‘I Take My Coffee Black’ Author Tyler Merritt Reveals Why He Compares Himself To Mister Rogers

As people continue to protest social injustice and exercise their freedom of expression, author Tyler Merritt has written a book that examines the impact of stereotypes on the black community’s ability to be seen as equal .

Merritt spoke with Blavity about his upbringing and how his experiences as a 6’4″ black man in America inspired his new book, I Drink My Coffee Black: Reflections on Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith, and Being Black in America. In his book, Merritt discusses racial prejudice and the societal restrictions and limitations of the First Amendment.

“…as a black American, you learn very quickly that the First Amendment doesn’t always apply to you. Not really. If you’re a black man, you need to learn restraint. Or, you will pay the price. Black people can’t be like Karens at a Wal-Mart. That’s what the police are called. And that’s how you end up dying,” he wrote in his book.

During his chat with Blavity, Merritt pointed to voter suppression in the black community, speaking specifically of lawmakers “working day and night” to restrict voters.

Aware of his appearance – a black man with a graying beard, tall build and long locs – Merritt decided to take on the imposed character traits of Mister Rogers from the long-running children’s show Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood and began using it as a metaphor to describe his aspirations for his legacy amid racial injustice.

“Mr. Rogers has this weird, universal thing about who he was,” Merritt told Blavity, adding that Mr. Rogers’ impact has transcended generations. “As you delve into who he was, how he fought for the rights of all children… So when I was looking at something like some sort of mirror, I landed on Mister Rogers.”

“It ties into a truth of, I want to be someone who when I die, people look at me and say, ‘Yo, that guy loved everybody.’ And that’s how I feel about Mr. Rogers. That’s how I feel about the matriarchs of our black culture, whose real stories we don’t often get to tell,” he continued. , praising the impact of his Madea and black family matriarchs.

During the conversation, Merritt also recalled growing up and realizing at age 8 that there were people who thought his “darkness was a problem.”

Detailing an incident with a childhood friend, Merritt said he walked up to the house of a young boy whose parents wouldn’t let him in.

“A white woman opened the door and was just glaring and just said, ‘Yeah, Billy, you can come in. But your, uh, black friend can’t,'” Merritt said. “It’s the kind of stuff you’ll never forget. And I remember being there, being like, first of all, I never heard Negro used with a negative connotation.

He said the experience was the start of a hyper-awareness of his race in public, but added that regardless of people’s perception of him and black stereotypes, he chooses to be optimistic. about the future.

Lola R. McClure