Engaging with lived experience

February 2, 2021

I was very, very open about posting stuff on Instagram, and my social media page, about what racial disparities look like in the United States and what the Black experience looks like. And I had one, I would say it used to be a friend, I wouldn't say a friend anymore. But he kind of, he kind of came after me, and was like, ‘How can you say that anyone is not free in the United States.’ And I think we had a conversation about Black Lives Matter being incompatible with patriotism and the American ideal. And that was a tough conversation, because essentially, he was trying to say that racism doesn't exist. And I've had a few conversations like that where I have to argue for what me and millions of other people are experiencing. It's not a matter of data. It's a matter of listening to what people have to say and how they have lived their lives. And he tried to make it a data kind of thing, but even the data wasn't, wasn't lining up for him.

But I think a lot of people are so entrenched in the idea that America is perfect and the ideal in the world. The laws say that racism doesn't exist, therefore it doesn't exist. And are not open to actually listening to the experiences of people like me and millions of others in this country. And that was, I think that was emotionally exhausting. I've definitely had multiple people unfollowed me on Instagram and other social media accounts because of how outspoken I was. I know a lot of other people have had similar experiences.

But I've also had a lot of positive experiences. I had one with a friend who goes to Notre Dame about a James Baldwin book I read called The Fire Next Time, and that I think, he's probably the most, James Baldwin is probably my favorite author. He's the best at eloquently explaining what the Black experience is in the United States or was whenever he was writing. But I had a lot of conversations with people that wanted to learn more, and wanted to gain a deeper understanding of what it's like to be Black. But also wanted actionable items, like actionable things to take action on beyond just petitions and posting. Honestly, I think that is also exhausting in the sense that people, I think people will look towards someone like me for the answers, and frankly, I don’t have the answers. And I don't think it necessarily has to be my responsibility all the time to explain the Black experience in the United States, but I'm more than happy to take that responsibility, if it means that it helps people that wouldn't have been exposed otherwise gain a deeper understanding of the Black experience. So I definitely had negative and positive experiences, but conversations, nonetheless, I think at the end of the day, they're necessary.

Blake Johnson

Blake Johnson is a senior majoring in Marketing and minoring in Sociology.