You Don't Hear the Bullet

The struggles of life aren’t always in black and white, and cliché’s aren’t always cliché. You know why they aren’t black and white though; do you even know what that term means? It means you can’t define a problem simply because it has a face value; like being pulled over by a cop because you were speeding, or calling the same cop when you hear a shooting or domestic violence going on in your neighborhood.

You don’t always hear the bullet that caused the mess—you just know that life is a mess, and for some reason you’re left with the residue of it. Parents can’t teach it, and pastors can’t preach it. Just one day you’re picking yourself up and going to school, and the next? The next, a bullet changes the whole equation. It’s no longer black and white—because problems don’t see skin color, they just stick around to make problems.

Overcoming racism is just like that: not hearing the bullet. You don’t get a chance to prep for it, and you’ll never know if a shot will come out of the dark at night, and sometimes you don’t even know who pulled the trigger. All you know is that you’re living life in a foxhole, dodging this blind fire in the hopes of making it to the end of the field.

I can’t say I overcame this adversity because I live it every day. Each time I hear the siren of a cop going off I visibly jump, and glue myself practically into my own skin. I stop everything I’m doing and clench my fists while letting the moment pass. This bullet wasn’t for me.

I hear shouting in the distance, the use of the word ‘boy’ in loud and obscure fashion, and I jump again. Every little detail playing out like before… then I see a father getting angry at his child for misbehaving, or maybe he’s just teaching the kid proper manners. This bullet wasn’t for me.

When you live by the shot of the bullet you can’t hear, your life becomes dominated by it; you no longer see the etchings in the wind because you can’t see past your own prejudices. You become as much the man or woman holding that gun as the person holding a gun at you; you become the one firing the bullet. So I stop what I’m doing, I imagine myself holding that gun.

I imagine myself letting the gun go.

I tell myself: Everything’s gonna be alright.

You don’t always hear the shot, but that’s just because the shot doesn’t always come. Even if racism is on the menu it doesn’t matter, because the more you feed into it, the more that imaginary bullet becomes real. Gang violence, black on black crime, stereotypes, we do not allow these things to become who we are because we improve upon ourselves, and we rise up above it.

This doesn’t mean the end of the battle, I still get pulled over because of my skin color, and I still get unwanted stares and glances from people. But in a single moment I don’t allow these encounters to define me, to take away my self-preservation and protection.

I don’t allow the gun to be in my hand like some murder weapon to a crime I never committed. I won’t give anyone a reason to convict me… because I am a person of conviction, and my life is defined by what I plan to be; a doctor, a pharmacist, a mechanic. I have my choices, my reason for being alive and wanting to live a simple life.

So maybe everything isn’t gonna be alright every single day… so maybe I’ll be mugged, or pulled over, or called something inappropriate to make me feel unequal to the world around me. So instead I keep my chin up high and I do what I need to do.

And maybe… just maybe I can stop clenching my fists for one day at a time. Maybe one day I won’t have to anymore.

I still catch myself doing it, but I smile when I notice it happening less and less. How seldom I hear the bullet these days.

User Comments

I've never had to deal with the overt brutality of racism. I can't imagine what it's like to be made to feel like I'm less of a person because of the color of my skin. I admire you for finding so deep and abiding a way of working through it; you're someone from whom a lot of people on either side of that particular fence could learn a lot from.


I've never really understood racism. I feel like it's empty and pointless, and I don't get how someone could adhere to it. At the same time, I feel like most people are capable of moving past it. It saddens me when someone identifies wholly with one thing... a hobby, a personal feature, a point of view... to the exclusion of all other aspects of their life.


Being the target of racism is definitely no fun. People don't understand what it's like to face that kind of discrimination; it's like everybody you meet with is half-bully in a way that is somehow socially acceptable. It feels like the world is crashing down upon you. 


Is racism that bad? I don't mean to be a dick by that; I wouldn't condone it, but it sounds a lot like bullying. I was bullied; it sucked at the time, but I got over it when it ended. Are racists really that common? If you jump every time you hear a siren, is it because police are regularly racist towards you? 


Your analogy is a marvelous one, applicable to so many troubles in life. Thank you for sharing; I think your story will help a lot of people with the sense that they are not only frustrated, but are alone in being so.