I just finished I Take My Coffee Black by Tyler Merritt and am blown away. I laughed out loud (awkwardly in front of others) and cried (like fat, hot tears down my cheeks). This book gave me all the feels. And most importantly, this book is a poignant need-to-read. In the most gentle, reasonable, and loving way he tackles the hard topic of racism and so much more.
Full disclosure, I know Tyler Merritt. I haven’t seen him in years, I lost track of him after he moved out of the Bay Area. Not because I wanted to, but life gets busy sometimes and people you adore slip out of your life. But, I still count him as a friend. He is one of those larger-than-life people who, at the same time, is one of the most authentic people you can meet.
I had the privilege of working with Tyler on multiple shows. So, I can say things like, “Remember when we were in that post-Apocalyptic street gang and I tried to kill you?”
One of the theatre stories I love telling is when Tyler said to me, “Girl, there is no way you can be scary.” After rehearsal his brows were in his hairline and he gave me a HUGE compliment, “You are one of the scariest people I have ever met.” Then, he hugged me. (Yes, he does give amazing hugs and he should get that Colgate commercial for his smile). Anyway, I digress.
In I Take My Coffee Black, Tyler opens up his life from elementary school all the way to the present. He allows himself to be completely vulnerable about his personal triumphs and flaws. It would be hard to open up this much to someone in your own living room, much less the world. (Tyler, you have serious guts and I respect you for it.)
Tyler doesn’t give us a list of woes to make people feel shame and walk away. He speaks his truth and gives simple, actionable advice. He wants people to experience empathy by understanding viewpoints other than our own. And what do we need?
To Have Honesty
Value the Inherent Worth of Others
Realize We Are In This Together
He goes so much deeper than this, but can you see how simple and monumental this is? This is what we need as a society. Less judgement. More compassion.
And, as I used to tell my students all the time: Forget all the other stuff, be a good human.
Seriously, buy this book. EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ OR LISTEN TO THIS BOOK!
There is no way for me to know what it’s like to be black in America. I have inherent things that I never have to deal with. BUT, I can have empathy because I have experienced sexism (to the point I had to quit a job), bullying (with both physical and emotional abuse), and shaming.
It’s still not the same.
No one would ever be scared of me if I walked into a convenience store while wearing a hoodie. (Unless, exceptionally attractive middle-aged women who smile at strangers and uses her please and thank you’s all the time is super scary. Wink, wink.)
I also don’t have to worry about getting shot at a traffic stop.
If you haven’t seen his viral video, Before You Call the Cops. Please take a moment to watch it.
He mentions another video in the audiobook called The Playlist. I just watched it for the first time and I’m torn up. Check it out.
Okay, now that I have you sad, I have to say this. The book is upbeat and FUNNY, too. You will not walk away feeling pummeled, so please don’t let the gravity of these amazing videos dissuade you.
Did I tell you to buy the book, yet?
As I’m winding this up, I remembered something small and funny that happened many years ago. I attended a wedding in Vegas where Tyler was a candle lighter in the ceremony. Tyler came out with his signature ear-to-ear grin lighting up the place with his smile before dutifully lighting the candles. There was only one problem. The candelabras had been placed under an A/C duct. Every time he got two candles in, the A/C would blow them out. He had us cracking up by the time he was finished with his shifty eyes and double takes. He always makes the best of any situation he’s in.
(Tyler, thank you for sharing your story with us in such a raw and unguarded way. You always made me feel good about myself and I feel blessed to know you.)
Anyway, I hope you take the time to get to know Tyler a little. Knowing him could be your first step in changing the world. Because we are all in this together.
Here is the playlist he talks about in Chapter 17.