The Most Dangerous Skin in the Game
When I was in 7th grade, I read a disturbing short story called The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. I won’t spoil it for those who are not familiar with it, but it is mostly about an insidious, rich man who is bored with life and decides to hunt humans for sport instead of game.
I like to think that I am an objective, rational person. I never hitch rides on bandwagons and want to know both sides of an issue before forming an opinion that I usually only share amongst close friends and family. Nor am I into conspiracy theories. However, the death of George Floyd was so disgusting and incomprehensible to me that I felt compelled to use my voice since his has been extinguished. His senseless death has set my soul on fire.
The brutality against Blacks by the police and the world at large has been happening for far too long. This practice is nothing new. America is now being forced to acknowledge its system of institutional racism with the advent of technology in the form of cell phones that record. We have been “free” full citizens of America since 1865. One would think that this Civil Rights Act would signal the end of oppression and racial terrorism. Sadly, it has not. We are merely tolerated in a country built literally on the backs of our ancestors. Our faux freedom is for legalistic purposes only.
In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by the United States Congress. The law allowed slaves to be returned to their owners even if they were in a free state. This act also made the federal government accountable for locating, returning, and trying slaves that had successfully escaped.
Today we have a free status. But we are still being hunted by angry, hateful bigots who feel obligated to return us to our “rightful” state-bondage or death. It does not matter the perceived “offense.” Whether it’s walking through a neighborhood in which we live, selling cigarettes, watching birds, jogging, sleeping, playing with a toy gun, partying, getting a traffic ticket, lawfully carrying a weapon, shopping, reading, decorating for a party, relaxing at home, asking for help after being in a car accident, having a cell phone, playing loud music, going to church, riding in a car, or breathing, our existence spurs the hatemongers into action. It’s troubling and plain sad. This has always struck me as odd, considering that our ancestors did not come voluntarily. I currently wonder why White supremacists do not leave America and form their own country. They could steal another landmass and build a wall to keep “Pleasantville” pleasant and pure.
There has never been a time in my life that I have not been warily aware of the color of my skin. Before I walk into any establishment, meet people of other races, or travel abroad, I constantly wonder if my skin will be an issue. It’s exhausting. During my freshman year at Broad Ripple High School, I was waiting outside under the flag-ironically, for my stepfather to pick me up after ballet rehearsal. A car sped down the avenue, and a man screamed, “Go home nigger!” I wasn’t afraid, but I was shocked that White people still used such terminology. I graduated high school exactly twenty four years to the day and I still vividly recall that incident which shows the impact that it had on my psyche. There have been several more hurtful instances in which I have experienced varying forms of racism over the course of my life. I’m sure this is true for most Blacks in America. We are still being targeted for the hue of our skin, something that we have no control over. We are the hunted, and none of us are safe-Black men, women, or children. America has turned into Ship Trap Island.
Sometimes we ignore what is taking place in our society no matter how vile and overt it is merely because it is uncomfortable to to take action, and we “have no skin in the game,” to borrow a phrase made popular by billionaire tycoon and philanthropist, Warren Buffet. To have skin in the game means to have a personal stake or investment in something. I would like to disagree with anyone who has that attitude. We all have skin in the game-Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, or Other. My two Black precious sons, my Black family members and friends, and all the Black students that I teach are my skin in the game. If you work with Black people, live next to them, are friends with them, play golf with them, teach them-that’s your skin in the game. Our skin, Black skin, is simply the most dangerous skin in the game.
Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference.” This is a fight that Black people cannot win alone as we are not the color of power and privilege. We are not the face of America. We need all our White allies to stand alongside us. We must overcome this together. I challenge all my white friends, colleagues and family to speak up using any platform they have whether it be social media, letters to the editor, contacting local Congress members, participating in peaceful protests, organizing protests, informing yourself on the issues at hand, creating petitions, refusing to be silent any longer in the face of injustice, talking with your children and saying enough is enough and standing on it.