Tag Archives: conversations on race

Don’t stop talking about race

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It is easy to reset, to move on to the next outrage, to the next shiny object.  “Ooh.  What’s that?”  We want to be distracted.  We hope that we can forget.

But, we cannot continue to let this be the case.  Race is a problem and it doesn’t just go away.  Instead, it is here to stay, stuck between our teeth, hanging on to our thin skin.  We carry it with us.  A word with sharp edges that we continue to wrap carefully and reuse, race is the weapon and the wound.

Still, we talk about race as if it is all we have, like it is all that we can say about ourselves, as if we are only flesh and blood.  We talk about race as if our lives depend on it, like we cease to exist if we are not socially colored beige, brown, black, red, yellow and white.  And though we cannot see the end of it (that is, post- racial), race is not our beginning. We cannot see past it but there is no future with race.

A socio- political construct, we talked ourselves into this belief in race and we will need to talk ourselves out of it.  You may not know this but we are not alone in this desire.  Recently, a number of books have been published that aim to discuss our relationship with race and empower readers to talk about it.  Please consider adding these to your reading list and your bookshelves:

Robin Diangelo, White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism, (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2018).

Carolyn B. Helsel, Anxious to talk about it: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully About Racism, (Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2017).

Ijeoma Oluo, So you want to talk about race?, (New York, NY: Seal Press, 2018).

Derang Wing Sue, Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues on Race, (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015).

Shelly Tochluk, Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2010).

Race is something to talk about

I’m not one to shy away from a conversation on race and today, Prada had an unplanned one after a passerby noticed a bag in the window of a shop in Soho.  There appeared to be a blackface accessory attached to the bag.  Cue the removal of the bag, a statement from Prada and another conversation on race.  Described as “monkey trinkets,” many people are asking, “How did this happen?”

“What year is this?”  “I thought we were farther along.”  But, should we be?  What have we said about race that propels us forward?  What of our conversations about race have brought understanding and healing?  When have our conversations about race not been reactive?  How have we prepared for conversations on race?

Still, we shuffle along, pretending that our cross- cultural relationships are all patched up, only to have someone point out another hole.  We missed a spot.  The job was rushed.  The material was not the best and thus, not able to withstand another brush with race.  We’ll deal with it later or when the time comes.  Well, here we are again.

Deep sigh.  “Why do we have to keep talking about race?”  Because questions of identity, belonging and membership continue to arise.  Because we are not saying what needs to be said.  And we don’t know what needs to be said.  Because we end the conversation at the first sign of discomfort or disagreement.

Because we give race the silent treatment.  Rather than have vulnerable conversations, we enter with our guard up.  We decide that we will only say so much.  We would rather be disingenuous than open up.

This means that our exchanges are not authentic.  Instead, we feign interest, outrage, empathy and/ or understanding.  We don’t invest much more than a head nod and a pat on the back.  “I just don’t know what to say.”  And if we are honest, we have not taken the time to learn what to say.

We don’t want to keep talking about it.  But, that’s the problem.  Conversations on race should be on- going.  We need to keep the conversation going so that the Prada bag never even makes it to the shop in Soho.

Share Your Story

imagesMaya Angelou said rightly, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”  And stories are about race are both difficult to carry and to tell.  So, I am excited at the opportunity that the New York Times has presented to its readers.  It is apart of their Op- Docs series Conversations on Race and I hope that it gets more of us talking and telling our story.

We don’t have to carry the burden alone.  We can share it with others by sharing our story.  Click here to give us yours.

 

 

Say Something New

case-for-talking-raceThe news reporting is the same.  Same angles, views and I suspect that is the same pencil used to sketch and draw the same conclusions.  The words used to describe race relations remains unchanged: allies and hate mongers, race cards and race baiting, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation.  We reach conclusions that are the same as before.  And no matter what is said or how often we say it, we agree that we need to talk about race.

But, we do talk about race and we do hear more about prejudice and racism.  Now apart of the twenty- four hour news cycle, unsolicited and unfiltered YouTube commentary, hash tags and trending topics, there are many conversations being had.  Consequently, the news about (suspected) race- related incidents is spreading and spreading quickly.

Because there is a smart phone in the room, persons may not tell racist jokes– even when behind closed doors.  Dashboard cameras and private citizens videotaping police interactions also limit what is hidden behind the badge.  We are seeing more of the personal, social and systemic works of race.  Yet, we are not able to talk ourselves of it.  Why is this?

I think that I have an idea.  Now, this is just a theory.  I don’t wear a lab coat and I have no experiments or lab rats, dead or alive, to support my findings.  But, I believe we have created a prejudice about conversations about race and that once we hear the word race, we already hear what we have come to expect or experience.

What do we do about it?  Stop making assumptions as to how the conversation will go.  We cannot begin a conversations with conclusions as to how this is going to end.

Instead, start from beginning.  Begin with introductions not assumptions.  Learn their name and their story.  Race is not personal and will not tell you about them.

We must also be aware of the prejudices that we bring to conversations about race.  We must ask ourselves if we want to have a friendship or a fight.  Be sure that the other person agrees to this end before you engage them.

Question yourself and your intentions.  Have you worked through your issues with race in order to be ready for a cross- cultural conversation and relationship?  Do you want a conversation or a verbal wrestling match?  Do you want this interaction to win- lose or win- win?  What is your goal, your aim for talking about race?

And begin to listen and hear what is being said in order to say something new.  Conversations about race are defensive in nature.  Removing the assumptions will allow us to lower our guard and allow a new perspective to enter.  We not only need to stop and listen but we need to slow down and think.

Think our responses through and let them be for this moment and in this instance.  We cannot tackle and should not take on hundred of years of history and millions of hurts in one sitting.  Instead, let’s do something new.  Let’s take it one day at time and one person at a time.

 

Race Together

imgresRace Together is a new initiative and partnership between Starbucks and USA Today. They are hoping to get their customers talking about race.  Race Together hopes to tackle racism through conversation and there is much to talk about with the recent death of an African American Mississippi man, Otis James Byrd, the alleged assault of a African American UVA student, Martese Johnson and the death of yet another unarmed bi- cultural teenager, Tony Robinson, in Madison, Wisconsin.

All of these cases are open and under investigation.  Mr. Byrd was found hanging from a tree and while it is suspected to be a lynching, the cause of death has yet to be determined.  Mr. Johnson is facing charges of public intoxication and obstruction of justice while he is accusing state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents of police brutality.  The family of Mr. Robinson is calling for peaceful protests.

Whether with Starbucks and USA Today, in school auditoriums, places of worship or around the kitchen table, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about race together.  Don’t allow it to keep us from speaking to each other when there is so much that is being left unsaid.