I can’t come to your party.
It’s not entirely that I don’t want to go. To be honest, that’s only part of it. It’s that I simply can’t.
I can’t bring myself to do it.
Each and every day, I walk out of my home in East Flatbush and I’m surrounded by people who look just like me. I hear Caribbean accents that mirror those of my family. I pass fresh fruit markets and residences that are still owned by families who came here with nothing and worked hard enough to withstand the racism, classism, sexism, and other bullshit placed on people of color, to have something to call their own. I pass those reminders every day on my way to the bus and the train which will take me to the East Village, the complete opposite of where I live in every way. It’s not my home and I’m an outsider.
It’s this daily journey that makes me guarded and prepared for the world. There is never a moment that I am not fully aware that I am a Black man in a white space. And, don’t get me wrong; I traverse these spaces well. I’m the the funny guy, the Black friend, the one that brings diversity to the conversation, all while feeling ever so slightly out of place. I have to own my space and live in my truth, but speak your language to exist in your world. Microaggressions go unaddressed, questions of my competence run rampant through my mind, as I question each and every word that I utter, and if the message that was in my head was adequately translated when the words left my mouth. My degrees and experience say that I’m not an imposter, yet I forever feel like I’m wearing a mask.
Black man. White space.
My journey home is no different. I can see the races divide with each and every stop and the closer I am to home to more comfortable I become.
Then I scroll through my timeline on Facebook and I’m reminded of my place in this world.
Black man: killed.
Black woman: abused.
Black baby: *see Black man and woman*
It’s never ending and it’s why I can’t come to your party. It’s not simply that I don’t want to; it’s that I can’t.
Every day I’m surrounded by whiteness and everything that comes with it. Privilege, the kind that I will never have accosts me at every opportunity. Racism seemingly floods the air, making it difficult to breathe, and I have made so many sacrifices and personal concessions to make it through it, that it often feels like I’ve lost touch with who I really am.
And, I get it. You’re one of the good ones. You voted for Obama and Hillary. You read the Huffington Post. You abhor Trump and everything that he stands for. But, that’s not enough.
I no longer want to be the Black friend or the funny guy to make you and your company feel safe. I don’t want to have to check you or your friends on your microaggressions because that shit is tiring and sometimes I need a break. I don’t want to sit around and talk about gentrification in the neighborhood that you’re currently gentrifying.
I can’t come to your party, not only because I don’t want to but because sometimes I’d rather not be the Black man in the white space.