The man in the hood appreciates your sentiments, he really does. He thinks it’s wonderful that you are willing to stick your neck out on social media to protest the murder of his friend that got his neck crushed. The man in the hood will just ask you one question, one question that perhaps you haven’t asked yourself about racism, about brutality, about changing the culture of what it is like to live as a person of color in America.
The man in the hood asks if you would ever be friends with a man from the hood?
You see, the man in the hood applauds the effort, the words. But he doesn’t want to be your cause. He wants to be your friend. He wants to know that you don’t only know his name, but you have his number in your phone, that he can call you, text you, depend on you to be there for him. The man in the hood needs to know that you will remember him, because we will remember our friends, even though we have shown we always forget our causes.
He wants to know your plan, the one you talk about, the one to end racism. He is curious, is it just to post on facebook that “Black Lives Matter” and then go on with your day? He is wondering if you would have marched with Dr. King, or just told your friends you would, but you had to work that day instead?
The man in the hood isn’t mad, he has seen this before. The kind gesture of love you say in the morning, only to see you cross the street as he approaches you later that night. He has seen racism all his life, and as mad as you get when you read about it, you will never come close to the madness he feels living it.
He wonders when you say that you have black friends, if that is your ticket, your “I’m doing my part”. He is curious if you look at your phone if the last 10 or even 20 people you called, you texted, are black, or if the black friends you have are more like acquaintances?
Have you ever even been to dinner with a black man?
He wants you to know that he is trying, and he appreciates you trying, but he looks at an America that can’t even come together to wear masks to save lives, and wonders how they can come together to save his?
He wants you to share posts, he wants you to make noise, but he needs you to speak actual words in actual places, to actual people who don’t know you. Like they don’t know him. He doesn’t need you to say aloud Amen inside the church, full of fellow believers, he needs you to seek out his enemies and say Hallelujah, and put yourself in the position to feel the hate he feels everyday.
The man in the hood wants to be your friend, because to know him will be to know his story, and to know his story will be the only way to tell his story. He wants to know if you have ever actually sat down with his fellow brothers and sisters of color and talked, listened. Heard.
We cannot change water from being wet, nor can you change one with hate in their heart. But you can help build dams to prevent floods from drowning those who cannot swim, and you can be the one to reach out your hand to save a life, but only if you put down your phone.
Hate will always be part of a society that doesn’t recognize love. We teach hate, in such a subtle way, that we don’t see the weeds growing because we just assume the flowers will always bloom. We teach hate when we don’t teach children to love. Kids don’t hate ghosts because they are told to, they hate ghosts because they see their parents affraid of them.
The man in the hood wants you to know one last thing, the thing he hopes you will understand, truly understand. He wants you to know that he wants to pull the hoodie down, that he wants the world to see his face, to know his name, to hear his story. He just needs to know if you feel comfortable being seen with him first.