Tag Archives: talking about prejudice

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.


I hate you. You hate me. What’s next?

We watch videos, listen to lectures and purchase the latest books on how to be non- offensive and non- threatening advocates, anti- racists and ambassadors of racial reconciliation.  Or, we expect explanations and apologies from complete strangers of the space, time and condition that we speak of.  “They” weren’t there but it’s their fault.  “They” weren’t aware of the offense and didn’t know that we existed until today but it’s their problem to fix.  “They” are to fix all of them and any of us who come to them with a complaint about race or stereotypes or prejudices or body, hair or self- esteem issues.

Later, we exchange stories and business cards.  We see our commonalities clearly, make covenants and are bosom buddies for the entire two- day workshop or weeklong conference.  We have reconciled our differences at least while our chairs are in a circle.  The dividing wall has been toppled and the color line erased.  This is diversity training or practices in reconciliation.  But, what happens when the chairs are put back under the tables, when the room is stripped of its charts, book displays and power point presentations?  What happens when we take off our name tags, stuff our suitcases with the folders full of information that we have received and we leave the room?

Most of the conversations about race, reconciliation, diversity, tolerance and cultural inclusion are but repetitions of stories past, a recounting of past offenses and woundings.  I hate you.  You hate me.  Now, what?  What do we do with this hatred and can we move past it?  If not, then why talk about race at all?

If we are not willing to put aside our grudges and our need for others to hurt as we have hurt, then we are not ready for a dialogue about race.  If we are not ready to examine our prejudices, misjudgments and privileges then, we are not ready for the work of reconciliation.  If we cannot put all of our options on the table, to include the possibility of forgiving and forgetting and of seeing ourselves as we really are, then what are we training for?  If we are not ready to think about life after hatred/ after oppression/ after privilege/ after race , then we will continue to spend or time bettering our defensives, collecting examples and instances of mistreatment and sharpening our critiques and criticisms of each other.

I hate you.  You hate me.  But, really what’s next?

Something To Talk About

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We often say that a picture is worth one thousand words.  Well, why is that we have so few in our vocabulary when it comes to race? So few images of cultures different from our own, so few ways of seeing each other outside of race and its stereotypes?  Sadly, we really do believe that we all look and subsequently, think and behave alike if a part of the same cultural or socially colored group.  We believe the worst about others and choose the scariest, most demeaning or easily exploitive example in order to create our model for each group.  On the other hand, we can quckly point to the “good” people in our own culture or socially colored group, making ourselves model citizens and models for all of humanity.

Race creates costumes but one’s culture is not something that one can put on and take off.  It is not created by the hands of a single human being neither does it originate in the mind of one person.  Culture is created over time and is a shared history with traditions.  Culture is not synonymous with race as it is not based on external appearance or physical characteristics.  It is not something that can be pointed out and is not something that we should use to pick on persons.

And how does our faith call us to respond to these images, which are indeed a challenge to us to recognize the caricatures that we have substituted for people? How does race call us to respond?  Are they alike?  Why or why not?  Either way, we should talk about it.