Friday, September 14, 2012

Black people don't know how to talk about race


Discussions about race are tough to have.  It’s cumbersome due to the massive assumptions placed on the table.  Navigating around it all forces all of us to keep the BS at the front door before sharing our views.
My last blog received a heated response from one of my readers.  He was offended with the generalization that white people don’t know how to talk about race.  He reminded me of the hard work and dedication of white people who sacrificed their lives for black people.  In other words, I’m not one of them.
My reader’s response proves my point regarding the difficulty in talking about race.  One has to be careful not to offend those who stand on the other side.  You can’t lump everyone in the same bag due to the exceptions to every theory.  My critic is correct to call me to task for over simplifying the issue.  With that being said, his response validates how hard it is for white people to talk about race.  You can’t do it unless you separate them from statements like the one I made.
I get it!  It’s difficult for me to hear certain criticisms when it comes to the work I do.  I hate listening to attacks against the Church for its homophobic ways.  Unlike my reader, I understand the truth in the claim, and view myself as an exception to the rule.  My life has been about fighting to overcome the massive stereotypes that restrict my work.  I’m constantly waving my hands and screaming “hey dude, I’m not like other black men.”
So, how do you talk about race without starting a war due to the terms used?  This is tough for me because of the long list of issues I have with white liberals.  As much as they claim to be on the side of black and brown people, many fail to understand how they use power and privilege to control the way we engage in overcoming things in the way of progress.  Without knowing it, white liberals have a way of using their race to diminish the progress of the people they claim to support.
I could say more about that, but doing so would only burn bridges.  Does moving forward mean remaining silent?  Does talk about race require no more talk about how it feels to be in the room with those who use race and privilege to their advantage without knowing they are playing that game?  What are the implications related to being challenged for sharing your feelings after being slapped on the hand for informing a person his words and actions make you feel like Sambo in the cotton field?
It may help for me to make a confession.  BLACK PEOPLE DON”T KNOW HOW TO TALK ABOUT RACE.  White people can’t talk about race due to the guilt raised when black people talk about it, and black people can’t talk about race because they don’t won’t to give the impression that they are unable to move forward due to a victim mentality.
Black people want to frame questions regarding race within the context of slavery, while white people would rather forget all that stuff that happened before they were born.  Black people are quick to assert that they haven’t been able to move forward due the re-institutionalization of slavery.  White people point to changes since slavery and beg black folks to get over what happened.
Those white liberals talk about pulling up bootstraps, while black people point to examples of racism today.  Black people keep marching after black boys are murdered and the rights of black people are denied.  Black people keep screaming “its racism,” while white people say “that’s a bad situation, but it doesn’t happen everywhere.”
White people point to the examples of success – look at Oprah, Barack, Colin, and Condoleezza.  Black people point to black men in prison, black children failing school and black people unable to find work.  Black people point to the disparity in the way banks decide on who gets a loan and how applications for employment are thrown out when the applicant’s name sounds black.
White people can’t talk about race because it makes them feel bad.  Black people can’t talk about race because it makes them feel hopeless. 
Maybe the answer is for black people to stop talking about the past.  The only problem with that is with how the past keeps repeating itself. 
I could shut up, but will that change the truth?

4 comments:

  1. Could you please expand on this paragraph?

    So, how do you talk about race without starting a war due to the terms used? This is tough for me because of the long list of issues I have with white liberals. As much as they claim to be on the side of black and brown people, many fail to understand how they use power and privilege to control the way we engage in overcoming things in the way of progress. Without knowing it, white liberals have a way of using their race to diminish the progress of the people they claim to support.

    If there is nothing white people can do to avoid being part of the problem, you might find some hopelessness on that side of the equation also.

    To be clear, I am not saying you are wrong in general. Plus, I suspect that you have found some exceptions over the years, so I am not taking it as a wholly blanket statement. But, if this is so in general, what are the implications?

    Further, how should it be done differently? Is there a way white people can get out of their own trap?

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  2. God bless you brother! I am working in a situation where those around me know very well the privilege that being white in America has afforded them... hell they celebrate it. But dare I speak of it, so I am silent. And my silence makes them distrust me.

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  3. Leon Grodski de BarreraSeptember 15, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I read this this morning. I'm not exactly sure what I have to say right now, but I do want to add that I think it is important to bring up and not just have people in Durham walking around as if it isn't silently all around us.

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  4. Carl, I've tried to find the courage to speak with or write you for a long while now -- I kept a coulmn / article about your opening up publishing opportunities for minority voices for years. But I didn't have the guts to write because I'm white -- and have allowed myself to be paralyzed by fear / guilt, you name it -/ that anything I say will be offensive
    . I know that I don't "get it" -- that I never can. That doesn't stop me from caring. It hasn't stopped me from studying black history -- from trying to learn as much as I can about the extraordinary dynamics of black & white in my adopted hometown. I try to listen . I hear you and others point out the damage and undermining dine by 'well-meaning' white folks who don't hear / see their buried paternalism.
    But -- if you leave -- and if I / others like me remain silent -- how will we ever move forward? Since I don't know how to talk about race, how am I going to learn?
    I was at the 27 Views reading. There was a lot of back patting , yes. The audience was mostly white. But, if you listened, I believe that the effort to listen WAS in the room. Plenty of outside, "lost" people of all colors were not at Motorco. Could we see that as a beginning? Could we learn to advertise such events in ways more appealing to a more diverse audience? Could we begin to learn from each other?
    Yours with hope and care.

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