I don’t usually weigh in on issues outside of my home because of my upbringing and where I’m from. You see, I’m from the rural, racist south … North Central Florida to be exact, in a little county called Levy … in a little town called Chiefland, better known to me and my cousins as “The Briar Patch.”
For years after leaving for Notre Dame and embarking on an amazing change to the trajectory of my life, I’ve often referred to my hometown to friends and colleagues as “the land that time forgot” -- meaning that what most Americans are viewing through social media footage and mass media outlets, in many cases for the first time, are things that were/are ingrained in the accepted culture I observed as a child. It was nothing to be called “boy” or for school administrators to undermine opportunities for black students.
Manual labor and farm hands were/are common practice … and probably the most vivid memory is that of my grandmother getting picked up early in the morning and dropped off later in the evening after cleaning a wealthy white woman’s home akin to the award-winning movie The Help. She did this for many, many years and I never heard her complain … not even once. Given these few examples, I’ve always felt that maybe my perspective, given my experience as a young black man, might be a little skewed.
Alas, here we are … fear of being vulnerable aside, I need to say some personal things before I begin. I am proud to be a black man. I am proud to be a black dad. I am proud to be a Black American. I am proud to be an American. My dad, Oscar B McBride, Sr., and all my uncles served this country. I am proud to be a Notre Dame alum. I am proud to be a Black Notre Dame alum.
However, I am tired of systemic racism. I am tired of white privilege. I am tired of having to define white privilege for you; we ALL know what it is. I am tired of people saying they understand when they really do not. I am tired of people pretending to not see blatant racism and discrimination. I am tired of you saying to me, “you speak so well” as if I am supposed to be inarticulate and obtuse. I am tired of you telling me about the other “black friends” you have had throughout your life. I am tired of wondering if you’ve spit in my food when I go out to dinner with my family. I am tired of you clutching your purse when I walk by or when I step into an elevator as if I want something from you.
I am just tired; but even more than tired, I am afraid. I am afraid for my children… my daughter and my sons; that maybe their young black lives don’t matter quite as much as your kids’ lives. I am afraid that although educated in America’s finest institutions, my children may fall victim to a fraudulent phone call that ends in tragedy versus truth. I am afraid that if alone they are nothing more than prey if they take a walk or go for a jog. As a black parent every night I am afraid of my phone ringing after 9pm and what news is on the other end of the line. I am afraid that maybe one day I too might, “fit the description” and become yet another tragic statistic. I am afraid when I hear sirens even though I may be at home. I am afraid when I see blue lights in my rear view, knowing they are not meant for me. I am afraid for my wife, who is white, because that’s even worse in the eyes of some. I am afraid for our future society and what it means for the millions of young people watching adults not behave like adults. When does this end?
As I write there are violent protests and riots erupting in cities all around the country. Innocent, kind, hardworking people are being hurt, including our elderly and our children. So, now what? It would be easy for me to point out the obvious and recite every cliché and civil rights idiom that I can think of to, in my mind, create some sense of urgency in terms of facilitating change.
It would be easy for me to blame the president for his continued hate speak and for incessantly fanning the proverbial smoldering, racist fire that burns in America’s underbelly; one tweet away from an abysmal outcome that is capable of irreparable damage and devastation to us all. It would even be easy for me to blame the American forefathers who literally raped, beat and pillaged their way through what we now know to be America, taking sacred land from the Native Americans and Latinos while enslaving Africans; yet people of color are considered thugs and animals. It would really be easy for me to say all white people are devils or racists and succumb to the role of the stereotypical “angry black man” which would prove this shallow point of view anyway.
So, now what? Now, more than ever, Americans needs leadership … plain and simple. Someone with a plan that does not involve posturing or politicizing themselves to further a separate agenda. Someone who genuinely cares about the well-being of society at large and has the charisma and stamina to lead; but more importantly someone we are ALL willing to follow. But what does the need look like until that person arrives? I have an idea.
I have had countless people reach out to me over the course of the last week or so. These people are colleagues, friends, and associates, usually white, who have sent kind thoughts and words of support and encouragement in standing with me during this tumultuous time which is greatly appreciated.
One of the questions that usually comes up in our conversations is, “What can I do?” As I close, a thought for everyone reading this piece to consider ---> What, in my opinion, would be a simple and profound catalyst for change is for those same people to have conversations with those they hang out with, those they vacation with, those they invite to their backyard barbecues, those who sit at their dinner tables, those who belong to the same country clubs, those whose children attend the same schools, those who attend the same churches, those who have girls/guys nights out, those they go ride with, those they go shoot with and all the others in their non-black circles to share their stance with them. Tell them you stand against racism, discrimination, and police brutality; talk about it…don’t ignore it. It cannot be ignored!
THAT’S WHAT YOU CAN DO; DO NOT REMAIN SILENT!
Until we change our hearts and our homes there will be no societal change. Racism is just another word for Hate; Hate has no logic … no reason … and when you have a badge in America it has no consequence.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Oscar B. McBride, II