How Can We Talk About Race and Actually Hear Each Other?

I’m getting a crash course on race in writing on Absolutewrite.org.

Now, if you know me, you know I reject the word race. I make the conscious choice that every human being is of the same kind as me, descended from the man made in God’s image. This person of another color can be my brother or sister in the only way that matters–a disciple of our lord Yeshua, the Messiah. And in that view all these dividers are a work of Satan. That’s right, I said it. Satan.

I hate, I hate, I hate, the idea that someone can get between me and someone who could be my best possible friend, my brother/sister, (if I wasn’t married) spouse, nephew, niece, whatever and say, “You can’t really know because you’re white.” And I’m not “white”, I’m only half-“white”. I hate sowing division. It’s hard enough keeping people together without someone making up stupid dividers.

So, that’s the first thing on my mind when race becomes an issue. But, here’s the thing. There are some people who sincerely have felt discriminated racially. And there are some people who have sincerely discriminated against other racially. Now I’d argue both of those sides come from past hurts, and not from some mindless hatred. It’s hatred, but it’s not mindless anymore than a rape victims who forever distrusts all men.

But even if you reject this artificial divider as I do, it can be a long trek between what you confess with your mouth and what you feel with your heart.

But I walk into these race discussions, and I hear two sides having such a hard time hearing each other that they just give up. On the one side is people saying the world is slanted white. They talk about “white priveledge” and “subjugating” PoCs (Person of Color for those outside the know =). And you know what?

Why are there so many book covers having white people on them? Oh sure, there’s a fair argument that there are more white people who read regularly (proportionally speaking), so their the target audience. That’s true as far as I know, but that doesn’t change the fact that the marketing machine is paying less attention to the PoC’s than the whites. And writers face another dilemma because readers tend to assume whiteness. That’s kind of expectable because most Americans are white so there’s going to be a wide white experience (until those pesky mexi’s overrun the whites). But while that explains why the market plays to whites and why the reader might assume white, that doesn’t make it less frustrating for the person who is not white.

It does feel excluding. Why do you suppose movies about poor people struggling are so popular? Because finally the struggling person can see someone like themselves in a story. Maybe I am George Bailey, but George Bailey is great too.

So the PoC can truly feel marginalized and told “you’re not really part of this country you live in.”

I get that.

On the other side, are “white people” who are not racist, and don’t give a flying crap if a little girl in The Hunger Games was black or white. They will receive a main character of any color, nationality, or gender. And they are sick and tired of being told about “white privilege” and being blamed for seeing the world through a mirror whitely.

All that mirror is saying is that our “experience” is white so it’s our default. I don’t think like a girl not because I’m sexist, but because I’m a man. I don’t think like a black person not because I hate black people, but because I’m not a black man!

Am I admitting in that that white people and black people do have a different experience? Absolutely. It’s hard thought, but I have to come honestly to that conclusion, but the point is our experience is not our fault. Why is it a slam to say to tell a white person that they don’t know what it’s like to be black? To be looked at differently from ‘everybody else’, but a white person is supposed to take it and not say back, “You don’t know what it’s like to be told that you are a wicked oppressor and to have your entire heritage assumed to be slaveholders and racists.”

Why?

If a white person doesn’t know what it’s like to be black, then how is it a black person knows what it is to be white?

I’ll grant you that neither knows what its like to be the other, but that is neither’s fault. All that matters, is what you do with it. I choose to love my dark skinned neighbor. I love them. I think they’re beautiful. This idea that white is pretty? They are and so is the Asian, the Indian, and probably the Martian. As a woman-loving natural man, I’ll tell PoCs that you have some good looking men. And you’ve got great voices. And fun spirits. In my experience. And your women, the same, and even though your hair seems to come in a narrower spectrum, it looks great on you. I love the color of even the darkest of black women’s skin.  And I love the way you guys can wear any color and it looks good on you, while I can’t wear things like pink. And I am all for more black people on TV in fiction, etc.

Can’t you as a person of more color (because I am half-“Mexican”), stop telling me about “white privilege” and choose a less accusatory phrase like “in your experience” or “in your heritage”? Can you stop talking to me like I did something wrong? Can you look at me and say to my face you’ve seen I’ve worked for what I have? And that I haven’t tried to keep anyone of any color down? Will you love me as another human being and not as half-white guy?

I don’t know how else we get past this. We can’t change the past, and neither of us should have to be ashamed of things we didn’t do. We should have to bow our heads in shame. We have to be willing to forgive whole people’s and stop blaming their sons and daughters for the sins of the father. We have to be willing to admit that both sides have had it rough simply because of the lot God gave them in history. And while everyone should help all their neighbors up so that we can all live on our properties and in peace, we cannot give into the past.

And then we have to choose each of us, to stop talking about sides. To stop saying there is something between us. But to speak that we are one, until we cannot remember it any other way.

That’s as far as my thinking takes me. What about you? From my experience, I can best tell you what would help me hear you. What about you? What can I do or say that will make you more likely to hear me? I want to know.

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