On Being a Black Man

Dear Mr. Smith — Congratulations on all that you have accomplished in life. You sound like a man with whom I would like to be friends. I am sorry for the negative feelings and experiences forced on you as a successful man — a successful Black man.

Growing up in the 1960s, I lived in a well integrated neighborhood of a major city, had numerous good friends of color, and honestly did not at all understand that there was any difference between myself and my friends of color. I was fully comfortable with people regardless of color, nationality, or almost any other “feature” or difference. To this day I have very good friends who are successful Black men, with whom I can share anything, any thought or feeling, without concern.

Racism does unfortunately exist in America. In truth, I feel that racism in America today is worse than at any time during my life. But much of the racism is Black against White racism. Furthermore, any discomfort I may feel in certain circumstances, such as walking down a street at night with several young Black men walking behind me, is a direct result of unfortunate facts of today’s America where a small portion of the 15 percent of the population (who are Black) commit 53 percent of all violent crimes; where I see on TV, young Black Men playing “The Knockout Game,” by striking and knocking unconscious white people, including old men and old ladies; where I see mostly young Black men burning down cities, destroying cars and businesses, and assaulting innocent bystanders solely because they are white.

Unfortunately stereotyping is a reality that is based on proven experience. I suspect that if you have a reason to be in a poverty stricken, mostly Black neighborhood, you yourself either alter your mode of dress and speech, of fear criminal attack — because a majority of crimes committed by young Black men are against other Black people.

I and most of the White people I know, hope and pray that we can all get along, without racism, and that those suffering in poverty can be lifted up. However, many of us understand that the “Great Society” “welfare” programs implemented during the Lyndon Johnson administration in the 1960s have become a trap for generations of Black Americans who were steered into generations of poverty as a direct result of US social policies that not only failed but made things worse.

Finally, I promise you this, were you and I ever to meet, unless you were dressed and acting like a gang-banger or thug, you would receive no strange or fearful stares from me. I would introduce myself and be pleased to meet you, regardless of your color.