Dear You: A Black Husband and Father Reflects on Empathy – by Jimmy Friday

This is the fourth in a series of reflections called The Empathy School: reflections on Empathy in today’s world. I’m deeply grateful to my friend, Jimmy Friday, for sharing his thoughts here. This is the third time Jimmy’s words have spoken up from my blog. Scroll back to read more of his thoughts.

Dear You:

I’m not sure I can even call you a friend anymore. You’re praying for me in front of my face, but behind my back, I’m divisive and radical (and wrong). I’m radical only because of the fear I have of my black sons becoming “big and black” (like their dad). I’m radical because I’m thankful for the sacrifices my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncle’s made so that I didn’t have to bear the same cross they did..

It’s not about your vote, it’s because of what you support.

It’s not about your politics, but because of what your politics has enabled.

It’s not because of YOUR skin color, but because of your lack of consideration of mine.

You aren’t the first, nor will you be the last to allow an FOC (friend of color) to see that you really don’t put anti-racism at the top of your priority list. It’s clear you don’t, despite what you say, because what you do is who you really are.

Your excuses and what-about isms, particularly when it comes to race, speak volumes. You talk about how YOUR family was treated and how YOUR family has suffered when in reality, you are a privileged white person in this country. I don’t say that with anger, but just as an acknowledgement of our current reality. Being white in America is NOT a curse. But being white in America and wanting to consider me a friend, comes with some requirements. You must show empathy and listen. It’s not enough to just not be a racist. You have to be ANTI-racist.

I appreciate your prayers, but I NEED your partnership. I want you walking with me (on my terms), not talking at me (on your terms). As your friend, I HAVE to hold you to a higher standard.

To be empathetic is to make oneself vulnerable. It’s not all about you. I refuse to “meet you where you are” when you have made it clear, through both your actions and lack of action, that you are not meeting me where I am. It’s people who look like me who are being killed. It’s people who look like my sons who can’t breathe. It’s people who look like my wife who are dying…. And you want to talk about “following the rules.”

When I talk about racism and how it affects me, that’s not the time to counter with the fake urgency of issues at the top of your list. It means you’re not worried about mine.

When I talk about racism and how it affects me, that’s not the time to counter with politics. Despite what you’ve been told:


When you conflate the two, it perfectly explains that you are without empathy… Either willfully or ignorantly.

When I talk about racism and how I am scared to death of my black sons becoming teenagers, I don’t need to hear your whataboutisms related to the “other” political issues that Trump (pun intended) anti-racism on your issue list.

When I talk about racism, what I do need to hear from you are three simple words: “Are you OK?” (which I have yet to hear).

I appreciate and need your prayers, but if you want to continue being my friend I also need your partnership.

That’s what it’s about.


Photo Credit: The Underground Railroad Trail, Sandy Spring, Maryland, 2021. Taken by Joseph Ross

Published by

Poet & Teacher. Author of four books of poetry: Raising King (2020) Ache (2017) Gospel of Dust (2013) Meeting Bone Man (2012)

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