I’ve been called one of the “good ones.” I’ve been called “different.” I have been labeled with every imaginable term and phrase that justifies my disassociation from “most black people.” It’s as if my appearance and character disqualify me from being affected by racism.
But I have shocking news for you. It doesn’t. No matter how clearly I enunciate my words, no matter how many Michael Kors shirts I wear, no matter how well I present myself. Dressed up or “thugged out.” Silent or sonorous. Nothing can change the fact that at the end of the day, I’m just another black dude. That is what scares me the most.
The truth is, I haven’t always been the version of myself that I am today. I was a teenager and I did stupid teenage stuff. Probably more than most actually. I’ve been on the bad side of a police officer more than a few times. I’ve made mistakes…a lot of mistakes. Yet here I am…alive.
It’s a shame that I feel lucky for having made it out of these situations, but I truly am blessed. I have an able body, loving family and a ton of wonderful friends. I have the opportunity to wake up every day and do what I love to do. More importantly, I have been given the chance to make mistakes and learn from them. Unfortunately countless black men and women have been taken for doing little or nothing at all. Everyday someone’s light is extinguished, because of a decision, a few misguided seconds. SECONDS. I have spent over 993,384,000 seconds on this planet and a mere 30 is all it takes for it to end. These lives are taken in mere seconds.
I’ve always found the concept of time extremely interesting. Our lives can ultimately be broken down into 1 second increments. A change in any one of those can completely change your life and possibly the world. It’s the unintentional moment when you drop your keys and have to stop and pick them up. Or the moment you choose to grab your coffee at Starbucks instead of making it at home. It is essentially the moment you either stop or move, fight or freeze.
A change to any one of my 993,384,000 seconds could have landed me in the shoes of Philando Castile or Oscar Grant. A guy in the right place with the wrong color skin. I could easily have been the subject of today’s media coverage. I could have been any one of the forgotten faces taken by “justified homicide.” Fortunately I am still here, but I know that is never guaranteed. My mother constantly reminds me of that because even I forget that the world is filled with truly wretched people.
How does this keep happening? When did America adopt a zero tolerance policy for lives (of all color)? Where will the line be drawn in the sand? The most important question of all is, what can YOU do to erase this problem?
I personally take my impact on this world very seriously. I CHOOSE to live a life of love and laughter. I CHOOSE to live a life of tolerance and understanding. Most importantly, I CHOOSE to continually implement advice given to me by my mother years ago. This is wonderful advice! Advice that can be used by every beautiful human being on this earth. You ready for it? It’s called a beat.
Just stop and breathe she would tell me. Just ten seconds. It’s pretty amazing how much you can reflect on in just a few seconds, all that has been built and what can be broken. If we all just took a beat we could realize that the person on the other end is somebody’s son, daughter, father or mother. That person has a family, that person has friends and there are so many ways to avoid being the force that brings all of that crashing down.
In that beat you could step back into yourself and think about your family, friends, hopes and dreams. Hopefully in that moment you would realize that no amount of pride, embarrassment, temporary detainment, or prison time is worth having your light taken from those you love. Just a beat. A few f***ing seconds. That’s all it takes.
To everyone reading this (if you made it this far) thank you. I am blessed to call you all friends. Thank you for loving me for who I am and nothing else. Big and small, you are all a part of my precious seconds here on this broken planet. Anyone of you could have saved me without us even being aware of it. For that I am grateful that you are a part of my universe. I love YOU. I just thought you should know.
Just another black dude
Trey Wanamaker is originally from Van Nuys, he currently lives in Tucson, Arizona. He currently works as a retail consultant traversing racial issues all around the United States