To honor of Black History Month, we want to highlight black voices as they share their own unique experiences. Tyler Merritt discuss his own experiences of being Black in America, why proximity is so important, and what it’s like to be on the frontlines of social change.
What started out as a cry for empathy and compassion before judgment in his viral video Before You Call the Cops has become the springboard for Tyler Merritt’s memoir I Take My Coffee Black. In I Take My Coffee Black, Tyler tells hilarious stories from his own life as a black man in America. Throughout his stories, he also seamlessly weaves in lessons about privilege, the legacy of lynching and sharecropping and why you don’t cross black mamas. He teaches readers about the history of encoded racism that still undergirds our society today.
Witty, insightful, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny, I Take My Coffee Black paints a portrait of black manhood in America and enlightens, illuminates, and entertains—ultimately building the kind of empathy that might just be the antidote against the racial injustice in our society.
Tyler on why the idea of Proximity can help cure racism:
As these events of police killings of unarmed black people began to build, I felt hopelessness come crashing down, like a great wave over me. I felt like I was drowning. I was at risk—and my personhood was desperate to survive. I felt that primordial “fight or flight” instinct kick up, but there was nowhere to run. So I waws going to have to fight back the only way I knew how. My name is Tyler, and I build things. But what? What could I build this time? I thought about a quote that I first heard from Dr. Bryan Loritts, which I think he might have adapted from a quote from Dr. Eric Mason. It went like this:
Distance breeds suspicion.
But proximity breeds empathy.
I had a hunch deep in my bones that proximity was key. And throughout my life, although I hadn’t realized it, I was accidentally developing and building a life of proximity, where I was living near and around so many different sorts of people. Some people might call that “luck”. I’d call it Providence. I often think, “What if my dad had stayed stationed n Alaska for twenty years?” I think your life experiences really do shape how you view the world. And my whole life has been one giant exercise in proximity.
It was time to build the Tyler Merritt Project.
Tyler’s Formula for Better Society Gumbo:
“We were a wild group of people, diverse, from every corner of the city, with very different views and gifts and talents and opinions—and we’d not only learned to work together for the common good, but we’d learned to LOVE EACH OTHER along the way.
As I stare at the various fractured factions of the US right now, so many people angry and upset, so many people talking past each other, so little relational trust—not only at the national level, but even at the local level—I can’t help but think that the way forward in our nation was something I learned at the Academy:
Proximity (which breeds empathy) +
Honesty (vulnerable dialogue) +
Value (seeing each other as having inherent worth) +
A Common Goal (seeing that we’re all in this together) =
BETTER SOCIETY GUMBO”
Foreword by Jimmy Kimmel
As a 6'2" dreadlocked black man, Tyler Merritt knows what it feels like to be stereotyped as threatening, which can have dangerous consequences. But he also knows that proximity to people who are different from ourselves can be a cure for racism.
Tyler Merritt's video "Before You Call the Cops" has been viewed millions of times. He's appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and Sports Illustrated and has been profiled in the New York Times. The viral video's main point—the more you know someone, the more empathy, understanding, and compassion you have for that person—is the springboard for this book. By sharing his highs and exposing his lows, Tyler welcomes us into his world in order to help bridge the divides that seem to grow wider every day.
In I Take My Coffee Black, Tyler tells hilarious stories from his own life as a black man in America. He talks about growing up in a multi-cultural community and realizing that he wasn't always welcome, how he quit sports for musical theater (that's where the girls were) to how Jesus barged in uninvited and changed his life forever (it all started with a Triple F.A.T. Goose jacket) to how he ended up at a small Bible college in Santa Cruz because he thought they had a great theater program (they didn't). Throughout his stories, he also seamlessly weaves in lessons about privilege, the legacy of lynching and sharecropping and why you don't cross black mamas. He teaches readers about the history of encoded racism that still undergirds our society today.
By turns witty, insightful, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny, I Take My Coffee Black paints a portrait of black manhood in America and enlightens, illuminates, and entertains—ultimately building the kind of empathy that might just be the antidote against the racial injustice in our society.