To those who say they are our allies,
Right now, we are fighting for simple rights: don’t kill us unjustly and level the playing field.
While many of you say you are on our side, I have to be honest – I don’t trust you…yet.
Growing up, my mom always told me, “Don’t bring white people home.”
At first, I didn’t know why, but I quickly figured it out. Racism was (and still is) everywhere.
As a kid, strangers weren’t nice to me.
People on the street would call me a thug. Clerks at a store would follow me to make sure I didn’t steal. And passengers at the train stations in white neighborhoods would give me nasty looks or a nasty attitude.
White mentors didn’t stand up for me.
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At 17, my basketball coach was a white woman. When I lost my cool and threw a chair in the stands after fans continuously shouted, “Go back to where you came from” and called me and my teammates names like monkeys and N*****s, my coach yelled at me. She did not get it. She didn’t take my side.
White peers weren’t authentic.
People who worked for my brother, former NBA star Ron Artest, now known as Metta World Peace, would treat me well when my brother was around. But when he was gone, they would talk at me and my parents instead of talking to us.
My white bosses wouldn’t allow me to be myself.
One boss asked me to “switch my tone” when talking on the phone. He wanted me to take the bass out of my voice. It sucked, so I stopped and I got in trouble for sounding like myself.
All my life, I felt as though all white people, even if they didn’t immediately show it, were racist. Sometimes, it just took the right situation for their hate against black people to come out.
I am 37 years old and I only have two white friends. Just two. But lately, as a lot of you have reached out to me and appear to be trying to educate yourselves on what black people go through, I am willing to give you a chance.
However, you are going to have to lean in. My heart is open, but my hand is not out. I am not reaching out to you.
And, above all else, you are going to need to gain my trust.
Here is how:
Continue to educate yourself on black people’s struggles. Learn the history and how we got here in the first place. The country was built on the backs of black people, and yet our system tries to hold us back from success and wealth.
Use your new knowledge. When you’re not around black people, show your integrity by correcting others when they are offensive toward black people or misinformed.
Don’t be scared of me. I am a 6-5 black man who sometimes has a hairy face. That doesn’t make me scary or dangerous. I don’t get in trouble, and I don’t do drugs. So, don’t treat me like I do. Don’t judge me. See me for who I am, which is a caring and loyal person.
Lastly, accept me for who I am. I may not look like you, dress like you or sound like you, but that’s OK. Embrace and appreciate our differences instead of trying to eliminate them.
All of us are on this earth together. We live in towns together, shop at the same stores, and play basketball on the same courts. We should be one united people.
And while I honestly don’t know if we can and will change the country for black people, what I do know, is if you take the time to gain my trust, we can and will change each other.
Hope to hear from you soon,