You know the funniest part of that SNL sketch The Day Beyonce Turned Black? When Sasheer Zamata's character has to remind her white friend Amy (who is in the middle of freaking out about Beyonce's blackness) that she's also black. "No you're not!" Amy says, "You're--like--my girl."
It's funny because I know what it's like to be disassociated from being black, because I'm well-spoken, wear a belt, read C.S. Lewis, and make my own bruschetta.
What could be more non-threatening than a man who makes his own bruschetta?
And those same traits and hobbies, that make me so non-threatening, also make it hard for people to see me (and people like me) as 'really black'--which goes to show that there is an unconscious assumption, in our country, that black people are inherently dangerous.
It's an assumption that most are unaware of, but it informs so much of society: from microaggressions like "you're not really black", to being followed more closely in clothing stores, to disproportionately being jailed for petty crimes at a higher rate than our white neighbors.
To be black in America is to be a threat, a life-long suspect. It's exhausting (click to tweet this). On three separate occasions, I was nearly arrested for the 'suspicious' activities of waiting to cross the street, sitting in a car (for which I was accused of having a gun), and spitting off of a subway platform (for which they detained me to check my criminal record). If only these people knew that I'm a singer of really sensitive music. If only they knew that I'm a Bible teacher. If only they knew: I make my own bruschetta..
The truth is that the average person of color lives in a very different America than many of his or her white neighbors. What life is like in this 'other America' has been well documented, but it is hard to believe for those who are not experiencing it.
And because they're not experiencing the 'other' America, they think it's the land of make believe.
That is why sharing our stories are so important. That is why I'm sharing my song 'America'. Contrary to what FOX News might tell you, racism thrives on privileged silence. So, we must keep talking about the way the legacy of white supremacy continues to inform our society--openly, honesty, with humility, and in detail--or else we will never be a just society.