So, for most people, maybe everyone, discomfort is not fun. We all want to feel comfortable in our own skin. You want to be able to say whatever you want without feeling bad. You want to tell a joke and not have people look at you as if they just stepped in something. You want to have thoughts and opinions that are yours, and damn it, “It’s America! I can do and think as I please!”

This has never been more apparent, at least in my life time, then it has during this pandemic. People showed up to state capitols, armed. ARMED! To protest measures to prevent the spread of sars-cov-2. People protesting, comparing the requirements of wearing masks to slavery. TO SLAVERY! People want to be comfortable. In my last blog, I wanted you to know that it was OK to be sad for others. In this one, I want you to know that it’s OK to feel discomfort. (roll credits)

Not everything is OK. Not everything you do is OK. You and I must sit in the discomfort of the knowledge and the fact, that not everything we do is OK. As a matter of fact, if we have any desire to be better human beings, we must all sit in the discomfort of not everything is OK. Racial biases are not the only thing that as a society we struggle. We also struggle with gender issues, LGBTQ issues, age issues, socioeconomic issues, and a plethora of others. The list goes on for days. But this blog will focus on the real racial biases that as a reader you have, we all have, and if we don’t choose to sit a little in that discomfort, it will not get better.

I am African American. I have a PhD. I am a professor. I am a parent. I love the outdoors, especially the mountains. I am proud of the diversity of my friends. I would say that I am the opposite of militant or “in your face”. I tell y’all (North Carolina is seeping into my pores, sigh…) this because I want to share a few stories (not all of them) of how my experiences as a black man has affected my life.

I have been pulled over by the police while jogging. I can’t think of a better term than “pulled over”, because you did read correctly, I was jogging. I was in high school. I was jogging with a friend of mine, also black. Near my house in California, there were a lot of roads that went through hills. We thought it would be nice to run in the hills and avoid cars. We parked the car by the side of the road and went for a jog. After some time, police stopped us. They asked us a bunch of questions. They asked for our ID. Our IDs were left in the car, because we were jogging. They escorted us back to the car. They took our IDs and made us wait. I remember we sat in silence. I remember being scared. Eventually they gave our IDs back and we were told that we “matched descriptions”. Those quotes are there on purpose, because it is not the last time that I or a family member will “match descriptions”.

My brother spent time in jail for matching a description. He was sitting at a bus stop when brought in. He was later released.

On more than one occasion I have letters written about me in an attempt to disparage my name. They are always written by anonymous.

The look on people’s face is often ‘shock’ when they are told I am a professor.

My last story you might find silly and minor. But I tell it as an example of something that has occurred to me at least 20 times. At least three times, a friend, a white friend was present and noticed it and commented after they witnessed it. My response was a shrug, because that’s how often it has happened to me. I am standing in a research lab talking to multiple people. A white man in a suit walks in, but no one knows who he is or why he is walking in to the lab. Turns out he is looking for information. He walks passed me. With his back to me, proceeds to direct his attention to the others in the room (all of whom are white), and requests his information. There response was, “We don’t know, but Brett would know.” The man pauses as if perplexed, “Who’s Brett?” They respond, “He’s behind you.”

Was the man racist? Maybe. I don’t know. But I’m telling you, having examples like that in my life, many examples of like that in my life will affect a man. It makes you question how others see you. Are you racist? I don’t know, but I bet there have been times you didn’t see someone who deserved to be seen. Think about it. You don’t treat everyone the same. Do you? No, you are not racist, but are you ANTIracist? I didn’t write this blog to make you feel comfortable. If you want things to be better for EVERYONE, you gotta know that it’s OK to feel discomfort. (roll credits)