On Race and Walking On Eggshells – What Do You Think? Wednesday

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On Race and Walking on EggshellsA week or two ago a fellow blogger, Christy, from A Woman The World Deserves, posted the following on her Facebook wall, in regard to Black History Month:

“Year in and year out, February comes. Black History Month. And we learn about MLK and Rosa Parks and how they overcame. But never in our minds or in the minds of American people do we celebrate our history from pre-slavery… As if slavery is the only thing “African American” people come from.. No need to discuss the empires and great wealth and knowledge that was once possessed and that flows through our veins. Mess around and tell folks that they came from GREAT DYNASTIES, they might be empowered to mess around and get out of poverty. Can’t have that now can we. Wonder why every so often Hollywood puts out a slave movie.. A reminder of a chapter in history.. But never going before that painful chapter.”

 I started to comment.  I thought what she said was very thought-provoking. I wanted to say so. Then I stopped. Then I started. Then I stopped.

I have interacted with Christy before, through the “blogosphere” and I knew she would see my comment as nothing more than, “thank you for making me think outside of my little box.”  She’s awesome that way.  In fact, when you’re done here, you should go read her blog. It absolutely shines with love and positive energy.

My concern wasn’t with her. My concern was with “them.”  You know… the faceless many on the internet.  Would they think I was being racist?  Condescending? Ignorant?

Was I being those things?

As a white person, I sometimes feel (or maybe I feel like I SHOULD feel) like I have no right to discuss the issues that face people of other races.  But… isn’t that feeling, in itself, racist?

You can see the big ol’ spaghetti knot that was beginning to form in my brain at this point, right?

I wrote to Christy, privately, and told her how I was feeling and asked her for permission to share all of this, which she graciously granted.  She also offered this wisdom:

“Talking about race in my opinion is soooooooo touchy to a point where no one wants to discuss it. I grew up in the south. Racial tensions flare up down here much more often. Which is so unfortunate. But the main problem I see is… Whites will talk about black people. Blacks will talk about white people. And nobody EVER thinks to come together and have honest dialogue to work out these racial tensions.

One thing I have learned is all prejudice really comes from people just not understanding one another. I think these topics need to be talked about it. There so much we don’t understand and no one wants to admit that.”

I think she is exactly right.  The various races are all pretty good about talking about each other but we are hesitant to talk with each other.  We either don’t care what those different from ourselves think or we so terrified of offending anyone that we walk on eggshells and never speak our minds at all.  But how can we ever, truly, accept the beauty of each others’ cultures with all of their similarities and differences to our own, if we are too scared to engage in real conversation for fear of breaking some bizarre social taboo that no one really understands.

So what do you think?

How can we inquire of other cultures’ beliefs, customs, concerns and desires in a respectful way, in order to overcome our own ignorance? Or should we just stay out of conversations, like the one above, if we are not part of the group having the discussion? I’d love to hear your thoughts about all of this!

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10 responses »

  1. You are right, white people have, in my opinion , been backed into a corner by what is “socially acceptable.” And we have been part of that society development through our own fear and silence. We don’t want to offend…. me personally, having lived in many places with diverse cultural interaction….. people are just people. There are positive and negative behavior from individuals of all races. What saddens me is that some ethnic groups easily and readily play the race card over and over whenever it fulfills their needs and yells that anyone who opposes their opinion is a racist. It has become a disappointing status quo in this country, at least to me. I say bullshit. Maybe if people would stop looking at race and more at behavior and stop being afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or fearful of reprisa, maybe behavior and mentalities in this country would change. Maybe we wouldn’t need a black history month… just saying. If we all wanted to be treated equally, then why must we put a spotlight on one group or another…. why can’t it be part of our collective history? The only social taboos are the ones we as a society have propped up. If you want to know more about another culture, just ask. If the person you ask reacts negativity then they are doing their culture a disservice….to attack someone who is curious only perpetuates the fear of open discussion. We all need to embrace sharing what makes us who we are without anger, fear and judgment and we need to stop fearing others and using race as the reason not to ask or as a bases for making other uncomfortable to ask questions .

  2. Aiya! I don’t even know where to begin. All I can say is that I admire you for bringing this up and I hope people are able to comment and share opinions without judgement or condemnation.

  3. I love that you posted about this and that you reached out to Christy. I think her advice to you is absolutely SPOT ON. It’s dialogue and open communication that fosters understanding. Talking amongst my “white friends” doesn’t really serve any purpose if we’re discussing race relations, because our experiences are simply not one in the same. I’d much rather step outside of my comfort zone and talk about things that are a bit taboo to get a deeper understanding.

    You can’t be worried about what some internet troll is going to say about this post (or about any other controversial topic). Because in the end, you only have to appease yourself 🙂 Thanks for this!!!

  4. Wow! This is such a touchy subject! I am glad you went there. It’s discussions like these that never get talked about. One thing I have learned is that most of our opinions on the opposite race come from what is portrayed in the media and not our own true experience. I had a discussion with a white couple during the Trayvon Martin case about a white man who killed another white man and hadn’t been charged with it. “Why didn’t that make the news?” They asked. It’s so clear to me why that story didn’t get coverage. Because it wouldn’t pull on the heart strings of the nation as would a “racially motivated hate crime would.” Whether Zimmerman is a racist or not didn’t matter when the media could just paint him as one. And get people divided. And cause tension. And why? Think about it… What would this nation do, what heights we could achieve if for one moment blacks and whites could come together. I don’t think the powers at be would want that. Sooooooooooo they keep the race issue an issue. And we all as a nation fall for the imaging that the media does everytime!

  5. I agree with Mindie in many ways. Why this is even an issue is beyond me. I just don’t get people. Why we have to call it “Black History Month” also worries me, we don’t have White History Month or Hispanic History Month or Italian History Month…Why can’t it just be part of the culture and taught in the regular school curriculum. Oh, it IS taught in the regular curriculum. To me, bringing this to light and naming it Black makes people see it as black. There is a rich history before slavery, if I know about it, I am sure others do. Why does everything need a label? Why do we have to make sure every culture is explored and talked about equally? Can’t we just encourage it and let it happen without making it an issue? Frankly, if I want to know, I ask. I don’t walk on eggshells, I just don’t think of things as black and white. I am teaching my kids the same thing. It’s like being an accountant and a lawyer. If I know an accountant and have a question about a P&L statement, I’ll ask him. I’ll ask the lawyer if it’s illegal to drive without a license. I will ask a mexican person if they know what the chichen itza were and the black person if they knew there was a black civilization in America before Columbus BUT if I do, I am considered racist because why would I ask a black person about black people or mexicans about mayan civilization, why not ask a white person? It’s a vicious circle. BUT ask a white person why they allowed slavery and it’s ok. I’ll never understand it. It drives me bonkers.

  6. I feel blessed to have a close group of girl friends from very diverse backgrounds both socioeconomically and race, I also grew up on military bases which is the epitome of the melting pot. I have never felt intimidated to have those uncomfortable conversations or to call out a friend who I think is playing the “race” card. I actually think that most of what we think of as playing the “race” card is really more about feeling insecure than actually feeling slighted because of the color of our skin, sometimes it’s just easier to say it’s because of race then to admit that someone might not like you because of … you. Of course this isn’t always true, because in many…{too many} parts of this great country, racism is alive and well. We once lived on a base where we were told not to travel to a certain nearby town because of the heavy presence of the KKK. I have been in a room with relatives who have thrown around racial slurs with no apology. {hello! have they noticed the color of MY skin?} So while I’m always quick to point out where I feel injustice is NOT being done, I am also very sensitive to the fact that sometimes we haven’t come as far as we think we have as a society and some of my darker skin colored friends are still living the truth of this. I think everyone above has made some very valid points. It really is about relationship building. When we understand the person themselves, it’s easier to get past the differences.

  7. Wow.. You both are amazing for bringing up such a great topic.
    It is hard for me to find the right words for this topic. I just read what Christy left and I couldn’t agree more with her statement about the media playing a huge role in our thoughts towards other races. The media is a HUGE influence. I see it every day. When an amber alert goes out for a colored child it does not get that many ‘shares’ on Facebook, but when an amber alert goes out for a white child I see it all over my timeline. It is a sad day when I still have to say things like ‘colored child’ and ‘white child’ because no matter the color of your skin it should always be important news when ANY child goes missing. As a child went missing and was soon found dead in our community she got a lot of attention, porch lights were lit for her.. It was such a sad case, but just the next day the same thing happened to a colored child, but because the media thought that would not get much attention they didn’t show how important that loss was just as much as the other child. I wish the media knew how big of an impact they made and would change it. It’s 2014 we shouldn’t be using these types of terms anymore, we shouldn’t be afraid of talking about race with other races. If people were more open to discussion over race issues a lot of our ignorance would be gone.

  8. I kind of feel that having a conversation like that, you really have to feel safe. I think the reason it is so touchy is that each person, no matter their race, may have experiences that have made them feel something. Feelings,especially if someone’s was a reaction to a negative experience, are a tricky thing to talk about in an objective manner. Throw in conflicting feelings, and you’ve got a recipe for a fight. However, never talking about them causes resentment. Never talking causes sides to form. And ignorance to spread. What needs to be done is to create environments that feel safe to discuss race. In many ways, it can be extremely interesting to talk about race when two people belong to different groups because it can clear up misconceptions or create awareness. For me, it has been an educational experience to speak Spanish speakers that have lived in the US or have family and friends living in the US. Knowing how they perceive themselves and how they feel they are perceived has broadened my horizons and made me more sensitive to certain things my family is going through (My Mexican husband has reservations about moving to the US and being perceived as a “border jumper” for example). But if you are afraid of being yelled at or being told you are wrong, or you just can’t understand because you don’t belong to the same community…then people clam up. How do we create those spaces where people can share their ideas and feel empowered, inspired, or just plain heard?

  9. I definitely blame the media for the overall feelings on race in this country…it makes people look at each other as “us” and “them” instead of just all “us.” I live in the South. People who have come from other parts of the country expecting things to be like they are where they came from are always surprised how things are here…since I live in Atlanta there is an odd mix of everyone getting along and no one getting along. Head to other parts of the state and it’s all “us” and “them” again. But that’s where I’ll stop! This IS a very touchy subject…and I think it’s silly. We’re all made by the same Creator, we all sin, we all love, and we all need to eat, sleep, and breathe to live. Even within each individual race, we all have different backgrounds. If we were all blind, would we have such a hard time getting over our “differences”?

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