This past Christmas, I was out with some friends hitting the bar scene in my hometown.
As the night was winding down, I said my goodnights and left the bar. Obviously, I had every intention to grab a hot slice down the street to help keep warm on that frigid December night-I mean who doesn’t love a slice after a night out?
Eating my pizza, I was savoring the livelihood of the street with the sounds, sights and smells of my home one last time before I headed back to my life in Washington, D.C.
I walked past a small group of strangers- guys I had never seen, never met, never spoken to before.
Dipping my shoulder to avoid bumping into one of them on the crowded sidewalk, I overheard him say to his friend “Look at that nigger eatin’ his pizza.”
I wasn’t sure how to act or feel. I was angry- I wanted to have a conversation with my hands- my right was particularly eager to share it’s insightful thoughts on the matter but I paused- thought about it.
What would it look like when a young black (or half black) man on the street was physically the aggressor towards another?
I would be yet another statistic. Another reason for people to “fear” someone like- another excuse to “stand their ground” if they felt “threatened” . Besides, I was the only one who heard the pungent words that sloppily slid out of the mouth of this drunken jester.
I opted to talk to this person- I wanted to teach him something despite his conscience floating in a pool of cheap light beer.
Upon confrontation, the man seem shocked that I approached him and through slurred, barely audible mumbling he said he didn’t realized he had said something “racial.”
He stopped short of an apology.
I went on to try to explain how his words are hurtful- something I genuinely doubt was able to shift his drunken and bigoted mentality.
I walked to my car. I went home.
When I got into my living room and sat. In the cold, lonely silence of the early morning I felt deflated, angry, powerless. The Kanye West line repeated itself over and over in my mind:
Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe
Even. If. You. In. A. Benz. You. Still. A. Nigga. In. A. Coupe.
Even. If. You. In. A. Benz. You. Still. A. Nigga. In. A. Coupe.
It felt like no matter where I go in life, no matter what I do in life, no matter this, no matter that, no matter anything- Race is always going to be an issue, a never ending climb up the steep slope to the Mountain Top.
I searched for the answer on the turbulent sea of raw emotion as tears began to leak from my eyes. I felt anger, frustration, sadness, powerlessness… hate.
I ran the scenario over and over again through my mind. I didn’t do what I wanted to do in the heat of the moment- but I did what I HAD to do, what I NEEDED to do.
What is the solution?
Compassion, Love, Power. The willingness to share my expereice- to bring light to a the dark corner of ignorance. To empower others so that the future will not be stripped down of its vibrant diversity to the bare bones of cowardice and weakeness to judge one based on appearance.
We need to take the baton and continue the uphill journey to the Mountain Top.
I am willing to make this climb.
I sat at my computer and just began to write. Raw emotion flowed from my fingertips. I wanted somehow for this person to feel my pain, to walk in my shoes, to appreciate my experience, my struggle.
I immediately posted what I wrote to Facebook not to share what happened with my friends and family for some sort of sympathy.
I did it with the hope that this guy was a “friend” of a “friend” and the message would be delivered.
I doubt it reached him.
I did get something back, however.
What I got in return was an unprecedented and unexpected amount of love from those that truly stand on the side of equality and inclusion.
I heard from people I hadn’t heard from in years and I felt like it brought to light a discussion that needed to be had- a discussion that needs to be had.
I want to share my letter with you in the hopes that it can reach even further- and attitudes can be shifted.
Real change is made one mind at a time.
Continue the climb.
Here is my letter:
To the Waste of Flesh that referred to me as a “NIGGER eating pizza” tonight:
I take a fierce amount of pride in where I come from. I am fiercely proud of my heritage and my home. You are proof that ignorance is alive and well and that WE still have work to do. As I told you tonight, I should have decked you in the face and left you unconscious with a black eye, however that would accomplish nothing and I am BETTER than that. But I hope that you took something away from our encounter, hope that you one day come to understand the true meaning of what you really said. You see, when I confronted you, your true cowardice was revealed- you understood you were wrong and acknowledged the fact, however your words displayed that you hold a hate within. You proved that you are filth, the worst of what humans have to offer. I am thoroughly embarrassed that you call my hometown home but you motivate me to march Forward to work to eradicate the mindless ignorance that plagues our society to this day.
The quest for true equality is so far from over and you are evidence that there is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done. You revealed a deep seeded pain that has been rooted in the shadows of history that has not yet been put to rest. I pledge my life- my EVERYTHING to ensuring that you and people who think the way you do will be extinct in the next generation, the disease you have in your mind will be one day eradicated from the earth and although I may never live to see it, I look forward to that day with a smile on my face.
I wear a wristband on my right arm that reads “Leave your mark to endure forever” and I swear by that. The mark will be left and you will be forgotten- you will blow away in the wind like the dirt that you are. I wanted to hit you, wanted you to feel the pain of your attempt to sully my being on the left side of your face, but what would that do? Leave you with a bruise and a story that a Black man assaulted you. You would win that way. We are playing on my terms and when playing on my terms, I WILL NOT LOSE.
I’m sorry for you and those like you and take pity on you for not knowing better. I hope you truly took something away from our interaction and know that in the end, love and understanding will triumph over the darkness of hate and ignorance. The mark will be left to endure FOREVER and I will use my being as a vehicle to make sure that this Dream will become realized.
If you have any questions comments or concerns, I am willing to talk and I’m not hard to find.
With the Utmost Sincerity,