Kevin Leonard is a husband, father, business owner and 13-year resident of Forest Park.

I am not an activist, historian or statistician, so I don’t make historical, statistical or paraphrased references as I write this column. I am only referencing my own experiences.

Every story has a beginning, middle and end. For me, this moment in time is the middle of The Story of Racism in the United States of America. And I’m tired of the way the story is being written so far.

The titles and adjectives that help describe me include husband, father, friend, Forest Park resident, former Michigan and Tennessee resident, son, brother, scout leader, and patriot. I am also a Black man living in the United States of America during probably one of the most awe-inspiring and tumultuous times of the last 54 years of my life.

As I mentioned, I’ve lived in three different states, but one thing I’ve always packed and unpacked when moving from one place to another, is my preparedness to experience racism because I’m a member of the Black race. And I’m tired of that.

  • I’m tired of lethal police brutality inflicted upon Black people disproportionately. Specifically disproportionately upon Black men and boys.
  • I’m tired of having to tell my son to behave and dress differently in public so he won’t “seem” suspicious.
  • I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable in department stores when I’m followed around by employees and security.
  • I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable when I check the “Black” box on an application when it asks what race I am. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I have to wonder if indicating that I am Black will be held against me.
  • I’m tired of white men being intimidated by me.
  • I’m tired of being called and thought of as the “N” word.
  • I’m tired of white women clutching their purses tighter when I’ve gotten on an elevator with them.
  • I’m tired of being judged by the color of my skin instead of the quality and content of my character.
  • And I’m tired of having the color of my skin be a negative factor in a wide variety of things concerning the family and personal decisions my wife and I have made over the past 30 + years.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to come clean and tell you that I’m actually Biracial. We all are. We are all members of the Human race. As members, we have the capacity, ability, skills, knowledge, technology, desire, and dare I say obligation, to do better and start working toward writing the end of The Story of Racism in the United States of America.

In order to start writing the end of the story, it is imperative for the Human race to undergo meaningful change. I am a proponent for change and I hope you are too. From every average Jane and average Joe to people in law enforcement, business, finance, education and health care. All of us.

I believe we’re all capable of meaningful change and the majority of us welcome and want it. It’s evident in the optics from recent news stories about worldwide protests ignited by the lethal violence used by police against Rekia Boyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, for example.

In my experience, in order to change we have to begin by going out on a limb and start by extending a modicum of mutual trust and respect.

I believe change is like commercial construction because it’s a worthwhile but imperfect process. There’s some risk involved. You have to make yourself somewhat vulnerable. It requires people from diverse specialties to work in harmony. During the building process, people are moved outside their comfort zones. It’s messy. It can be inconvenient. Mistakes are made along the way. But what results along the way and at the end of the process is something strong and enduring, a new Something that’s better than what stood in its place before, and something everyone can benefit from, even if they weren’t involved in the process.

I believe if the Human race is going to thrive and flourish as we’re meant to, then change is imperative. I also believe that productive, thoughtful (and probably uncomfortable) conversations about racism between White and Black people are imperative.

We can’t erase the beginning or middle of The Story of Racism in the United States of America. If we want to change the end of a story that seemed predictable until now, it’s incumbent upon us to learn from it. Otherwise we’re condemned to continue as we have in the past. And continuing to do the same thing, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.

Our story isn’t over. Let’s write one our children can be proud of, and use as a road map for how to proceed. The Story of Racism in the United States of America is an ugly, violent story that should never have been written in the first place.

We can probably all agree that racism exists all over the world. We live here in Forest Park, Illinois. Let’s begin the change that’s needed at home.

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