Calloused hands from years of hard work.
Heavy shoulders on which he carries his wife and children, his hopes and all of their collective, often expensive dreams.
Skin brown and beautiful, but not always appreciated.
He looks suspect.
He is black.
Pull him over.
Why is he driving that car?
Why is he in this neighborhood?
Pay him less, but get him to work more.
He is not simply a man.
But he is.
He must prove it to everyone, everyday.
Honest and dutiful.
Sensitive and smart.
He is other.
He can run fast, jump high.
He can dance and sing and make music. He can make us laugh.
But when he is alone, he knows there is pain behind that smile.
Behind a wall of white, clenched teeth there is a seething rage.
Why do they not see me? Why do they not see the real me?
How hard I work? How hard I try? How I have to navigate the world in such a calculated way, to stay alive? To not be mistaken for a criminal?
Why does my intelligence unnerve?
Why is the tenderness with my daughters and wife seen as unusual?
This is the way I live.
So the times I notice when my daddy laughs and laughs so hard, tears gather in the corners of his closed eyes, he gasps for breath, head cocked back, claps his hands and holds his belly…
I feel joy. So much joy.
In that moment, he’s just a man. A happy black man. He’s just my daddy. Not a stereotype. He’s simply laughing at something really, really, really funny.
He’s so free. He’s so handsome.
I wish my daddy could just laugh like that all the time.
But in a world like this, I know he can’t.