Colorism, microaggression, denial when ‘Talking About Race’

Bridging the racial gaps that pull us apart

Colorism, microaggression, denial when ‘Talking About Race’

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 is an eye-opening perspective on bridging the racial gaps that pull us apart.

The men are keenly aware of the headline-grabbing stories of Black people, mostly men, having police call on them for doing everyday things; and even more troubling, stories of Black men deemed suspects and killed.

These events spawned protests — a movement here and across the world, but these men worry that little has changed.  They say the still feel they are living on edge.

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Leaton Harris is a senior vice president of a tech corporation.  He is 46 years old, and said he is profoundly concerned about what he hears from some white people.

“They don’t understand that, the devaluation of life. They don’t understand that a group of people are being looked at as less than. They don’t understand that, the Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor. They don’t like, you tell, like these aren’t stories we are making up, Harris said. “They are real. George Floyd, it was on national television — a murder! And somebody says ‘well, I heard he had a fake $20 dollar bill in his wallet.’ What? So that’s where we are.”

From colorism, to microaggressions, to having to use their “white voices” — the similarities the men have in their experiences defy their 47-year age range.

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.

From chef Chayil Johnson, on losing a friendship 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 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.