We Do Not Exist For Your Comfort

A reflection on critical race theory, ignorance, and maintaining your voice

Photo by Khadim Fall on Unsplash

I stand at about 5’5’’ with the grace and frame of an amateur wrestler that lifted just enough weights to see some ring time but gets winded before the start of every match. My shoulders are broad and for most of my life, my facial expression has indicated that I’m in a perpetual state of indifference. My voice is deep, but not late-night FM radio deep, and my eyes only dance with excitement during close basketball games and at the sight of Twinkies. In my humble opinion, I don’t pose much of a threat to others, yet I remember to smile. I do my best to raise my eyebrows to convey a calm and inviting interest and I pull my shoulders inward, to ensure that I’m not taking up too much space. I alter the pitch of my voice depending on the present company and I litter my emails with exclamation points. Anything else would be too aggressive. I find myself speaking in circles, as to not offend anyone with how direct and cold I can sometimes be. I do what I can to make a white world more comfortable with my black existence.

I am tired of tip-toeing around the real and valid emotions of entire populations, for the sake of maintaining the status quo.

Florida lawmakers have recently introduced Senate Bill 148 to the Senate Education Committee. Coined the “Individual Freedom Bill,” the legislation states that it is discriminatory to subject individuals to any training or instruction that makes them feel uncomfortable due to their race. With widening support throughout the state, the bill has implications within boardrooms, storefronts, and classrooms. On paper, the core tenets of the bill are framed as just. “Members of one race, color, sex, or national origin cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race, color, sex, or national origin.” But, this is Florida. Let’s get down to what this is really about.

The Individual Freedom bill is the latest in a series of attempts to thwart the advancement and teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT). We’ve talked about this. CRT allows us to examine the United States from a racial lens, dissecting and uncovering how systemic racism is embedded within our laws and institutions. The basic concept is not confusing. However, the lack of understanding of a theory that was developed over forty years ago is quite perplexing.

CRT has been portrayed as a great divider that claims that all white people are racist. It isn’t.

It’s claimed that CRT perpetuates racism and discrimination. It doesn’t.

CRT simply acknowledges facts in a world that wants to conveniently move past the horrors of the past and present. I have no interest in revisionist history.

The introduction of Senate Bill 148 is another attempt to silence people of color and everyone who truly believes in racial justice. I have sat in countless classrooms hearing in direct and indirect ways how people of color are a burden to the welfare system. I’ve heard classmates and coworkers defend the institution of slavery as a “ successful economic model,” and on a daily basis, I exchange bills and coins donning the faces of known racists and rapists. I’ve been taught that Christopher Columbus was a hero, Malcolm X was too militant, and that Black History should only be acknowledged in February. At no point was my comfort a part of those curricula.

For years, I’ve done what I can to make white people feel comfortable; to not be labeled as “threatening,” or “aggressive,” and to simply exist without persecution. I’ve done what I can to advocate for my community while feeling myself silenced by the burden of expectation, but I’m tired. I am tired of tip-toeing around the real and valid emotions of entire populations, for the sake of maintaining the status quo. I am yearning for a change or complete upheaval of our systems because they were not made and do not function for people that look like me. I’ve done everything I could to not be seen as angry, but the truth is that I am an angry Black man. And, I do not exist for your comfort.


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