I got you: An open letter to living black men

You thought I was going to write about Walter Scott, didn’t you? Wrong. I’ll let the rest of the country write about the dead for a change. Right now I want to take a minute to talk to and about the black men who are still living.

Brothers, as we trudge through this life many people forget that police are not the only things killing us physically and psychologically. How do we survive in this mess? If we can avoid getting gunned down by cops, robbers or others – what then? How do we maintain our sanity? How do we construct lives that have some modicum of peace? How can we thrive and not just survive?

First of all, remember that there is nothing like being a black man in America. People can criticize us, write about us us, hate us, fear us, compete against us, envy us, pity us or love us. At the end of the day, nobody understands us like we understand each other. As much as our women love us and analyze us, they don’t know us better than we know ourselves.

You ever think about how we can talk to our women for hours, days, weeks or months and can’t make them understand what we think, how we feel, how we hurt? Then we talk to a brother (a “real” brother that is) who will very quickly say, “I feel you, bruh.” Be clear, brothers – God knows we have our issues and sometimes need to be corrected. I’m just saying it’s not all on us. Just remember that, no matter what, we are not at war with our sisters. We have to have their backs just like we need them to have ours.

I know what you’ve seen, fam. I know many of you have endured the drudgery of blighted neighborhoods in your youth. Some of you are still in them. Many of you grew up seeing physical prowess and athletics valued over intellect. You’ve endured poverty, racism, mistreatment and low expectations from teachers. Your childhoods were ripped from you prematurely as you were saddled with the responsibility of being the “man of the house” before you had any inkling of what being a man entailed. You had to make it work by trial and error – you had to improvise. You don’t just know the blues, you can “feel” them.

Even you brothers who grew up in better circumstances are immersed in a society that provided few examples of black male positivity. You too have been inundated with a societal view of black men that sees us as underachieving, uneducated, unemployed, criminal-minded ne’er-do-wells. Many who talk about America’s greatest problems see us as the problem. No wonder there’s always a justification when we fail or are killed in the streets. Those of us who “make it” are not considered the norm, but the unexplainable exceptions. And even the “exceptions” have struggles.

Some people think those of us who are successful, fearless, unbossed and unbought are arrogant cusses. Others see us a pugnacious pains in the ass. One anonymous fellow at my university once told someone that I’m “little more than a thug in a suit.” Some of the women we’ve known and loved surely think we’re unlovable assholes with unresolvable emotional issues. Brothers, we have to be fine with all of that. We have to know who and what we are. We are men with very small margins for error. Even if no one is shooting us in the back or choking us to death, we are at risk.

Finally, understand that you can’t stand alone in all this. But, choose people in your circles wisely because you have to be more careful than most. If you are going to love a lady – choose one who will protect and love you back. Avoid those that will humiliate and diminish you. If you’re going to have friends, choose ones who know what friendship means. Always be brave, stand tall and fight the good fight. When you fight – take someone to war with you who won’t cower. Know that when the real struggles go down we all need someone who will reach out and say, “Don’t worry – I got you!” Do you have that? If you don’t, let your current familiars go and get new ones! That’s a start.

Until we get the rest figured out – hold your damn heads up and MAINTAIN! •