“A FB "friend" posted this. And although I wanted to be positive today, it just served as a reminder that no matter how hard I work, how much education I have, and how many sacrifices I make, to some I'm still just a nigger in a stolen car.”
I wrote that last night with the above meme. I was offended when I saw the meme. I physically scrolled past it, but my brain didn’t allow me to just scroll past. So I went back and looked at it long and hard. I looked. I felt anger. I felt sad. Not only do people feel this way, but its OK to post this crap on FB. After much thought, I shared the post on my page with the above caption. Before doing so, I talked to my wife about it, at first, she wanted to tone my language down. I tried and succeeded some, but ultimately, the language used was necessary to prove my point.
I considered tagging the guy who shared it on his page. I didn’t because I didn’t think it gentlemanly to do so. But he came on to defend himself. His defense was: “Sorry buddy. Facts don't lie. Quit feeling sorry for yourself.”
Thank you Ken (FB “friend” who posted it) for proving my point. You’re right, facts don’t lie. And the fact is that no matter what I have done to make myself a good man and what I continue to do to be a good man, to some people I’m just some nigger in a nice car I didn’t earn.
I work hard. Very hard. Ask my wife. Ask my staff. So, when I get pulled over, hopefully the police officer pulling me over doesn’t have this meme on his phone. And even if he doesn’t, the bias is still there. And we all have that bias. Black, white, brown... we all have it to some extent. It’s impossible to actually get rid of the bias. That’s impossible to do. All I want and all I expect is that the bias is recognized, so that we as a people can work to overcome it.
And let’s be clear: most police officers aren’t running around with this meme on their phone looking to shoot black men. But Ken’s meme and his defense prove the point that the Black Lives Movement makes: Treat me the same way you would treat Ken during a traffic stop.
Now, respect goes two ways so we have a duty to respect the law and comply with valid orders. However, and this is what white America doesn’t understand because you haven’t lived it, there are times when I’ll get pulled over not for speeding, but because I’m black in a nice car or a neighborhood I don’t belong in. There are cops who want to remind us of that fact: Nice car boy, but you’re still black. That happens folks– not nearly as much as 20 years ago, but it happens. And when it does, the stop begins with frustration, not because I was pinched for speeding but because I am suspect because I’m black.
And that’s the point: The color of my skin doesn’t make me suspect.
After I posted, a mini riot erupted on my page. And the people that know me– including all of you that have read my page over the years– knows that was not the intent. Here’s this morning’s response:
“Here's the thing folks: I didn't post this to start a race war, especially on my page. I posted it for two reasons: a) for the reason initially stated-- to many, it doesn't matter how many words you use to describe me: father (a damn good one too-- I take the most pride in this) husband, lawyer, friend, son, brother; it doesn't matter how much money I earn, where I live or how I live, I am still defined by some by the color of my skin. Secondly, I wanted to shine a light on it. Initially, was going to tag Ken, but didn't think that "gentlemanly" or honorable, so I didn't. But, he came on and tried to defend himself. And his defense proves my point. Black families with guns are thugs whereas white families with guns are sportsmen or protecting themselves from me. Its ironic, because Ken actually makes the BLM (I'm not wild about BLM) point: treat me the same as you would a white man/woman. That's really all I expect. And for the strict constitutionalists out there-- which I presume Ken is one-- that's what I deserve. Regardless of the color of my skin, I've certainly earned that, Ken. With that, have a great Saturday, people! Be well!”
So I share that with you now. I’m not looking for sympathy or pity. Ken– and the people out there like him– prove the point. Racism, bias and prejudice does exist.
And I certainly don’t feel sorry for myself, Ken. I feel sorry for you. I feel pity for your children.
After the post, I was on my patio with a neighbor and my wife having drinks. My kids were upstairs sleeping. When my neighbor left, when my house was quiet, I stood in my dining room and looked out into the street. In those few moments a flood of emotions came bubbling up; none negative. I felt immense pride. Pride that my kids do not live in a house that teaches bias toward people because of skin color. Racism is learned. Ken’s kids will learn it from their father (and maybe mother). Mine won’t. My children will associate with people based upon the content of their character.
I felt pride of the example my wife and I provide for our children. We work hard. Education, in and out of the classroom, is important. I felt pride about our neighbors, our many friends and the life we’ve built in Northbrook (and the foundation we laid before moving here). We’re just the Thomas house. I felt pride– and still do– about the direction this country is moving. We’re going the right way. I feel it in my community. I feel it daily. And there are stragglers out there with Ken who miss the good ole days when you could say nigger in public, but that generation is dying. So we soldier on. And we work to be good parents. We work to be good examples for our kids. We work to be good neighbors. We work to be good people.
But I’ll fall short on being a good person. But when I do, remember I fell short because I’m human, not because I’m black.
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