A suburban man’s powerful Facebook post on growing up black is resonating in ways he never expected.
“Please, bear with me for a few minutes,” Brian Crooks wrote on July 9. “Hopefully, it'll help you understand why I feel the way I do.”
Crooks, 31, moved to Naperville with his family when he was in the 5th grade, and his parents still live there, according to the Chicago Tribune.
In his 4,747 word essay, Crooks details experiences from his childhood through present day, sharing stories of microaggressions, outright discrimination, and even encounters with the police.
“The first time I was acutely aware of my Blackness, I was probably 6 or 7 years old,” his essay began. “I used to go to daycare back then, and we went on a field trip to a water park one time. One of the other boys from the daycare came up to me and told me he was surprised I was going on the trip because his dad told him all colored people were afraid of the water since we sink to the bottom. He didn't know he was being offensive. He was just curious why someone who would sink to the bottom would want to go to a water park.”
Recalling the countless times he said other students asked to touch his hair, and the discomfort he felt being the “designated reader” during Black History Month, Crooks writes candidly about his adolescence in Naperville, and attending Neuqua Valley High School.
He wrote about one of several times he was pulled over by police, even when an officer stepped out of his car with his gun drawn as Crooks was just a block from his parents’ house.
“Only when I was sitting in the back of the police car did he tell me that there had been reports of gang activity in the area and that a car fitting my car's description with a driver fitting my description had recently been involved in said gang activity. Gang activity. In south Naperville,” Crooks said.
Crooks then went on to discuss college at the University of Iowa and his post-graduate experience, even being handcuffed on Clark Street in Lake View after attempting to break up a fight.
“I could go on and on and on about this,” he wrote. “I could tell you about the coworker who thought it was funny to adopt a stereotypical Black accent to apologize that we weren't going to have fried chicken and cornbread at our company Christmas party.”
“I could tell you about leaving a bar heartbroken and fighting tears when the Trayvon Martin verdict came out only to see a couple middle-aged White guys high-fiving and saying he 'got what he deserved' right outside. These are only a handful of the experiences I've had in my 31 years.”
"When we say 'Black Lives Matter,' understand what that actually means," Crooks wrote, reflecting on the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both fatally shot by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively.
"We aren't saying that ONLY Black lives matter. We're saying 'Black lives matter TOO.'"
Since he posted the status, it has been shared more than 17,000 times.
“I really didn't think many people would read it,” he responded to a comment asking to share the post. “But I want anybody who thinks others would benefit from my experiences to be able to read this too.”