I imagine that this must be a frustrating time.

For many of you that refer to yourself as white or Caucasian, and remain deeply engaged with the social and political issues that have dominated media commentary in recent months, this time in history must feel like a heavy shadow from a distant past that simply will not go away.

We recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of a momentous civil rights march in Selma, Alabama – a day known to us today as “Blood Sunday” – and although you know we have a long way to go, you remain proud that your generation has made significant strides in the fight for justice and equality. You are not simply proud because you did not grow up in a world of Jim Crow and lynching. Indeed, you recognize that structural racism is still a fight we have yet to overcome, even in our supposed post-racial society.

You are proud because, despite the bigotry of previous generations of white Americans that you still struggle to understand, you know deep within your heart that you are not racist. You care deeply about equality in America. You are driven by a passion to leave a meaningful legacy in your community and help others through your service. You engage in honest and vulnerable dialogue with peers, and you try to acknowledge privilege for what it is. Most of all, you do not chant racist songs. There simply is no place in our world for that kind of blatant hate.

And you are not alone. Simply put, notwithstanding the great work that still needs to be done to overcome prejudice and structural racism in America, there are many white Americans that abhor racism and are fighting for a better tomorrow. I know because many of us went to school together.

Yet, nevertheless, a lot of people are wrongfully judging you right now. Lumping you in with the “rest” and believing the worst of your character. Associating you with ugly words chanted by confused college kids in a small town in Oklahoma. There are people stereotyping you based upon the actions of a small few. People who are angrily staring at you on the train with burning eyes, or walking past you on the sidewalk with an annoyed glare, assuming that you must agree with the ignorant words of a few young men and women who happen to look just like you. They don’t see you for who you really are.

And to be frank, that is not right, and it sucks.

It totally sucks to be stereotyped by the media’s negative portrayal of a small percentage of your community. It sucks to be viewed as a threat simply because of the color of your skin. It sucks to sit in a classroom and be expected to explain the beliefs and actions of your parents and grandparents. It sucks to succeed academically and have your friends presume that it wasn’t simply because of your hard work. It sucks to have people assume the worst of you based upon a physical characteristic you cannot change, based upon a history you cannot run away from, and based upon a culture you do not always embrace. It sucks to have your character and your convictions and your beliefs reduced to the size of a crayon in a box.

You are bigger than that.

You are more than your skin color. You are more than the texture of your hair and the color of your eyes. You are more than the beliefs and actions of your parents, or your peers, or that guy and gal in another state that happens to look just like you. Your words resonate deeper that an ignorant, hate-filled song. And your thoughts and ideas stretch farther than the threads of an imaginary, blood-soaked noose. Race should be something we do with our legs on a track, not something we use to demote our shared humanity to a game of cowboys and indians. And you believe this to the core, because it’s right.

So to my white friends who feel a sense of anxiety and frustration for being judged by the color of your skin in this difficult time in history, I hear you. And to my white friends who feel a sense of angst for being judged based upon the actions of a select few, I get you.
I get you.
Because I am a Black man, and I live in America.

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