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.