Tonight my heart is weary, my patience is exhausted, and my mind is racing. In these moments writing helps me to process and is my solace. Black men and black boys are heavy on my heart, so this for them. May this world see them, see their humanity and see their dignity.
I can picture it now. The moments and the days after you born, after your beautiful, brown, melanin skin, along with your humanity and purpose, entered this world. You were accepted, you were cherished, you were loved. And maybe that’s how you felt when you learned how to talk, took your first steps, learned how to feed yourself and many other things babies and toddlers learn to do. Maybe you felt accepted, cherished and loved by those that saw you on a daily basis and maybe even those you interacted with occasionally.
And as time went on things began to change. You learned to share your voice as you formed your own opinions. You began to understand how to express your emotions, those that others wanted to hear and those they didn’t. Your physical appearance began to change, the boy that you once were began to resemble a more mature, tall in stature man.
You see, the baby that cooed and crawled became a boy and then a man that spoke with resilience and walked with passion and purpose. The baby that smiled and laughed at whatever was said because he wasn’t yet able to understand became a boy and man that disagreed and challenged the political correct jargon that threatened his humanity.
To some that silent baby was more human because he wasn’t yet able to have a seat at the table. Well actually, he may have had a seat at the table, but he was in a high chair of some sort not equal to everyone else that was sitting in a chair that was fit for the table. And the problem is, for the past 400 years, people are still wanting the black boys and men to still be that baby. To have a seat at the table but to be in the high chair, disadvantaged in comparison to their own chair.
See the humanity in the black baby boy, see him as the image bearer of God that deserves to sit at the table because yes, he still has something to bring. And when that black baby turns into a boy, give him the same intentional attention he deserves but take the restraints off of him and allow him to sit in a chair equal to your own chair. And when he becomes a man, don’t dare try to put him back in the high chair, don’t dare try to silence his voice and keep him disadvantaged.
Instead see him. See black boys and men for who they are. See them as human beings who were created to take up space in this world, as boys and men created in the image of God. Rather than seeing them as a threat or becoming insecure simply because of their very presence, see them as human beings longing for space just to be. That is what I will do.
Black boy, I will see you. I will see you as the kid that you are walking through a neighborhood eating skittles after going to the store, Trayvon Martin. I will see you as a kid in the park just having fun playing with toys with your friends, Tamir Rice. I will see you as the image bearer of God being exactly who you are supposed to be at your age, a kid being a kid.
Black man, I will see you. I will see you when you approach the cash register of the convenient store and hand the clerk your $20 bill, George Floyd. I will see you jogging through the neighborhood as you mind your own business just trying to get some exercise, Ahmaud Arbery. I will see you when you enter your apartment building and close your door thinking you are safe in your home, Botham Jean. I will see you as you sit in the passenger side of the car as your girlfriend gets pulled over with her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat, Philando Castile. I will see you when you are just trying to stay safe and alive after celebrating the new year with your girlfriend and friends, Oscar Grant. I will see you, the humanity and beauty in you, the purpose and significance in you that this world desperately needs.
When others try to silence you, deny your very existence, or shut down your potential, I will see you. I will look you in your eyes and admire the strength and resiliency that you carry in this world that often tries to deny your humanity. I will see the little baby boy in you, celebrate the boy you grew to be, and champion the man that you fought to become. You are a champion because your very life is a fight, you have to fight to survive day in and day out.
I will see you. I will see you and I will listen to your voice, I will listen to your heart. In me there will be a place for you to share your voice excitedly and passionately like the day you first learned to form words. In me there will be a place to express your emotions, those you can share with anyone and those that only few can be trusted with. In me your physical appearance, the man you are, will be valued and celebrated. Me seeing you is seeing all that you are, that includes the parts that society has consciously or subconsciously taught you not to share or show.
Black boy, black man, here at this table your humanity will be seen, here at this table you belong. And with you comes purpose, significance, worth and value that of which I will never take my eyes off of.
In the song “I See God in You” by India Arie (posted below), India describes the different things she sees when she looks this man that she is singing about in his eyes. She wonders about his dreams, his fears, what his heart holds dear. Rather than ignoring or looking past this man, she sees him. And as a result she wonders about his life because by looking at him intently she sees the humanity in him. My hope and prayer is that we will look black boys and men in their eyes, wonder about their life, and get to know them so that we can come face to face with the imago dei that they carry.