White People, Start Having Educated Conversations About Race With Families and Friends
I had a conversation with a friend of mine who happens to be White. The conversation addressed the issue of him using his voice to be an ally for Black Lives. Not because he dates Black women or because his closest friends are Black, but because Black folk are people and no person should ever be treated the ways in which we are treated. He responded with, “Well, if they’re not gonna listen to you, they’re not gonna listen to me… I feel like it’s pointless.” From there, I broke down to him that while it’s fucked up, a racist White person would be willing to listen to him over me because his voice—in their eyes—holds more power and authority. I let him know that simply not being a racist isn’t enough; he needs to make a clear stance on the subject. Moreover, I explained to him that to the average racist White person, we as Black people are crazy. They think we’re crazy and making all of this “systemic racism” stuff up. I urged him to speak out. He closed with, “well, yea… but I don’t even know what to say.”
It hit me that it wasn’t that he didn’t want to help; he just didn’t know HOW to help. Later in the day, while we were heading to a protest downtown, my fiancé and I were discussing our frustration with everything and our friend tried to chime in on but not much came out of his mouth. A bunch of “yea, that’s fucked up… I mean, it’s… well, it’s just crazy… I mean, I don’t know, man” were his contributions to the conversations. While I appreciated him trying to join in the conversation, it further confirmed that he simply didn’t know how to have a discussion about race. That brings me to my point: White people, you’ve got to start discussing race. I’m on Facebook quite a bit and I try my best, but there are the times where I find myself scrolling through the comment section, and it becomes clear to me that many White people have no fucking clue what they’re talking about when they speak on race.
One time, I had a face to face debate with a Mexican-American male who is married to a white woman and therefore has mixed children. However, upon simply looking at his children you would only assume that they are White. Anywho, we are in a heated debate where this stupid fuck had the nerve to say that Black people can’t do better because they’re too busy drinking 40’s and smoking weed and hanging around on their porches. I should have punched him in his face at that moment, but I’m glad I didn’t because I would have missed my opportunity to basically call him a dumb fuck. He goes on to say how his children do well and blah blah blah. I add that his children are racially White which also gives them an advantage. He responds with “How the fuck can my children be White if they’re Mexican?” At that point, I laughed in his face and said, “So, wait, you’re having a conversation about race and you don’t really know what race is???”
That story is important because it literally paints a vivid picture of the comment section and to be honest, many conversations that are held in person—as the one mentioned in the story. There are people who really don’t understand anything about race or how it impacts day to day living in this country. This is because a lack of personal effort to research the topics and issue surrounding race and lack of exposure.
I can’t tell you the first time that my parents talked about race around me. In the same way, I have Black friends that have had the same experience as mine. They don’t know when, but they learned very early in life that they were Black and, unfortunately, there were certain things that were attached to being Black. Conversations about race weren’t foreign in my household; especially after I started attending a majority White high school. I learned very quickly about the many ways that racism can present itself and often had conversations with my family about the issues I had during school.
Because police officers don’t see White men as an immediate threat, White fathers don’t have to have “THAT” talk with their White sons. You know, the conversation that goes, “Answer, with ‘sir/ma’am’…Keep your hands clear… don’t say shit until they speak to you… don’t move too fast… comply.” These are conversations that are had between father and son in the Black community as a means of survival during a traffic stop. If the conversations are had in the White home, it’s rarely for the purpose of survival— maybe respect, but not survival.
In the same way, White girls don’t get a speech about wearing their hair in certain styles as a means of looking more “professional”. We all know that very few office environments allow fire red hair, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to a very neat hairs style that displays a beautiful curl pattern. However, to this day, my mother HATES when I wear my hair natural because it doesn’t look professional. Moreover, I think she feels as if it will impact the opinions of my White, male supervisors. Therefore, I’ve been told, try to make them as comfortable as possible because when the funds get tight, they’ll be quick to get rid of the dark skinned, Black girl with nappy hair. All of this to say, we ain’t no stranger to talking about the race and the impact of race.
Because, White is considered “the norm” many don’t feel the need to speak on the impact of race. Therefore it’s not a thought to discuss it at the dinner table or at family events. This carries on into adulthood where the kid becomes an adult that has White friends, a White partner, White children and they go their entire lives without ever truly having a deep conversation about race. From what I’ve seen, it’s not until they are “forced” to have a conversation about race by way of someone dating a person of color or a person having a close friend that is a minority. Even then, it’s the classic “I just want you to know that I’m not a racist and I love you because my son/daughter loves you” sort of speech. But this doesn’t always happen. There are many families that don’t have any interracial couples and the families never really have to speak on the matter.
So, basically because White people rarely have to have constructive conversations pertaining to race, they never get comfortable speaking about race. As a result you get the White person who hears “Black Lives Matter” and feels as if the movement is a direct attack on White people that promotes racism. Or you get a person who has read a Facebook status or two and they think they’re not a racist because they support the Black Lives Matter movement, but they’re not 100% sure so they don’t want to say anything “racist” and they just remain silent. Either way, they lack knowledge and it impacts their understanding of race and racism which makes both uncomfortable discussing race.
In some cases, a college humanities course will slowly open a person’s eyes to the issue of systemic racism and the many ways that it impacts people of color; assuming of course that the class is taught properly. But all of this is still hopeful because, from my experience, school is all about how much you want to learn. Meaning, if you hear the professor say that “people of color have a hard time building wealth because of systematic oppression” and you automatically shut down and become ‘that-racist-White-dude’ in the back row, then that’s what you’ll take away from the class.
Which brings me to my next point: it makes it twice as difficult to educate a person about race, diversity, or privilege if you don’t do some self-assigned homework. At this point, many Black people are tired and drained. We’re tired of trying to prove to people that racism exists and that we are the victims of systemic oppression. We’re hurting and the last thing we want to do is sit down and try to stumble upon the words to explain to you what’s wrong with cultural appropriation.
From what I’ve found, some White people are either unwilling to do the research because they want to remain ignorant. They are willfully ignorant. Then there are others who are simply too damn lazy to do the work required to have an understanding. Most of the time this, again, is because they don’t feel the urgency to research this matter because it doesn’t impact them. But this isn’t to say that all White people are uninformed. There are some White folk out here that are super-woke. They’re marching, being arrested, and standing in front of the baton because they know the police will be less likely to attack a White person. Those people are trill and we appreciate y’all. However, this post is focusing on the negative impacts of not discussing race and the many ways that it carries over into adulthood.
I’ve seen White people jump out the window to protest for feminist movements, gay rights, and even immigration reform. This is because everyone has a woman in their family that they love and the same applies for gay people—most families have a gay uncle or cousin at least. Additionally, many can relate to the issue of immigration and accepting refugees because some can speak to their grandparents who were immigrants. All of these things are “relatable” and allows a person to understand a movement. However, not everyone will have a Black person in their family that drives them to be more compassionate about the Black Lives Matter movement, which will in turn make them less likely to research Black issues. Therefore, this movement is the one that’s talked about the least because not many can relate. Because of that, many White people will hop straight to twitter to find the location for the Pride parade and still have a difficult time simply tweeting “Black Lives Matter”. The issue seems so distant to them.
So, I challenge my White readers to bring up the topic of race around family and friends. In the same way that you ask your mom “did you hear about what happened in Orlando?” Be sure to ask your family if they’ve heard about the countless murders that have happened over the past year or so. Bring the conversation up and when you notice something that is wrong, correct it. Don’t stray away because you don’t want to seem combative. Stand firm on your beliefs and present logic and facts. At the end of the day, you’re NaNa might still be a racist piece of shit, but at least she’ll be informed and won’t be able to say that she’s that way because no one ever told her anything different.
Additionally, bring these issues up around your friends. You might find out that some of your friends are racists and you probably shouldn’t be friends with them. Steel sharpens steel; so if you have a friend that is well informed, you’ll be able to bounce ideas and concepts off of each other. You’ll be more informed after having a conversation with a friend about it. There’s nothing wrong with having a discussion about race, especially when everyone is open, honest, and ready to learn.
Now, don’t go around causing the family to hate everyone, but do use your voice as a tool. Speak up in the face of injustice and correct people when they’re wrong. Moreover, promote healthy discussions of race among your family and friends. Let them know that there are things that they can be doing daily to help improve the situation. If you have children, be sure to educate them on the issues of race and go beyond what is presented in text books. Racism didn’t end with Martin Luther King, Jr. and it’s important for people to know that. Basically, be a good ally.
Be a true ally. Educate yourself and use your knowledge to inform someone else. People act as if race is this taboo subject that should never be brought up when it really isn’t. It’s a great way to learn more about the struggles of other people and diversify yourself. That way you can understand the true difference between race, ethnicity, and nationality when you’re having conversations about race.
White people, talk to your children about race so they don’t grow up and embarrass themselves on social media. Being ignorant isn’t cool.
Afros and Ovaries
Still trying to figure out what the hell is going on…
This goes for the Black people that “done made it out the hood” as well. Talk to your children about race. I know you want to believe that your money and status will protect them from police brutality, but it won’t. They have racist police with poor training in the suburbs too.