In Living Color: I Am Not Black

Black Lives Matter Sign

I am a person of color. But I am not Black.

I am a person of color and I believe in God. But I am not Black.

I am a person of color who contributes to The Jesuit Post. I feel I should articulate and reflect upon my indignation. But I am not Black.

And, what would…could I say?

I would say what it’s like to be looked upon with suspicion for being in a certain type of store or a particular kind of neighborhood. But I am not Black.

I could share experiences of being pulled over and frisked and searched and called violent names by police. But I am not Black.

I would reflect on having been blatantly overlooked, ignored, and not taken seriously because of the color of my skin. But I am not Black.

I could explain why I look around a room to assess how many non-White faces I see to measure my level of safety. But I am not Black.

I would point out challenges of being a man of color in a predominantly White religious order. But I am not Black.

I could speak about tensions I feel when I read Facebook posts and Tweets and emails that speak about the myth of “white privilege” and “silent racism.” But I am not Black.

I want to say something. But I am not Black.

I want to do something. But I am not Black.

I want to stand up and shout. But I am not Black.

***

I am a person of color. I am Brown. #AllLivesMatter.

But not really.

A homeless man was recently set on fire in San Diego – the fourth in a four-day spree that has left two dead. And we continue to struggle with homelessness and poverty and income inequality. But, #AllLivesMatter.

Women are told it was their fault for being raped. But, #AllLivesMatter.

American citizens and our government leaders can’t agree on immigration reform. But, #AllLivesMatter.

This country might elect a president whose rhetoric has included racist remarks. But, #AllLivesMatter.

There are 49 LGBTQ+ lives forever gone in Orlando, two dead black men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, and five Dallas police officers murdered. Countless others. All across this country. It won’t seem to stop! And yet there are gun laws and opinions, video proof and statistics, ignorance and bigotry, intolerance and biases, that just don’t align with all lives mattering. But, #AllLivesMatter.

And we have new hashtags followed by names of the dead, and calls for prayers, and Facebook posts, and Tweets, and…#AllLivesMatter.

***

My Brown Skin matters because of the Black Skin that came before it. Black Lives gave birth to Civil Rights. It was a door, blown wide open, allowing Americans of Color to walk through more aware of a voice deep inside. It took people like Rodolfo Gonzales, César Chávez, Joan Baez, and so many more. They helped our country hear the voice of my people. But the seeds for their voices to grow loud came at the cost of Black Lives. So, yes, #BlackLivesMatter.

Black Skin reminds us of our history, of our neglect, of our indifference; it threatens us, so we hide behind our Constitution and Right to Bear Arms and Free Speech and Assumptions. We hide behind our social media posts. The Black Skin gave us culture and fear. Black Skin makes us trigger happy even if we don’t carry a Glock .22. And it seems only in times of shock and loss are we faced with our own participation in the destruction of Black Skin. So, yes, #BlackLivesMatter.

I am not Black. I do not know what it’s like to live inside that skin. I am not White. I do not have that kind of privilege. I am Brown. I have my own strengths and struggles. But from one Color to another, the pain is all too close to my soul, my heart cries, my head pounds, my Skin screams with anger. So, yes, #BlackLivesMatter.

But, what do we do?!

I propose we pray, yes, pray all the live long day. But we also need to get up off our knees, put those rosaries down, even step away from the screens, and the Facebook, and the Twitter, and the news-noise. Go out our front door, cross our yards or hallways, and meet our neighbor. In the most literal way possible, meet our neighbor. Look them in the eye, shake their hand, know their name. Do the same if it’s an office or cubicle. At the bus stop, the coffee shop, the grocery store. It seems too simple, on the verge of being naive. But maybe simplicity is what we need when everything else fails. Fear breeds inside the unknown. If we take a moment to know each other then maybe we can begin to live with each other. Then maybe Black Lives will finally matter. And then every American can say, without protest, without doubt, without hesitation or qualification, All Lives Matter.

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The cover image by Flickr user nevermindtheend can be found here.

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