My friend, Gerald, is black. We live in Boulder, Colorado, a city that is 98.5% white. Gerald is my only black friend here. I’ve never considered him to be different from me in any way. He’s a cyclist, he snowboards, he plays lacrosse, his kids play ice hockey, he’s a professional. The only thing different about Gerald in my eyes, is the way he buttons the very top button on both his dress and casual shirts. Always. When everyone else is wearing a T-shirt, he’s wearing a collared Izod, buttoned up.
What I didn’t know was that this is purposeful and intentional. This is a part of the armor that Gerald has worn his entire life, being the only person of color in every setting he’s ever been in since childhood. If it hadn’t been for the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police simply because he was a black man, and the subsequent dialogue that has finally begun to emerge, I wouldn’t have learned what makes my friend who he is at his core.
We are finally starting to engage in dialogue in this country about race. What I’ve realized is that while I don’t see differences on the surface, I also don’t “get it.” There are very significant differences in the experiences of black people and white people living in the same communities, attending the same schools, and doing the same jobs.
In the past few months I’ve had the incredible opportunity to have conversations I didn’t know I needed to have. I’ve learned so much. Even about a friend I’ve known for 25 years. If you don’t know what you don’t know, please take the time to watch and listen to my conversation with Gerald. The biggest take-aways for me… start conversations, ask questions, listen to learn, look for commonalities, and most importantly, build connection. Listen HERE.