RACE: Do You See Me?

Source: Time

By John Legend

John Legend is a singer, songwriter, philanthropist and prison-reform advocate.

‘We need to see each other in all of our humanity’

We’re living in a moment when the challenges facing black folks are becoming more visible. With the introduction of cell-phone footage and other video, the entire nation can now see for themselves what black folks have been talking about for years and years. We can all see and feel the pain of injustice and the consequences of negative stereotypes that color far too many of our interactions with the criminal justice system and many other aspects of society.

These issues are critical to us, to our families and communities. But no black person wants to be thought of solely on the basis of how they interact with the law or police or prison. No one wants to be constantly seen as a problem to be solved. It’s a conundrum. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to agree to write this column. You want to raise these issues; you don’t want to be synonymous with them. But to be silent may be easier, but it doesn’t fix anything. And there’s plenty to fix.

Obviously, I’m very fortunate and doing very well, but the average black person still faces disadvantage (call it a “Black Tax”) at every turn. When police are more likely to pull you over or pull the trigger because they read danger and violence into our skin. When our résumés get turned away because the applicant’s name sounds black. When prospective black tenants or home buyers are turned away in person or on sites like Airbnb simply because of our skin color. When we get paid less for doing the same work. Every scientific test, from doll tests to police simulations, shows that if you know someone is black, you treat them worse.

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