As part of WSOC-TV’s ongoing “Talking About Race” initiative, reporter Ken Lemon sat down with five Black men from different walks of life. The conversation that resulted revealed eye-opening perspectives on bridging the racial gaps that divide us.
The men are keenly aware of the headline-grabbing stories of Black people, mostly men, having been reported to the police for doing everyday things, and, even more troubling, stories of Black men who lost their lives to police violence.
These events spawned protests at home and abroad, but these men worry that little has changed. They say the still feel they are living on edge.
Raymon Curry is the youngest member of the panelists and is a junior at Julius Chambers High School.
He is juggling remote learning and a growing need to have his voice heard.
“People still have that hatred in their heart,” Curry said. “We just need to talk, let them know like, ‘why do you feel that way about me?’”
From colorism, to microaggressions, to having to use their “white voices” — the similarities of the men’s experiences belie their 47-year age range.
“I had people follow me, look at me a certain way. Make sure I’m not stealing anything. I actually had somebody ask me empty out my pockets,” Curry said. “For me, I tell myself, ‘Be the first step.’”
A high school student, looking toward college.
A trained chef.
A therapist and mental health advocate.
A senior VP for a tech firm.
And a bishop.
“I’m very cautious of when I walk in that room and I’m the only Black person. It changes,” explained Leaton Harris, the tech company VP.
“It puts us as Black men to have to always be at a place of defense,” said John McCullough, the bishop and community leader.
Chef Chayil Johnson told the story of losing a friend over racial differences at age 8: “His grandfather brought him over to my house to tell me that he couldn’t play with me anymore.”
“I felt like at no point I was allowed to slip up,” recalls therapist Rwenshaun Miller, who says racism played a part in his three suicide attempts when he was younger.
Seventeen-year-old Raymon Curry, whose participation in last year’s protests included an exchange that went viral, believes he and his peers have a great responsibility.
“I’m like, they rely on you. You are the leader of your generation. So what can you do to better the world that we live in?”
“Talking About Race: A Conversation with Five Black Men” airs Monday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. on WSOC-TV Channel 9 and WAXN TV64. It will also stream live on wsoctv.com and on the WSOC-TV news app. Chat live with reporter Ken Lemon during the program on the WSOC-TV Facebook page or tweet your comments using the hashtag #TalkingAboutRace.
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