attention white friends…this is what i need from y’all: take down the defense system as it relates to conversations around race with black people. i understand when we talk about race in america it indicts whites as the perpetrators due to our unfortunate history in this country. so you’d just rather not talk about it as a white person. i get it, i get it. but we MUST talk about it to get past it. but not whites talking to whites or blacks to blacks or latinos to latinos…they’ve got to be interracial conversations.
today a very close white friend whom i adore made a comment about a black boys hair as being “nappy.” it was undone, not nappy, and i know that is what s/he meant because i know their heart. but i told them to be careful about the words they use to describe different groups of people, and that nappy isn’t the word you want to use as a white person when speaking about black peoples hair. the conversation that followed was an uncomfortable and defensive one for this person, and i know it’s because s/he felt like i was attacking them. i wasn’t. i was simply educating a white person, about a black persons reality, so that s/he didn’t feel comfortable to use the same word in that context in the future. s/he went on to say that black people use the word nappy all the time toward each other and it’s okay, and i said black people also use the word nigga toward each other and it’s okay but you are not black and cannot/should not use either when talking about blacks. to be fair, how was s/he to know that it’s inappropriate to use the word nappy in that context, as a white person? answer: by being willing to have interracial conversations about race, that’s how. i might have ruffled a few feathers but s/he will thank me in the long run.
as for the rest of america, whether white or black or green, please don’t shy away from the opportunity to write new history about race in america, by actively seeking clarity and understanding about realities not of your own. being on the attack, or on the defensive is not the answer. let your guard down for a changing of the guard in race relations in america.
Race together, not against each other
“… the choice of whether to live in idealism or reality was mine to make. And that is privilege.”
i’ve had some healthy convos with a few of my white brothers and sisters since last week’s verdict and i haven’t been shy about reminding them that they benefit from white privilege, to no fault or choice of their own. the reactions have ranged from sheer shock to innocent confusion to pure insult, and those responses are all appropriate. after all, how do you know you are benefiting from anything if your set of experiences don’t include both benefit and the absence of it as a point of reference? we don’t get to choose the circumstances under which we are brought into this world, and that includes our race or ethnicity. so it’s not one person’s fault that some of us are born the beneficiaries of certain societal privileges — for example the privilege to be exactly your normal, acceptable self without having to change your normal, acceptable behavior to survive in society — while others of us are not. however we can choose to acknowledge that the disparity exists so that we can work together to systematically level the playing field. the author of this article (see link above) wrote it best when she said, “…I had wanted to make the outside world match my internal idealism — instead of paying attention to the actual world, the world of reality,” which is a consistent message i’ve gotten from a lot of my white brothers and sisters. they want to believe that the world viewed through their lens is the world as it is, because that world is a good one. it’s noble to want what’s right and just for all people. but unfortunately that is not the system as it stands. so i’ve stressed to my white brothers and sisters the importance of them seeing the world as it really is and not as they hope it to be, because then and only then will we get convicted enough to push for a society where their idealism is everyone’s reality. i take responsibility for affirming and reaffirming my white brothers and sisters that we are partners in this fight for justice and not enemies, as often portrayed when discussing race in america. however i don’t promise that the process of achieving change will be comfortable. in fact it should be quite uncomfortable; and if it’s not then we ain’t doing it right. let’s begin to acknowledge the real problems so that we can come up with real solutions. get uncomfortable.