil unrest, including rioting, vandalizing, looting and thugs. If the faces you see only look like me, then it is time to examine your roots, not mine.
I am a Black Man. I have scars. I work daily to try and heal my scars. Yesterday you approached me and extended your hand in brotherhood. I accepted; It felt good. I felt comfort. This morning, out of nowhere, I felt the sting of a slap from your other hand. It is in my nature to forgive, but that slap landed on top of very deep wounds that never seem to get better, so I’m struggling with forgiveness. I will most likely get there, but I need your help.
I ask only two things. First, don’t apologize to me, assuming that will make me feel better. Apologies don’t heal wounds. What I need for you to understand is that I cannot heal without you. So, the next time you extend your hand in brotherhood, extend both hands. Hold my hands, walk with me, talk with me, work with me, listen to me. Work to understand, appreciate and value me. But most importantly, see me. I have scars.