Thoughts on Being a Young Black Man in America

The Wild Word magazine
5 min readDec 17, 2018

By Robert Taylor — BROOD

Botham Shem Jean:

The ghost of Botham Shem Jean haunts me. A ghost that doesn’t terrorize my thoughts on purpose. A name people will only remember for being shot by the police — well, an off-duty officer — for no other reason but existing and living in his own home. Was he a person before all of this? Alive before his death? An individual with his own thoughts and aspirations? Did he fall asleep regularly or did he stay up late? Did he have nightmares of dying? Nightmares of becoming a martyr?

Things My Father Tells Me:

“I had a dream last night. Can you make it your duty to go to the school store tomorrow and buy those stickers to put on your car? You shouldn’t be driving without people knowing you’re going to the school there.”

My father calls me before he would usually go to sleep. He tells me he can’t sleep at night and that when I was at home he had someone to talk to because I would be awake too. Insomnia, rambling thoughts that whisper the body to pace, something I think has connected us these last couple of years. Before, I didn’t know if we were ever on the same page.

“You have your phone? Your wallet? Here’s a new PBA card. You know what to do if you were to be pulled over, right? Tell ’em your dad was a cop and you’re sorry, won’t happen again.”

“You heard? Another shot? I can carry, I have my license and I don’t even walk around with my gun, ’cause I don’t want stupid shit like this to happen. So many reasons to be stopped, why add another?”

“Son, please, please be careful. They’re out there looking for young guys that look like you. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation. I used to be able to see from a mile away dudes who were DUI. Usually someone coming home from a wedding or something. Don’t be stupid. No ‘one for the road’. Please.”

“I fear for you son. I fear for you because you have a tendency to get complacent. You’re not them. You’re never going to be one of them. You can’t do what everyone else does. They go out, you tell them you got to go back home. You can’t think like they do. You can’t think you made it now. You’re the only brother there right? Probably on that whole campus. Don’t let…

The Wild Word magazine