I could see he was pretty shocked.
A manager was sitting across from me as I told him a story of how I’d been followed at a beach by an inspector, suspicious that I (the only African American in my group) hadn’t paid for a beach tag. He followed me on a five-minute walk to the beach to get proof of my payment as an untold number of other people walked onto the beach without his watchful eyes upon them.
The manager looked equally surprised when I told him stories of how a woman in Louisiana scoffed at the thought of me being the mother of my mixed-race fair-skinned daughter because she’d assumed I was her nanny.
And none of my managers were pleased when, just a few months ago, I forwarded them a racist email from a viewer asking for help in stopping this person from contacting me again.
These stories are, unfortunately, only a few of the experiences I’ve had that remind me that my color still matters to some people. It’s a perspective that I’ve never felt the need to share, because I figured no one would care to listen—until I had that talk with my manager.
He encouraged me to tell those stories and help other people tell their stories about what it’s like to be African American. Is it really any different from being any other race?
That moment helped spark the idea for Courageous Conversations: Being Black in Colorado. The show is a half-hour special, allowing everyone from the everyday guy at the barbershop to the mayor of Denver to share their stories of both hurt and hope. Hope is key because the conversation is about moving forward to make better lives for all people. But, before we can do that, we have to acknowledge the reality that some people experience unfair treatment based solely on the color of their skin. It’s a fact of life.
Former Aurora City Councilman (and former 9NEWS conservative political commentator) Ryan Frazier reminded me that no one is immune. Not even him. He shared the vivid memory of the first time he was ever called the N-word. He was walking out of a movie theater in the metro area when a man yelled the slur at him. Not bothering anyone. Not doing anything. Just walking. And someone felt the need to belittle him solely based on his race. That is a reality. It may not be your reality. But it is for so many people who feel like they’re invisible.
If talking about such seems like “too big” of a conversation— this show is especially for you. No being defensive, no pointing fingers. Just acknowledgement and ideas on moving forward. I hope that this conversation will lead to more Courageous Conversation shows on what it’s like to be white, Asian, Hispanic, mixed-race, Native American, what it’s like to have special needs, what it’s like to be a veteran and so on.
Because every group deserves to be represented. And this conversation is a good place to start.
Courageous Conversations: Being Black in Colorado airs Saturday, Feb. 4 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 20.
You can read TaRhonda Thomas' bio here: http://on9news.tv/2jDm2Xi