When heinous crimes are committed by men who look like me…I understand.
To begin, I have to set a baseline in the opinion that as human beings, I believe we all possess the power of empathy. It’s one of our instincts where we can sense how another person is feeling. Whether they’re happy or sad. Worried or excited. But more than just emotions, we can also sense when someone’s happy to see us. Whether they’re attracted to us. Whether they got something against us, like resentment or some unspoken animosity or envy.
Some of us are better than others. Some of us ignore this ability. And some of us go to great lengths to deny what they’re sensing to relieve themselves of some form of responsibility, (ie…claiming they didn’t know or saying they didn’t want to assume anything).
Aside from this ability, we’re also faced with the obstacle of doubt. Meaning, even when you sense something’s wrong, or someone’s feeling a type of way…the disbelief of others takes it toll. Not to mention people will lie to your face about it. There’s the practice of gas-lighting where we’re sometimes made to believe it’s all in our head, that we’re making something out of nothing, or that we’re just projecting. And sometimes they’re right.
Empathy is a skill that takes years to hone and refine. It can be sharpened based on our experience with people, our trials and errors. And not just you and your circle of friends, but also people who come from all walks of life, different backgrounds, races, gender, and culture. And even when you acquire this skill, it also takes time and experience to trust it.
When I was a kid called “sensitive” and they were right. I was extremely sensitive and not in just the “hurt my feelings” kind of way…I could sense or detect how the people around me felt. They didn’t need to say anything. I just felt it. Which brings me to the point of this topic…
Last week, I came across a tragic article where a man, recently paroled, was charged with killing an innocent college student in Chicago. Basically, this dude tried to cat-call her, she ignored him while trying to walk to her car but this asshole went and got mad for being ignored. He put her in a headlock, raped, and killed her. This poor girl’s body was found by her sisters and campus security. The parents, being good Christians, put out a message of forgiveness.
But the killer…his appearance perpetuates a stereotype. This man was big, tall, and black. I’m big, tall, and black. Thus…I understand why people are afraid of people like me. You can read the article to find out the full details. But in my dismay, I wrote the following comment:
“This is one of the reasons why I don’t blame people, especially women, when it comes to being afraid of men like me…big, black, obviously stronger than most. You try to live by example to show others that we’re not all the same and you can be cool and relax around people like me…but then stuff like this happens on a seemingly regular basis. And then we wonder why women cross the street just to avoid men like me. Or why women clutch to their boyfriends just a little bit tighter when I walk by. Or the sound of doors locking when I’m approaching. I’m sorry for the family of the victim. It sounds like she did everything she was supposed to do and still got killed anyway. Thanks to men who look like me.”
A lot of people gave me “likes” for the comment. I didn’t do it for the likes, it’s what I truly believe and brood every time I see a story of heinous acts of violence committed by big black men. Maybe it’s all in my head, right? But then something interesting happened. A confession in a response to my comment from a woman named Cheryl. She wrote:
“And every time I cross the street I feel ridiculous and bigoted, until something like this happens. Bless you for your understanding.”
I don’t judge or look down on Ms. Cheryl for writing that. I told another friend what she wrote and he was like, “But she is being racist and bigoted. You’re not suppose to assume all black men are like the ones you see getting locked up.”
I hear what he’s saying, at the same time, I know exactly what she’s talking about. That’s why I hate the media’s portrayal of black people…Yeah, Black People definitely hold some responsibility for how we’re perceived, but it does seem like the media tends to portray the worst of us. Just like, I’m sure they’re portraying the worst of Liberals and Conservatives.
However, every time we see a story like Trayvon Martin or the story from Ferguson or Baltimore…not saying the news shouldn’t broadcast these stories, but it’s how’s they’re covered. The sensationalism. The portrayal of an uncivilized response while ignoring the civilized. And sadly, there’s just too many Black People that play into their hand, wild’n out, feeding into the stereotypes as if we’ve lost all sense of civilization.
And no…African-American isn’t some unified organization where we all agree on this or that. Just like white people, black is a diverse race with many different cultures. The problem is, it seems if you don’t fit into a stereotype, then you won’t be “accepted” by the black community. Even recently, Terrell Owens told Stephen A. Smith that it seemed a white commentator was blacker than him, just because Smith disagreed with Owens about how Colin Kaepernick handled the NFL tryout thing.
And while we have this going on, with one culture slighting another within our own race…other races are just watching. I believe most decent Americans really do try to treat us all as individuals…but I also think that’s tough when stereotypes prevail and heinous criminals all seem to look the same. Just like certain white men who tend to look like pedophiles and mass shooters. Or Muslims when it comes to terrorism.
Mind you, these are just stereotypes. Just because they exist, it doesn’t mean they apply to most. But as I said…thanks to the media and the criminals themselves, they’re widely believed. Even if people don’t want to believe it, sometimes it’s safer to air on the side of caution. Right?
Ms. Cheryl’s confession admits as much. And this spectrum of fear I’m talking about..it’s not like people go around thinking everyone else is a monster. But more so the heightened caution, concern, and apprehension that causes one to being on high alert. As I said…empathy. You can tell the difference between someone being relaxed around you and someone treating you like you have a knife in your pocket, just one step away from asking them for their wallet.
Hahaha! I dare say, that’s one of the differences between Millennials and the Older Generation. Perhaps in their experience and wisdom, its easier for them to tell whether or not someone’s a bad guy just by looking.
People who have a single conversation with me can tell I’m one of the good guys. But these days, with my generation more symbiotic with their phone than so much as greeting a passing stranger with a “wassup…”
To them, it’s like I’m a lion in a zoo. They’re are attracted to me. They’re inspired by my physique, size and power…but still…I’m a lion. To them, I may be docile in captivity, but potentially I’m still dangerous. So they don’t get too close, they’re cautious around me, and no matter where they go, if I’m in the vicinity, they’re always watching me.
“Aww! Rock! That’s all in your head!”
I used to fall for that line in my 20s. After stumbling a few times and putting myself outside that stupid comfort zone for some pretty comical (traumatizing) blunders…I’ve learned to trust my instincts. But one of the few things I lack certainty in is the exact type of fear. As I’ve said in many other essays, I can’t tell the difference between shyness and fear…and so I stay away from both. This, of course, becomes a problem when it comes to courtship.
After reading that comment from Cheryl, I won’t go so far as to say it’s all the confirmation I needed. But it does give me more strength to trust my instincts. And while my friends mean well…I can’t expect them to understand. And it touches more closer to home, because these are the same people who want what’s best for me. I’m 33, now. They want to see me married with a family. Thus, I responded once more to Ms. Cheryl with the following:
“It is sad. and a bit off topic but I kinda wish people also understood this when they look at me and ask, “how is someone like you, tall, strong, handsome, good job, and funny…how are you still single?” They’re always giving me advice when it comes to approaching women and then it sounds like I’m just making excuses because they don’t understand what it’s like to see that obvious fear in people. I can’t tell the difference between a woman who’s afraid of me and a woman who’s just shy, so in this current social climate, I make it a point to stay away from both.”
Of course, she responded succinctly with “Be patient…”
Because, who gives a **** about you. You potential monster.
Hahahaha. I’m kidding. But time and time again, you hear people say things like … “you shouldn’t care what others think or how they see you!”
First off…by what authority should we buy into this notion of not caring what others think? Secondly, isn’t not caring one of the main reasons why the world is so messed up? And if we shouldn’t care, then why do we? Could it be for a reason? Something designed and imprinted in us for a purpose?
More importantly, what do we do when there’s no helping the amount of care we have? What do you do when you live in a world where people are constantly on guard around you and you can’t help but be aware of it.
The answer is simple. Focus your mind on something other than socializing. And I’m not talking about your phone.
“Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.”- Theodore Roosevelt.
If I ever go to a public event or a bar or restaurant, my friends know that I’m coming with an agenda, a purpose, or a goal to accomplish that doesn’t rely or depend on the actions or decisions of others. Instead, it’s others who are relying and depending on me and my work. I don’t go to these places with the sole intent of socializing and making friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to socialize and I’ll probably make a new friend or two, but my mind is focused on other things, usually a job or a favor someone asked me to do. Like filming my cousin’s wedding. Or brainstorming for a project. Or simply being there to show support for someone else. My mind’s on that.
So, just a heads up. If you’re a gorgeous woman and we’re in the same room at the same time…chances are I noticed you but I’m doing everything in my power to ignore you. Between the stereotypes, the fear and shyness I sense that’s like raid to me…between the MeToo Movement and what’s going on in the news…if you really want me, I’m afraid you’re going to have to throw something at me (not literally, please) Give me a reason to have to say something to you and I’ll take it from there.
So…yep. This essay started about culture in general and inevitably became all about me. As per usual.