By All Appearances

Where was the sadness of knowing that when he returned home, his house would feel strange and empty. But much deeper inside Nash, from a place he could not quite explain, there was also a fear that the divorce had somehow “shattered our family’s social respectability.” Looking back, Nash recognizes this fear was unfounded. Most of his friends, white and black, had divorced parents. Nor could the separation undo all that had shaped him. His mother seemed content; he grew closer to his father, who, when Nash came out as gay, appeared quite happy for his son. His parents still talked every day. His family, he knew, was far from “broken,” and yet, at the time, he felt that the very stereotypes that had enabled society to devalue black communities were closing in around him. “The single mother, the absent father, that this explains all of our social ills—I didn’t want that baggage. It’s not what I grew up with, and, at first, the divorce seemed to suggest all that.

“You may say, ‘That’s silly, what difference does it make?’ But in the black communities, there is a concept called ‘linked fate,’ that says we must remember that we’re all one, that we carry the weight of the race on our shoulders. The positive things that we do benefit us all, and the negative things could throw us back. Some people think that way and some people don’t. But I live it every day. That’s why I do this work, and I’m comfortable being a soldier in the struggle.”

One night last spring, not long after Trayvon Martin had been shot, Nash was walking home in Brooklyn when he came across two officers on a street corner. He rarely saw police in the neighborhood; by then it had gentrified, each house worth millions. “I saw them standing there, and I wasn’t going to go around them, so I went between them,” said Nash. He made it nearly to the other end of the street before the officers called after him. “Excuse me, sir,” they said, “is that alcohol in your bottle?” Earlier that day, he had bought spring water and saved the blue glass to use as decoration. “I knew I hadn’t committed a crime,” said Nash, and so he continued on his way. The officers followed. As Nash drew closer to his house, the street darkened, and he grew suddenly afraid. What was it worth? he thought. After all, he was still a black man. He turned to face the officers. “Look, it’s nothing,” he said, and to himself he thought, Resist! Resist! Save myself to fight another day.

Sierra Crane-Murdoch ’09 is a writer based in Missoula, Montana.

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  1. Great piece!

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