They Never Said They Were Sorry

“P-dog, I’m sorry I got mad and yelled at you last night. I’m not mad at you. I’m sorry you have to suffer and feel threatened because you are lumped together with white people because you have fair skin, brown hair, and blue eyes. The fact is that you are not a white person. You are not even from here. Whiteness is thrust upon you just as blackness is thrust upon me. You are not a white person unless you choose to consider yourself white, which is something that you may be forced to do upon your immigration to America. As Baldwin said, “Whiteness is a moral choice.” You are a first-generation Polish immigrant who came here in the recent past. My anger is not towards you. You had no part in this complicity because by the time you arrived a light had been shown upon the complicity of the people who call themselves white in this country. My anger is towards the people who adopted the attitude of whiteness when they came from Europe generations ago and who stood by and were complicit to my destruction.

What you may not understand is that I grew up in the Jim Crow South. I lived in real fear of my life. I had white people come to my elementary school and try to Lord it over me. They automatically thought they were better than me. The white teachers automatically were condescending to me even though the school was named after a family member who was a great educator in the black community. It was horrible and left a scar that is hard to heal. We’re not talking 100 years ago, not even 50 years ago, we are talking about my lifetime. Here, you are speaking to a person you actually know who has experienced this; a person not far from your own age. We were in real fear of our lives in those days. When I was a child, I saw horrible pictures of lynchings and were taught about slavery and that my people were in fact lesser than because we allowed ourselves to be enslaved. This leaves deep scars and when people can’t understand when we say “black lives matter” when our lives literally meant nothing for so long, it makes me ill. When you say we commit most of the crimes, perhaps disproportionately in certain areas, we do. But that doesn’t mean all black people are criminals. What you are saying is that if you are black you are more likely to commit a crime. What does that say for your nephew or my nephew or any other nice young black man? How can you lump them in with those statistics? But they do, systematic profiling does. That’s why innocent black men must be warned before they go out into the world. See Oprah’s conversation with 100 Black Fathers.