fear is a four letter word

At risk of fearing judgment in sharing tonight's experience, I say, "to hell with fear"...fear is how we got ourselves in the predicament we are in to begin with.

Like most, I spent the day with a physio-chemical reaction to the murders in SC...feeling helpless, I decided to act SOMEHOW, SOME WAY.....I'm not looking for a pat on the back and yeah "I've got lots of friends who are black"-cliche in hand, my friends all know where I stand.  I know where I stand...but there was something on the face of strangers yesterday-or more like, something missing...glazed over, trance-like emptiness.  I was selfishly, desperate to have a conversation...

After my gig at the Hyatt, I loaded my car and noticed 4 black gentleman taking a smoke break across from the hospital...My soul was begging for communion and I figured today of all days would be the day to yell from a mountaintop, "CAN WE PLEASE GET TOGETHER AS HUMANS AND SHARE OUR HEARTS AND SOULS"?!?! ...but also a day to understandedly get scoffed at and be pegged ignorant...I marched right on up to them and mustered up the courage to boldly interrupt.  I said, "Excuse me...I'm going out on a limb...putting myself at risk..." and then they saved me by interrupting, "we're totally open to that-you can take a risk"...their names were, Gerard, Danny, Jamal and Keith Kelly...we talked about stuff. For a long time.

They didn't even light up another cigarette- there was too much we all wanted to get off our chest...strangers...trusting one another...and talking...about stuff. Mostly about fear and lack of education.  A lack of identity.  A lack of eye contact. A lack of their nephews and kid brothers wearing pants that fit properly -further making it difficult on their elders to defend. (A lack of wanting to express anything on Facebook about real issues)...and so...much...more. Keith told me that they were all huddled talking about what they could possibly do to get through to the next generation - almost mentoring and coaching Jamal who was about 17(?).

Gerard showed me the gray hairs in his beard and explained that he grew the beard because, shaved, "I look a lot younger...and I get targeted"...I told him, "you were born a target - make no mistake...I am aware". 

Jamal shyly expressed what I know to be common place, that since boyhood, he and his peers are all taught different codes of who, how and when you can look at certain white people.

Danny asked me, "so tell me-if we were wearing our pants low, would you have still come over here?"...I told him truthfully I innately knew they worked at the hospital because two appeared to be wearing scrubs of some kind "so I figured you guys for saints".  I pointed at the buildings and said, this is where I work - I felt comfortable because this is my "turf"...and I was born white and just cute enough...you shoulda seen me when I was younger-I was really cute..." wink. 

It was time to go.  Keith asked my name and shook my hand - I obnoxiously read each one of their name tags as if this time I might remember some names...and imposed a "hug-out".  Fear is a four letter word.  "F" it.  Let's hug some of this shit out 'n stuff. We are, in fact, all in this together.

4 comments

  • Shari D

    Shari D Madison

    Love this, love you. If we could all just take a first step, that first hello, we just have to start somewhere, with someone.

    Love this, love you. If we could all just take a first step, that first hello, we just have to start somewhere, with someone.

  • Matt Elvin

    Matt Elvin Middle of Nowhere, Michigan

    No gratuitous pat on the back, just grateful that you took a "chance" and had this experience. My response, and I hope I am able to follow through, is to express my displeasure in no uncertain terms to those who utter any racist or otherwise intolerant remarks in my presence. I fear that's going to make me unpopular in certain circles. Well, so be it. I've been quiet for too long.

    No gratuitous pat on the back, just grateful that you took a "chance" and had this experience. My response, and I hope I am able to follow through, is to express my displeasure in no uncertain terms to those who utter any racist or otherwise intolerant remarks in my presence. I fear that's going to make me unpopular in certain circles. Well, so be it. I've been quiet for too long.

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    Clay USA

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