For over a year, I’ve been on various social media channels. After Mike Brown was gunned down by a cop last fall, I’ve been struck with the disparity I’ve seen in conversations about race between my black and white friends and family… especially on Facebook. It’s taken a while, and unfortunately a lot more horrific incidents (Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and most recently the Charleston Massacre) but I’m finally seeing more conversation from my non-white friends in public social spaces about the problems of race in this country.
America’s problems with race are not just a “black problem”. As Chris Rock has said they are a white problem or at least and American problem. Healing can’t take place if white and other non-black folks don’t start talking about racial violence and injustice in our country. And the work starts with each and every one of us–whether we are black, white, Latino, Asian, mixed, etc…
With that in mind, I’m re-blogging a conversation shared on Facebook between my cousin, Carter Whitson (a black man who grew up and lives in the St Louis area) and one of his white high school friends. (Carter tells me they graduated over 40 years ago.) So… here you go (And thanks cuz’ for sharing and giving me permission to post!)
Long-Time High School Friends Have a Conversation about Race
I am having a wonderful conversation with one of my high school friends in the message section of FB. I want to share it with everyone, because this is how change starts…
[My friend] I need your perspective on how deep the anger is, as a black man. Experiences of issues with the police etc. What did your parents teach you to do to stay safe? What did you tell your children as they grew up? As an old white woman, I just can’t imagine how it felt/feels/is for an old black woman… much less as a black teen. All of this is so deeply rooted in our upbringings. Surely, there is a solution besides all the anger and terrorism. It makes me sick. Educate me a little please.
[Me] Imagine waking up everyday and the first thing you are aware of is being white. All through the day, in every encounter you have or task you undertake, you consider the ramifications of your actions because you are white. Imagine having a baby and the first thing you check is not the number of fingers and toes, but the tops of their ears to see what shade of white they are going to grow into.
My parents constantly reminded me that everybody else (regardless of race, color, creed or condition) was as good as me. Not the other way around of me being just as good as them. They taught me that I would always meet my inferior but to treat them as my equal. They reminded me that the only time I would meet my superior was when I died and met Jesus. My parents were great.
[My friend] ok I am ignorant. [No, she isn’t] … my parents taught us the same thing but there were other things I heard….. Never bad, mean, violent or uncaring … but…… words they used….. That we had to remind them not to use and teach them the new word, they were just using the words they always used (never, ever the n word) …. We are all just people on a journey, we are all going to die…. how can we live peacefully when there is such a big ugliness so deep in people? we are all just people, all of us.
[Smartass me] You are a credit to your race. wink emoticon
[My friend] What does it mean to worry about your babies skin color? How much does shade matter? Tears are just dripping out of my eyes right now….
I didn’t even know I was crying until I was writing that.
[Me] Almost all babies are born pink and wrinkly except for the tops of their ears which have a smudge of color. One of the things I remember people saying is, Oh she’s going to be a pretty color (meaning not black)
[My friend] I am not a credit to my race….. There is less prejudice than you know, but so much total ignorance. as I am admitting to you. We can’t take away the past.
shades of black make a difference? Maybe we should start a Black and White page to talk openly about our questions without anger… no matter what anyone says…. because we don’t always know how to say things and we may be unintentionally insulting to each other…. like open-minded human beings
[Me] Yes, we should. My grandmother of blessed memory, was fond of saying that colored people (her words) knew more about white people than white people know about us or themselves.