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 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 they still feel as if they are living on edge.
Rwenshaun Miller has worked in the mental health field for over a decade and understands the challenges faced by Black males in America.
His nonprofit organization, Eustress Inc., was born out of his desire to preserve and improve mental health.
“We’ve got six generations of Black men in the room right now. How often do you really talk about your mental health? How often do you really get to go to someone and be like, ‘yo, I’m just sad, or I been having a rough time.,’” Miller said. “We are not afforded that opportunity because of all of the other layers we have to go through, because we view it as a weakness.”
The men said so many Black people at an early age feel as if the world’s cards are stacked against them. Racial disparities create barriers for Black youth that can leave deep impressions that last a lifetime.
From colorism to microaggressions — to having to use their “white voices” — the similarities of the men’s experiences belie their 47-year age range.
These men don’t think the problem is with those who hate them. Their real fear is there are not enough people who love them willing to stand up to the hate, too.
“When I have conversations with my white colleagues or even my white classmates, I’m like, ‘yo, you got to have these conversations with folks I don’t have access to.’ That’s when the real change is going to happen,” Miller said.
A high school student, looking forward to 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 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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