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On Unfairness

September 23, 2017

My racial conscience is built on many things; research, testimonial, introspection, discourse, and of course, my own experience being black in America. The latter of which is the only thing that remains consistent as my understanding of these issues constantly grows and changes. What I mean to say is my past is my past and those experiences don't change even though I'm changing in the here and now. I think anyone's experience is among their most valuable assets because it’s the most definitive point of contextualization anyone will ever have.

 

Black people share a common struggle, but that struggle is not experienced by every black person in the same way. Each individual experience ultimately stands on its own within the collective. I am a black man. An only child of a single parent household. Moved around a lot during my childhood but lived in relatively safe neighborhoods and went to pretty good schools, and ended up graduating from high school in a cushy Southern suburb; conservative, nice houses, majority white, and safe. Been bullied some, seen some shit, but who hasn't y'know? I had good friends, and ended up going to a top tier university with a liberal student body in a great city. No negative encounters with police, no encounters with racists where I felt I was in real danger. By my assessment that’s a good life. I’d like to think that anything comparable is like also pretty solid, especially witnessing the alternatives.


That considered, no matter how much information I absorb or what I witness about the worst this country has to offer, my life has still been my life. The worst has not been my experience; it hasn't been a lot of people's. Even in my own activism the environment I've been in presented me with what I can only describe as a lack of tangible consequences for standing up for my beliefs. There was honestly a lack of true accountability for my mistakes if I so chose to let them slide under the rug. Considering the other side then, where that same access, that freedom, that opportunity, those safety nets just...don’t exist. Sometimes I think of those who would eagerly trade places with me and whether or not I would do the same. It's a no almost every time. All that makes clear to me is that our experiences are just not comparable. How could I then internalize the anger and the stress of people who have none of what I have and yet have to fight the same fight with no leverage and no breaks every day? It’s disingenuous to the reality of the situation. Anyone who knows you realizes that whether you see it or not

 

The best I can do is echo and amplify the stories of black people who’ve experienced the worst this country has to offer because they’ve paid prices I can’t even properly conceptualize, prices I haven't had to pay. I am of course connected to their struggle but assuming that all the experiences within crossover is honestly a joke. Having less or even no shitty experiences with white people doesn't make you any less black, it just makes you lucky, so like, leverage that. I consistently approach the issues with patience, openness to compromise, and a mindfulness to context because my life experience has afforded me the time and emotional space to do so. The privileges I’ve been afforded in life allow me to approach our issues without an inherent anger, fear, or mistrust; that's a position I feel obligated to utilize. From it I draw a willingness to dialogue about my people’s justice in a way that prioritizes white people’s understanding over my own frustrations and to echo the voices and stories of those without the access or emotional space to do so; often the result of struggle and trauma I frankly haven't lived.


Sometimes people look at me crazy when I spend time and energy explaining something I know for a fact to a white person who’s fighting to prove me wrong. They'll tell it's not my job and I'm wasting my time, how it's unfair. And I don't know, some of that's true. I'm often unsuccessful and and my impact is small so maybe one day I'll get to the point where I'm gassed. But what, I'm just supposed to sit here and think about how hard it is to be black instead of contributing how I can? This is a fight, no? It has never been fair, like ever. I'm with you if you don't contribute because you're tired or you can't, or even if you just don't want to, but not because it's unfair. Unfairness is the reality of the situation and choosing not to do something because of it is just...I don't know it just seems kind of whimsical. That's a choice many don't even have the option to consider but given my life has made so that I do, it's only fair that I choose to keep with it.

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