Marlon James

Marlon James

*Twin Cities writer Marlon James has gone viral with his poignant Facebook post about what it’s like to be “a big, black guy” in Minnesota.

Titled “Smaller, and Smaller, and Smaller,” the post comes in the wake of former police officer Jeronimo Yanez being acquitted in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

The Jamaican-born author borrows from standup legend Dick Gregory, who famously said Southern blacks can get “close” but not “big,” while Northern blacks are allowed to get “big” but not “close”…to white people. James said he tries to deliberately stay “small” in his hometown as a means of survival.

“I did not realize until just now, that big can mean literally big, and close can mean 20 feet away, and how 10 years of living in Minnesota as a ‘big, black guy’ has led me to a gradual though futile ‘reduction’ of myself to get closer,” he writes. “I have a big global voice, but a small local one, because I don’t want to be a target, and resent that in 2017, that’s still the only choice I get to have.”

James continues: “I go out of my way to avoid police, because I don’t know how to physically act around them. Do I hold my hands in the air and get shot, Do I kneel and get shot? Do I reach for my ID and get shot? Do I say I’m an English teacher and get shot? Do I tell them everything I am about to do, and get shot? Do I assume than seven of them will still feel threatened by one of me, and get shot? Do I simply stand and be big black guy and get shot? Do I fold my arms and squeeze myself into smaller and get shot? Do I be a smartass and get shot? Do I leave my iPhone on a clip of me on Seth Meyers, so I can play it and say, see, that’s me. I’m one of the approved black guys. And still get shot?”

The post has received more than a thousand likes and nearly 200 shares since its posting on Saturday (June 17).

James, who grew up in Jamaica, won the Man Booker Prize in 2015 for “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” He teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Read his entire FB post below: