You live in suburban Atlanta and if I went for a run in your neighborhood before I left I would have to ask you a some questions.
Do you have a neighborhood watch? #GeorgeZimmerman
Would I be questioned by your neighbors as to why I was there?
Are you going to be here when I get back? Because it’s better if you let me in than your neighbors seeing my black face run up to your front door and walk in.
Oh, and if someone does ask you why I was with you, could you please not say “oh Jonathan, he’s one of the good ones”?
These are the types of things that keep me up at night before I come to visit you because you live in a de facto segregated neighborhood and are ignorant of how redlining and Jim Crow gated off your community and is “open to” but really closed to people like me. Black people, that is.
And please don’t try to liberate me from my fear by minimizing it or educating me. I am free in Christ and educated, formally and informally, by my family, my experiences and the Ivy League and all have taught me the same lessons. Sadly, no amount of education can liberate all of us from ignorance.
I need you to understand that I don’t need converting from liberal to conservative or Democrat to Republican. Or swayed away from socialism or convinced that the American Dream and capitalism are consistent with the Bible. I really need to be seen, heard and felt.
My daughter will be born into a world where every ethnicity in her blood suffered under colonization by white people and because she is multi-racial, contrary to your possible beliefs, it doesn’t make her more likely to get scholarships to college. It makes her more likely to be killed in police custody, suspended from school, not called back for a job, and a list too long for me to type here — not because I don’t know more examples but because it makes me too sad and afraid. Selah.
Martin Luther King had a dream in Georgia that he talked about in DC. And I have that same dream in our conversation in 2016. To be seen, not taught. To be heard, not converted. To be felt as a black American person, talking to a white American person, not another black man stuck in the wrong mindset. I don’t know if you’ll respond to this letter. I’ve already accepted it if you don’t. But if what I have said makes you angry, ask yourself why are you mad before you write. And if are annoyed or feel attacked, ask yourself what assumptions are causing that reaction. Because I’m not trying to convert you from Republican to Democrat or conservative to liberal. I’m not trying to get you to support Black Lives Matter.
I am trying to be seen and heard and felt because my black life matters.