The Plight of the Safe Black Man

The plight of the safe black man.

Sitting in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lecture “A Deeper Black: Race in America,” at Temple University,  I was frustrated.

A black man had a platform to talk about being a black man in America, in 2016. Most importantly – a black man had the platform to talk about being a black man in America, in 2016, to a room full of non-black men.

After the very public murders of . . .

Alton Sterling,

Philado Castille,

Keith Lamont Scott,

Terence Crutcher,

a black man had a platform to talk about being a black man in America, in 2016, to a room full of non-black men.

Given that platform, I wanted Coates to get up on stage and be the angry black man. I wanted him to make the audience feel what we as black and brown people feel on a daily basis.

At one point Coates said, “When people say we’re entering a new era of domestic terrorism it’s because they’ve never been black.”

I heard that.

I felt that.

And, I wondered who else heard and felt the same.

All too often black men (boys, girls and women as well) are criminalized.

Criminalized at work, in school, in the neighborhood and on the news.

It takes a special kind of black man to be welcomed into a fairly non-black space (Academia) to talk about blackness.

Just to be clear – it’s not that black people aren’t academic – but, black people, as we know, haven’t always had the opportunity to engage in academia. Even still the five faces of oppression (violence exploitation, marginalization,  powerlessness and cultural imperialism) and continual systemic debilitation of black people continue to keep us out of Academia. Thus, the academic world, in large part, is still fairly white.

What kind of black man does it take to be welcomed into the living room of white men and women?

The answer is simple: a non threatening one.

One that code switches appropriately.

What does that mean?

One that is black (skinned) but not too black.

Remember how many times Obama was called a monkey?

One that can address issues in an urgent but not irate tone.

Not doing so didn’t work out too well for Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or Fred Hampton.

So, I wonder how many times we (black/brown people) lose out on the opportunity to speak our truths based solely on audience.

If I had to assume – I’d think that those of us who’ve earned and been given a platform have to loosen/lessen/rid of some parts of our truths in order to be heard non-threateningly.

My concern is that if we continue to go that route we might not ever be actually heard.

Lastly. I’m ready for another round of the 10 point program.

Same points.

New generation.

-Shamira

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