Why I Have Trouble Being Vulnerable

By Damian C. Reynolds

I hear it all the time. “Why aren’t you more vulnerable?” “Let more people in.” “It’s OK to let your armor down sometimes.” I try. But being vulnerable is not easy.

I noticed a trend of white female acquaintances asking me these questions and more similar ones. I take the time to be myself more, only to find myself greeted with an astounding, “Why are you being so sassy?” I don’t understand. I’m trying to open up more.

But opening up more means stepping on some toes and making some Caucasian peers uncomfortable. That means calling out my Caucasian peers when they spew nonsense and make me uncomfortable.

One white female acquaintance approached me for posting a Facebook status about this very subject, even though I never singled out a specific individual. She was offended and texted me immediately because she thought I was singling her out. I told her that she’s not the first one to make similar comments that week and reminded her that she’s not that important. Then, I had an epiphany.

I realized the true meaning of the cliche “Be yourself.”

I’m tired of trying to assimilate to white culture and please “massah.” I bite my tongue around some white people because I fear I’ll be ostracized for by urban demeanor. I’m a black face at a predominantly white institution. That’s not changing. Ever. I listen to John Coltrane ballads and rap music. I love N.W.A., 2Pac, and Biggie as much as I love Charlie Parker and Duke Ellington. I watch ESPN 24-7.

I am who I am.

I am bold, brash, and brilliant. Yes, I can be a little rough around the edges. I’m still a true southern boy at heart, though. “Yes ma’am”, “Thank you”, and “Y’all” roll off the tongue just as easily as “Bruh.”

Life became so much easier when I finally realized that I can truly be myself. I’m tired of white female acquaintances asking me why I’m so “sassy” when I give them an answer they don’t like. I don’t appreciate this angry black man narrative, and truthfully, I’m sick of it.

I’m not vulnerable because I’m tired of being perceived as angry for showing emotion.

Take a look at black male athletes and compare them to their white counterparts. The Tom Bradys and Peyton Mannings of the world are “passionate” for showing negative emotions on the sidelines, whereas the Richard Shermans are perceived as thugs for showing the same emotions.

I’m not vulnerable because white people can’t handle my emotions.

I’m labeled as an angry black man the moment I try to open up. I’m not angry. I just know I’m allowed to express myself. I also know I don’t have to conform to my white female acquaintances’ expectations. If that means ruffling some feathers and stepping on some toes along the way, then I’m OK with that.

Not everyone will like me for who I am, and that’s OK with me. However, it’s unfair to me to not be who I am due to a fear of the angry black man rhetoric. Captain Dickson said it best: “I’m black…and sometimes I get angry.”

So, white female acquaintances, next time you ask me why I’m being so quiet around you, nothing is wrong. Don’t tell me I’m acting “different” or “weird.”

If I’m quiet around you white female acquaintances, that’s your fault, not mine. I’m no longer comfortable around you. I’d rather keep to myself than have you continue this played-out angry black man narrative when I don’t respond in the ways you don’t think I should.

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