It’s freshman year. We’re walking down George Street on the way to the gym. I see a friend at work. We stop and walk in. We’re greeted with a smile and start up a conversation about weekend plans. Not long after entering, the phone rings. Our friend picks up. I can’t hear what’s being said, but I do hear my friend laugh and say “No, it’s fine. I’m fine.” She pauses and then laughs again. “Seriously, you don’t have to do that. These are my friends.” She can see the confusion on our faces. Once she hangs up, she says “Ughh… It was my boss. He was watching the cameras from home and asked if I needed him to call the police.”
It’s sophomore year. I’m walking back to my dorm from Water Front Park. The night air hits me. I have on a black College of Charleston hoodie. I put the hood over my head and keep walking. A few minutes go by. I’m approached by a police officer. He asks, “What are you doing here?” The first of many questions. After finally showing my college ID and “proving” I belong there he lets me keep walking.
It’s junior year. Three of us are leaving the library after a late-night study session. One of our friends lives off campus, so we decide to walk her home. Safety first. As we begin to walk down Pitt Street, we see headlights. As they get closer we see the glow of red break lights. They drive past and the word “N***ers!” fill the air. I look at my friends. The girl we are walking home laughs softly and looks at the ground. She then proceeds to act like nothing happened.
Generational Déjà vu
My name is Joshua Kyle Alexander Hall, born May 8, 1992 in Florence, SC. My father’s name is Ricky Nelson Hall, Born June 14, 1960 in Greenville, SC. His father’s name was Thomas James “TJ” Hall Sr., born April 2, 1934 in Bishopville, SC. If I asked you what we all had in common, I’m sure a million things come to mind. However, if you asked me, my response would be: “We’ve all dealt with discrimination in the South. We’ve all seen and heard about black men being accused, charged, convicted, and sentenced to death…. on the sidewalk. My grandfather’s generation called it “lynching”; my father’s generation called it “police brutality”; and now we just post #iCantBreathe.
One might say, “Josh, there’s been so much progress during that time”, and they’d be right. My grandfather could not go to school or read past a third-grade level, but I have a college degree. My grandfather could not marry a woman that looks like my wife, because it was illegal. My grandfather would not have been allowed to attend or even work at a predominantly white church like Seacoast. We have made progress.
Even with all that progress, my grandfather and I still live in the same world. A world that sees me as a threat because of the shade of my skin. To deny that would be impossible, but yet some still do. Which leads me to my first question, to every white person reading this: would you want to be Black in America right now? Think about it. If I could snap my fingers and change your skin color to my shade or darker for the rest of your life (and you had to live in Charleston, South Carolina) would you agree to it?
Would you agree to random stops, asking if you’re driving a stolen car or if you’re in the right place? Would you agree to being followed around stores or questioned about your intent to buy? Would you agree to people loving what you bring to the table (culture, music, innovation, terminology, etc.) but not loving you as a person? If the answer is yes, you’re a stronger person than me. I can’t say I would choose that lifestyle. But if you answered no, then that means you know there’s a problem and you know you don’t want it for you or your family. So, why is it okay for me and mine?
“If I could snap my fingers and change your skin color to my shade or darker for the rest of your life (and you had to live in Charleston, South Carolina) would you agree to it?”
Even after reading that, some people may be able to explain the problems away. So, I have another question. What color did you assign to the people in the three stories I told you earlier? Nowhere did I mention race in them, but I’m sure as you visualized what happened, your mind easily assigned color to the situations. You were able to picture everyone and that’s the problem. It’s been a problem in this country for hundreds of years.
I understand, as a white person, you didn’t create the problem. You didn’t write the laws or design inequality or hand out generational poverty. But I need you to understand, as a black person, I did not create the racial hierarchy in this country or the weight that was assigned with it. I inherited it. In that same vein, white people have inherited the responsibility to change the unjust system their forefathers created. I cannot change it. It was designed for me (as a minority) not to, and unfortunately the system is working perfectly. White people have to step up and be the change. As a member of the minority, I literally cannot, without you.
Matthew 22:37-39(TPT) says:
“Jesus answered him, ‘Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’ This is the great and supreme commandment. And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend in the same way you love yourself.’”
“White people have to step up and be the change. As a member of the minority, I literally cannot, without you.”
Where do your priorities lie? Are they on the side of comfort or justice? My son’s name is Eden Isaiah Hall, born December 31, 2018 in Charleston, SC. For his sake, I hope your priorities align with Christ. If not, if he is still defending his humanity, watching videos of black men murdered slowly by law enforcement in the street, having to coach his kids on how to stay alive in America, then we have all failed. We have to do better, now.