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Thursday, September 01, 2016

Black Man Walking

Written by  Merrick Moses

A curious thing happened on the way to freedom: encountering deep learning curves in socialization. As a black man of transgender experience in America, I have had to quickly learn survival and social skills necessary to stay alive as a black man in America.

As a kid growing up in Queens, I spent lots of time with my dad, my uncles, and male cousins playing sports, running errands, and talking about life. I vicariously lived through them, as a boi, listening to their stories of triumph and travail. One thing I heard lots about was how the police treated black men and how the men in my life survived traffic stops, stop and frisk, and street harassment by law enforcement.

These stories were tales of survival, narrow escapes, and angel inspired rescues. In the New York of the 80s and 90s, no black man – or woman or child, for that matter – was isolated from the prospect of all manner of dehumanization from the NYPD. There are documented cases of unjust murders and convictions. It was a frightening time filled with racial tension coupled with Reagan’s shady economics, the AIDS crisis, and the crack epidemic. There was no reprieve of the murders fueled by the drug trade with homeboys shot and killed along with scores of young people who became zombies overnight. I grew up in these realities buffeted only by my Depression Era born parents and the teaching nuns who taught me in parochial school.

Fast forward to today as a man of transgender experience: I draw on these memories to help me navigate the perilous but freedom-loving journey of black manhood at the dawn of the 21st century. I remember the instructions I received from my uncles and father about encountering the cops. I remember what my homeboys and cousins taught me about walking in certain areas at night and early morning. The dawn of the 21st century is just as dangerous for black people as it was in the late 80s and early 90s.

I am not exempt from the bias toward black men in this country. I have had to quickly discard any socialization regarding these dangers I received based on my sex assigned at birth. I am a black man in America. I am a black man in the center of the American empire watching the literal terror of dehumanization rained down upon me and my kin. At times, I am overwhelmed by the daily reminders of black death and suffering. Other times, I am compelled to ask the Universe how long shall we suffer this demonic torment based on the delusion of white supremacy. All of these situations forces one to take up residence next to the “mercy seat” as the elders would say. I remain “next to the cross” or rather, at an intersection of human experience: a bisexual Afro-Latino man of transgender experience. Some would see these identities and proclaim some sort portrait of a 21st-century tragic Negro story. However, I see this experience through the prism of resilience, resolve, and faith. I proclaim my heritage as the son of those who chose to survive the Middle Passage. These is plenty strength in that. And wisdom to boot.

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