Thank you, Marley. This is EXACTLY what I’m struggling with. I was born and raised in Baltimore and I have worked in the non-profit community health care world for a great portion of my adulthood — and what you’ve written is exactly what I know is true: there is no one story AND no matter who I am friends with, who I see day to day, I will never know, truly, the fear and the constant need to analyze and be aware in every situation (and how that affects one's behavior) that is experienced in the daily life of a Black person. As much as I may ‘see’ and relate to the stories, I fear lack of authenticity and while empathy is a strong emotional drive, it’s not the same as reality. And, the reality is, my experience is as an outsider and my words may, ultimately, be shallow and soulless.
The character doesn’t have to be Black. He doesn’t have to be anything for this story to work. I do see him as someone I know — but I can use traits of the person I know and leave his race out of it.
I am so grateful to you for this thoughtful response — I cannot tell you. I often think of my mom reminding me to go with your gut. My gut is telling me — as you’ve written beautifully here — leave it be, go with what you truly know.