Race in America: It’s Time for the Small Conversations, too

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GMP Senior Editor Mark Greene is an Emmy Award winning animator and designer. He blogs and speaks on Men's Issues at the intersection of society, politics, relationships and parenting for the Good Men Project, HLN, Talking Cranes, The Shriver Report, The Huffington Post, Mamamia and Role Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter @megaSAHD and Google.
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  1. PursuitAce says:

    So far most of these article on race don’t seem to be generating too much of a digital conversation. Anyone have any thoughts on why that is?
    It seems a lot of these anecdotal (but universal) stories focus on the police. Why can’t communities just outlaw stops of minorities unless they’re in the commission of a felony? Or only minorities can police minorities until trust is rebuilt?
    There I go again trying to fix a problem. I understand that means I’m trying to control the situation so I better stop here before trouble ensues.

    • the “stop and frisk” statistics are beyond disgusting. I’ve seen crap like that happen to my co-workers and friends. The degradation of civil and constitutional rights has affected many minority men far more invasively than it has white men. Our phone calls and emails get analyzed. We may get stopped and searched in dubious checkpoints but black men get all that plus a whole heap of random scrutiny for no reason other than they are black.

  2. Here is where things get difficult.

    You can be disgusted with “gated community bigots with their blue metal guns” but all you’re doing is creating another stereotype of people to direct ire at. If you want to be pissed at George Zimmerman go for it- he’s pretty much earned it.

    What do you say to the people whose neighborhoods get robbed on a regular basis? We’ve had a rash of burglaries, break-ins, and even a home invasion in my predominantly white, middle class neighborhood over the years. My wife’s car was broken into (that cell phone charger was tempting I guess. Thanks for breaking the window asshole). My neighbors’ homes have been burgled. My mother was the victim of an attempted car jacking at gun point (wasnt much fun when she grabbed your hand and stomped on the gas was it?) Some arrests have been made, the police have some suspects for others. No leads at all on the asshole who pulled a gun on my 60+ year old mom. Home and auto break ins persist; my neighborhood still is at risk. The suspects are largely young black men.

    I’ll never deny the existence of systemic racism. I’ve seen my black friends get hassled by the police far more often than I ever have. The experience of black men in this country is far different from my own.

    BUT, what do you do when your wife and kids are scared? Its a hell of a lot different waking up to a strange noise 3 weeks after your neighbor’s house (less than 10 feet away) was robbed. You cannot automatically chalk it up to wind or a possum on the roof. We moved close to the city rather than way out in the burbs because we love what an urban area offers and we wanted our children to experience more than a lily white country club but, it would sure be nice to think “possum” rather than “break in.”

    My wife and children look to me to keep them safe. I bought a dog (sweet but big enough to give someone pause). I put in an alarm system. I put up security lights. I loaded a shotgun and keep it accessible to me at night. I call the police when I see suspicious activity. We’ll probably move out in a couple years once our home value recovers from the crash. Let some other person experience the dream of a “walkable, streetcar suburb easily accessible to public transportation, downtown, restaurants and shopping.”

  3. Kevin Macku says:

    I once was walking home from practicing yoga in the city park by myself, which I do from time to time. On the walk home, there were three little black boys riding their bicycles in tight, confined circles with borders of their own imagining on a driveway off the main road (it’s a predominantly black neighborhood, so this itself is not outside the realm of normalcy). A bike cop as cut-and-paste as you can imagine (seriously, he couldn’t have been more faceless if he was a cardboard cutout of “white city bike cop”) is coming from the opposite direction.

    “Hey!” he calls out to them. In my city, race relations between white officers and young black boys have traditionally not ended well, and I’m reaching for my phone just in case I need to record an altercation. My fears are put aside as, one second after, the cop calls out, “Wanna race?” The boys don’t wait for a “go!”—they’re all laughter and smiles as they ride up the sidewalk. I never did get to see who won, but that ten or so seconds of interaction was enough to make every party involved a little happier—myself included.

    Community outreach doesn’t have to be about throwing neighborhood parties or extravagant block parties. It’s about the little interactions, the day to day, the second to second. The way to truly combat racism, I believe, is not by legislature—that will be the victory cry. It must be fought second by second and day by day, with each interaction. Particularly in cities, life is one great negotiation; you and me, us and them, we all have to share the metro, the park, and—yes—the sidewalk. Whether it’s walking home from yoga or a spontaneous bike race, that’s community, and I cannot express my joy enough at seeing someone who will never go recognized, who did not do it for an award or a bonus, reach out. He probably didn’t file a report, and I would be the only witness to what happened that day.

  4. little positive interactions are good but they don’t pay the bills and they don’t change the big picture of the economically oppressive social depredations that we impose on one another (between and within ethnic groups). If we want to live or children and their children to live, we must severe our parasitic behaviors or we will all be extinct from having literally starved ourselves to death with the (economic) boundaries that we faithfully adhere to without questioning and assessing the severe impacts that it has brought on us socially and environmentally. We have made it to the 21st (barely) and hopefully we will see the 22nd if only we change how we live.

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