Dear Old Friends, I’m addressing you today to clarify a few misconceptions you all may have as to why I am no longer present. Let me start by saying that majority of our friendships were built on a foundation of similar tastes in food and proximity. We may have gone to high school together, gone out for drinks, dated, smoked a couple of times, or shared test answers. While each of these interactions have impacted me in more ways than one, one interaction in particular that I have had with all of you has made the most significant impression. I have shared my time with black men who would rather “chop off their left hand than have a gay son.” I have shared my advice with black women who continue to date and defend their boyfriends who tell them, “ I will dump you if you have an abortion.” I have shared my space with people who believe that “Trump is going to make a difference. He wants to make us all better.” I have shared my body with a man who can talk sports for hours, but when I address the misogynistic lyrics in the music he blasts in the car, he responds “it’s just rap. It’s just music. It’s not that deep.” I have shared my newsfeed with twitter activists who have ample opinions online, but are unable to express those same views in a room of their peers because they are afraid to step on the toes of the people who validate their popularity on social media through likes and fake endearments. I have noticed that your fights are not consistent nor intersectional. I know all of you very well, and you all know me. I have seen loyalty, received support, and made some of my most precious memories with you, but that is not enough. At a certain point in all of our lives, we must evaluate the circle of people we surround ourselves with and recognize whether they are adding to our growth or hindering it. Ignorance can be forgiven; however, blatant lack of a fuck given cannot. I have had many ignorant days, but I have never been comfortable with being ignorant. I challenged myself to step back from multiple situations and thoroughly consider the possibility that I was in the wrong. In doing so, I opened my mind up to a world of knowledge and understanding and it has been beautiful every day since.You are the only person capable of expanding your own intellect through the genuine desire to do so. In all of the aforementioned situations (and many I did not have the time or patience to list), I attempted to share with you how detrimental the mindsets that you had during these instances is to the progression of the human race, but all of you insisted that it wasn’t that serious and things weren’t that bad. I have explained why homophobia and homophobic remarks are offensive, negative, and oppressive. The fact that you are a black man does not make you incapable of oppressing another group of people. Cisgendered, heterosexual men seem to believe that saying “faggot” and “that’s gay” is not oppressive if it is not directed at someone who is homosexual and if it’s meant as a lighthearted joke. You are wrong. Saying these things has become normalized and those who speak out against it are considered overly sensitive. In reality, YOU are being overly sensitive to being called out on your bullshit. Get over it. What you say makes me and many others feel uncomfortable and offended. I don't have to tolerate it. I do not care how long I have known you, and it’s selfish to think that I’m going to give your joke precedence over my feelings. Tuah. For my best friend who is allowing a man to tell her what to do with her body, you have got to be kidding me. You cannot preach self-love, feminism, and the empowerment of black women while allowing yourself to be subjected to daily abuse. For what? Someone to talk to every night before bed? You speak as if you only walk amongst lions, yet trudge through the mud with pigs. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Do not defend his actions with “it’s been passed down through generations, that makes it more understandable.” You know that if those words were coming from the mouth of anyone other than yours, you would scoff at the disrespect they have for themselves. If you enable sexism, you allow it to be, to exist, to spread like a wildfire, regardless of if it’s blatant or not. Black men do not get a pass to be misogynistic assholes because they are black and have struggled. That is weak. The behavior should be corrected as soon as it’s apparent. If they are not willing to listen and make the change, they are the problem. To the Trump supporters, black or white, fuck you. By enabling a racist, you are a racist. Your fight has never been with me. For the boy who was incapable of recognizing that the fight is not just for black men, expand your intellect. By placing the black male struggle over that of black women, transgender people, and those that identify as homosexual, you hinder the overall advancement of everyone who is struggling. The system does not work until it works for everyone. The fight for all who are not rich, white men should be unified. By dividing ourselves, we continue to allow one group of people to progress further rather than cohesively moving towards our common goal— equality for all. When you give up your values and morals to appease the people around you, how can truly call those your morals? Morals are someone’s standard of behavior, therefore, that mindset and way of conducting yourself should remain consistent regardless of who is around you or what they do for you. With that being said, I cannot and will not allow myself to continue to be surrounded by those who are not willing to reflect upon their own actions and acknowledge that changes need to be made. These mindsets are not differences in opinion, but matters of right and wrong. It is about what is just. I have learned that although it is a growing pain, it is okay to outgrow someone. I challenge you all to reflect on the people you call your friends and surround yourself with, and do the same. In being unable to look your faults in the eyes, I saw that you were too brittle, bigoted, and stagnant in thought to promote progression within myself and the community, and for that, I bid you adieu. Best, Kailen B. New Orleans, LA.