Dear United States of America.
In the midst of the times in which we live today, and being amongst the thousands who cry out for civil rights, justice, peace, equality, solidarity, and redemption, such a massive outcry can for many turn into a muffled noise. When there are people who are hurting, angry, and resentful, human emotion indefinitely takes over diminishing the impact and effectiveness of the true message that wants to be communicated. One side feels as though they’re not being heard, while the other side goes into defense mode, as they feel they’re under attack. The result is wasted time, energy, and oxygen from the effort of trying to convey a message that ultimately goes nowhere. The truth is, no one is listening. The oppressed can’t hear because of the natural act of “screaming out.” The frustration bottled up inside only intensifies this, making it impossible to have a mind and ears that can be open for answers. While those on the defense are so fed up by the belief of overgeneralization and the overwhelming feeling of animosity toward them, whether they be for, against, or indifferent toward the fight for justice and civil rights, blocking their ear ways, also feeling a sense of hopelessness of never being understood, and never doing enough. The result is both sides being deaf to one another, screaming to a brick wall, crying out for answers, acting out, lashing out, speaking out to something that has no heart. No soul. No emotion. It simply serves as a barrier between two groups of people, catching these human reactions, but letting it bounce off it like a boomerang, returning to where it started.
The goal of me writing this letter is not to speak for, or put words into anyone else’s mouth. It is simply to express my thoughts in a way that can be deemed approachable or accessible. I believe that when people feel one can understand how they feel, but can also communicate how someone else may be feeling in a manner that is inoffensive, but authentic and expressed courageously, gives them an incentive to listen. This letter is not from the thoughts or beliefs of anyone else but my own. However, it is my hope that it will create a foundation for people to try other methods of getting their point across; taking the time to gather their thoughts; having their own voice with their own ideas; using the knowledge and intelligence brought by their own personal experiences to help change the world around them.
Many have asked me what it is like to be a young, African American male living in the United States of America during times such as these. And most of the time, when one asks for an answer, I am unable to give them one. I believe that there is no definite answer. My experience varies on a daily basis. With the recent events which have occurred, walking down the street in the middle of Manhattan feels like there is a huge magnifying glass on me, even when it’s not. No one wants to look at me the wrong way; no one wants to say anything that could give off the slightest possibility that what they are saying, or the way they are acting around me has anything to do with the color of my skin. I’ve never wanted to be put in a box, and never wanted to be labeled as someone or into something that I felt did not accurately reflect who I am. And even if someone had no choice but to lump me into a group of people, I would still be hesitant because we are all truly unique, and in my opinion, we shouldn’t need generalities to make people feel like they can understand who we are, what our background is, or what we are about.
I always say to myself, “If it weren’t for the fear that one has toward a group of people, or a generality of how they “assume” a particular person may feel, what could we accomplish together?” The labeling by association within our country is a real issue, and in many ways has prohibited us from creating new businesses, resurrecting abandoned neighborhoods, constructing new places of worship, tackling issues of employment, disease, and poverty within particular demographics, ultimately restructuring our country to be more inhabitable for the generations that follow us. The uniqueness of each and every one of us, really is the foundation of the United States of America. One of the main issues is that we have been unable to adapt to these differences. In fact, instead of adapting, we decide to become complacent, and only focus on how “we” feel, or what “we” think the real issue is. This is the origin of the soulless wall that comes between us acting as a barrier between groups of people, catching these uncontrollable emotions and unstructured thoughts of how we view others who are not like us. We automatically say, “they will never understand,” but if we constantly have this mindset, having the numerous rallies, marches, speeches, candlelight visuals, prayer services, Facebook statuses, Instagram posts, Tumblr feeds, and Tweets accomplishes what? For any group that feels like another group will never understand how they feel, are blind to it, or simply don’t care what is the point? There is a solution to the issue we face within our country today, and it begins with dismantling that soulless wall.
Every human has a soul, every human has feelings, emotions, pain, hurt, sorrow, resentment; but every human also has a mind. A mind that was created for the generating of ideas, and solutions to problems. No problem is too huge for us to solve. We just have to reevaluate our choice of words and actions to do so.
Jay R. Stephens