To have an honest discourse about race at any level, you need to first find your common ground and understand that there are certain salient facts you need to understand at the outset If you are a white male reading this, first you really need to let these initial points sink in. This may shake your psyche, so sit down for it and if you indulge, roll a doobie for this:
First: The United States has always been a racist environment for us. Prior to this specific Presidency/Administration, things were not so great, but the racists were not out in the broad daylight, either. Now, they have permission to let their swastikas fly high because they are empowered by the most racist, sexist Administration in modern day history. Being racist in AmeriKKKa is acceptable in the fringe Alt-Right movement. My brothers and sisters of like hue also deeply feel my first statement.
Second: Because we have Oprah and Barack Obama racism isn’t any “better.”
Third: You (white males) don’t get to “define” whether you are racist or not. Because you are embedded in the power structure by birth and the color of your skin, only the oppressed get to make that determination. It doesn’t help your case if you say, “I am not a racist” just that statement alone lends credence to the fact that you probably are, you just have been too insensitive to know otherwise. If you DON’T have ANY black friends (employees don’t count) and I mean friends that have been to your house, or that you have hung out with….well, you do the math.
In speaking from my accomplished, adult black male perspective—never had children out of wedlock; paid 100% of my child support; time in a law practice; extensive work for the Federal Government; never been arrested (even though as a “live” black male it’s always a higher possibility for me in the U.S.)—I may have some “earned” life knowledge about this very subject (Alt-Right Racists will say something snarky here, but that’s O.K.).
Now if you can fully absorb and accept statements one, two, and three, we can safely move on to this final point:
We—people of color—need white men to start talking about race. We need you. We only want you if you can really have the discussion if you can really empathize and understand the world that has been created, and IF you believe in justice, truth, and what’s fair, and if you don’t give any bullshit excuses. We need you as a partner in the search for an equal society, not as a savior.
Start with being friends as “men”—just start there. If you get to know me, I am the same as you just with a far better tan. If you’re lucky, race becomes an afterthought in our relationship because, under the current climate of racist rhetoric in the United States, the discourse always presents itself with an opportunity for the discussion among well-intentioned people who really want to make the world a better place for their children. I am not even saying that we will always agree. I am saying in order to understand the discussion you have to respect the opinion of the oppressed (they aren’t un-oppressed just because YOU say so.)
The discussion about race requires humility and a little knowledge. It’s almost akin to the #MeToo movement, just shut up and listen first. Don’t talk about you’re not sexist (or racist) the same rules apply here. Read about the subject, the history and then ask an oppressed person (the victim) what they think and feel. Don’t go in being defensive and justify your personal behavior by first placing self on “safe ground” as NOT being an oppressor. And please, for the love of God, don’t give that lame historically racist reply (well I “personally didn’t enslave your people”) you will lose us completely with that statement. Don’t go there.
Those of us with brown hues are a benevolent and loving people. If you honestly try we will open the door wide (we can smell insincerity a thousand miles away). And you may make mistakes, hey we are all human…we can guide you with the same compassion that you are showing to us.
For my White male friends (and for the record, I have never parsed my male friends into Black or White), my Boys I know I can call on at a moments notice, who have rolled with me no matter what, and I with them are too numerous to mention here. Have we all talked race? Yes. Have all the discussions been good? Yes. Do I expect them to walk in Black Lives Matter parade? If I asked they all would. If their Daughter or Son came home with a black date would they freak out? I know these guys—none of them would. Do I expect them to understand every aspect of black life and black problems? No, if they ask. I tell them, if they don’t, I don’t judge.
I don’t expect perfection of my friends. I expect to be able to say anything that I need to say to them and have it be respected, sometimes acted upon. I have hung out with these guys, cried with them and trust me you haven’t lived until you have had Passover Seder at Steven Chmielnik’s house (you get lots and lots of wine, but don’t drink so much that you can’t read from the Haggadah.)
What does it take to talk about race? Be friends, listen, and really care. Neither of us may say the right thing or the perfect thing. Put yourself in the other man’s shoes and give a damn and have some compassion for the human condition. In order for white men to start talking about race, you need to have friends that are, well….black (or any other race different from the mainstream.) Bond first as men, as husbands, as business associates. Talk openly and honestly about your spouse, kids, hopes, and dreams (trust me we are the same in these aspects.)
My friends who are white and male are just as outraged at what they see racism is doing to our country because this isn’t the America that they envision for their kids. This version of AmeriKKKa is not what they want.
Some seem to forget that sometimes, you need to extend yourself to make the peace. Don’t misconstrue this statement to mean that you go out and hug a Klansman or an Alt-Right Nazi. No, it means in your common everyday life, you treat all people as, well…people first. My President, Barack Obama said it best:
We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith.
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