You MUST listen to this.

August 15, 2014 § Leave a comment

I was in the car this morning when StoryCorps came on.  It’s on every Friday morning on WNYC and it just about always makes me cry.  Today was no exception.

First, if you don’t know about StoryCorps and the amazing work they do, check it out HERE.

Here’s StoryCorps’ synopsis of today’s piece:

In 2009, Alex Landau was a student at Community College of Denver. After a traffic stop one night, he was severely beaten by Denver Police officers.

Alex is African-American. He was adopted by a white couple and he grew up in largely white, middle-class suburbs of Denver.

Alex and his mother, Patsy Hathaway, came to StoryCorps to talk about how Alex’s race has influenced his life and what happened that night when police pulled him over.

You can listen to the piece and/or read a near-transcript of the story by clicking HERE.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t a new story.  I’ve heard versions of this story plenty of times – both in the media and anecdotally – so, unfortunately, this isn’t a case of feeling surprised or like the scales have fallen from my eyes.  This is bad news and it’s even worse because its old news.

(It’s also far too much to unpack in one blog post but I do want to make two points:)

The aspect of this particular telling of the story that really grabbed me is what Alex says at the end: “for me, it was the point of awakening to how the rest of the world is going to look at you. I was just another black face in the streets.”  Of course that’s how he felt.  And it rang true because I can think of countless times that I was walking around as a white person looking at black people who were looking back at me thinking that that was my attitude towards them.  I can’t blame them.  Of course it isn’t only black people.  Women experience this.  Other races and ethnicities do.  Plenty of people.  It’s a tragedy in every case: people learning to keep their guard up because people outside their immediate experience can’t be trusted to see them clearly or even to see them as individuals.

I also remembered, during “Cultural Diversity” week in high school (which was pretty awesome, by the way), my friend and some other black students on a panel talking about the unpleasant, burdensome feeling of always being the ones who have to educate others about black history, culture, the black experience in America.  They wished the people who wanted to know would show some initiative to find out on their own instead of passively waiting to be told what and when they needed to know.  I’m asking you to listen to this because I think it’s an easy opportunity to extend yourself and learn a little more about an experience and a point of view that may be outside of your own.  This story is told in our country over and over again and maybe if we all hear it enough we’ll start to figure out how to do better for each other and ourselves.

When you listen to the piece, what do you find most moving or surprising? What will you remember about this version of this story?  Tell us in the comments.

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