An open letter from a white man to a black man in the year 2013

*This is my response to an editorial piece by Questlove, which you can click here to read

 

If you put the two of us in a room together, we’d make an odd pair.

You, a black man with access to wealth, influence, and places I’ll never go.

I,  a white man with access to goodwill and social capital that no one will ever accord you, regardless of how hard you try.

On the train home from work today, I looked a young black man in the face and we both nodded our heads ever so slightly in the standard greeting of city dwellers. Then I wondered what it would be like to live in his skin, to walk in his shoes.

He was an ordinary looking man, perhaps 25-35 years old, wearing jeans, a shirt, and a sweater. I know nothing about his life, other than that there is a singular characteristic about him that at its core is neither negative nor positive.

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There Are No “Real Men” – The search for a role model, and how I learned to live without one

Pride Weekend

I’m going to tell you a secret.

Since I was young, maybe 8 or 10 years old, I’ve never had a male role model.

To be clear, I did grow up with a father. My parents never split, and while they had their issues – I wondered at times if they should have divorced – for the most part I grew up in a stable environment. I disagreed with my dad (and still do) on plenty of things, but generally we get along and have made our peace on most of the details. Of course, I would do it differently if I had children…perhaps that’s a fairly standard response considering the generational gap (I’m 29, my dad is 72).

But, when I think about men I admired growing up there is an empty space.

Searching for role models

My dad taught me some important things, like the value of hard work & attention to detail, and honesty to a fault. I use those every day, and am grateful. In fact, I wrote an essay in high school about my dad’s blue collar ethic and what I considered to be his everyday heroism, but even then I recognized it was an abstract admiration. I certainly respected and loved my dad but I didn’t want to be anything like him.

So from a young age I went looking for other role models.

At 9 years old I dreamed of being like Michael Jordan and loved watching him compete, but it was hard to escape the fact that he was often arrogant, and at times unkind to others, in pursuit of excellence.

Continue reading There Are No “Real Men” – The search for a role model, and how I learned to live without one