November 27, 2015 by Kyle
This is not about my experience growing up as a young black kid in North Philly who went to predominantly white schools in Northeast Philadelphia. In this environment I was accused of “talking white” by white or black kids who thought I should fit within a stereotype. No, this is a little more painful. I am speaking of the period after high school, into college, graduate school, seminary, corporate America and broader American Evangelicalism. The prospect of having a black face with a white tongue is something that you learn to live with because you have to. The reality of existing in white space carries the burden of holding back roaring anger at the world that exists in order to exist in privileged space. Speaking two different languages—my coffee must have cream. The white tongue seeks to provide a balanced answer, not necessarily a just or prophetic answer. Generally, this struggle does not exist for my white counterparts. There is no real struggle to flourish under powerful black men or women, thus the duality that I described is germane to the experience of marginalized minorities.
The pressure is not stated, but simply understood. One of my only outlets within mixed space is blogging and even still I feel that I need to hold back in order to avoid being the “angry black man”. I love my white friends, colleagues and co-workers, but there is always something below the surface gasping for air, begging to be stated. Did you read that? Yes, that’s me reassuring my brethren from Europe that I don’t hate them. I avoid political conversations because the free flowing tongue of white Evangelical can sting. It has stung before and I know it can sting again. I also avoid many of these conversations because many times the emotional cost is just too great. I avoid these conversations because I’m tired of false equivalents and anecdotal stories about one divergent experience out of millions that seek to prove that my claims are the product of myth. The duality of being black and having to make adjustments to exist within majority culture is another day at the office. I’ve also found that within recent conversations about racial reconciliation there is unstated pressure to give opinions that are general and opaque, “All Lives Matter” or “Its sin, not skin.” While these are true they do not speak of injustice and oppression at the hands of majority culture. I’ve learned to disappear—sort of shrink into a corner of reality so no one will notice my 6’3” dark linear frame and ask my opinion.
In 1952, Frantz Fanon wrote his pivotal book, “Black Skin, White Mask” which details the burden of blackness and the pressures of existence under colonial dominance;
I slip into corners, my long antenna encountering the various axioms on the surface of things: The Negro’s clothes smell of Negro; the Negro has white teeth; the Negro has big feet; the Negro has a broad chest. I slip into corners; I keep silent; all I want is to be anonymous, to be forgotten. Look, I’ll agree to everything, on condition I go unnoticed!
To be black in a white world carries the extra burden of helping others to stay calm. I will not rape, murder, steal and more recently some would ask that I not ‘protest’. I’ll go a step further in hopes of conveying my humanity—I will make mistakes, but please do not apply my mistakes to the rest of people of color. These are some of the professional and social struggles I carry with me. The struggle does not wash away my experience as a black man—it is a beautiful experience full of redemption. My lived experience integrates what is called the “White Gaze” which is a judgmental way of viewing a person of color through a racist lens. This gaze can stop you in your tracks if you let it, but the words of the Lord to Ezekiel come to mind as his calling was spelled out, “I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.” (Ezekiel 3:9) Like Fanon, there is the internal existential argument about escaping or as he puts it, “denegrification”. I cannot remove blackness and neither do I want to, but the responsibility of blackness includes inviting others into this black world to hear about this experience.
 Fanon, F. (1952). Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press. p.96
 Ibid., 91