Tackling race issues in a public setting…heavy stuff.

Issues surrounding race were in no way a part of the curriculum of the conference I attended last week.

But a conversation evolved organically, in a group of 30 people who had never met each other only a day and a half previously.

The following discussion took place in the context of the concept of understanding the factions existing in any group of people who get together to work on a common goal.

Black gentleman, clearly taking a risk: 

“I would like to explain something that I think many people in this room are not aware of. Any time a larger group of people contains a subset of black individuals, especially in a place like Kansas where black people are a distinct minority, those black people in the room will invariably make some kind of contact with each other in order to form a sort of coalition. In addition, that group of black people will work hard NOT to disagree with each other before the larger group, feeling that they must support one another in the face of the majority.”

Much conversation ensued around this comment, with a great deal of honesty and with much learning taking place.

White gentleman, with sincerity:

“Please help me understand what I can do, now that I’m aware of this, to make such a situation better for you.”

Black gentleman:

“The first thing I would suggest is that you must understand your privilege.”

Much more conversation, with at least three white people in the room bravely stating that they have absoloutely no concept of what could possibly be meant by the term “white privilege.”  I stay out of the discussion, while dying a little inside. These are, based on my observation over the time we’ve had together, good and kind people. Not people who would stand out in any way as being racist or bigoted. But people who have never in their lives considered what it must be like to be a marginalized minority.

It was a very heavy discussion, throughout which I had the distinct impression that this group of 30 people were subtly doing the work of making substantive change in a problem that still significantly plagues our society.

But as this conversation took place, a very quiet and unassuming young man tried to interject another viewpoint three different times. Three different times he was ignored in favor of the louder voices intent on discussing black/white issues. This young Latino man simply had this to say: “There is another minority in the room that is being completely left out of consideration here.”

He was absolutely correct.

We have such a long way to go.

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3 thoughts on “Tackling race issues in a public setting…heavy stuff.

  1. I don’t know what the answer is. Equality surely only comes when it’s no longer necessary to highlight differences in colour/race/creed because it’s not an issue for any party. But that’s different to not being aware of an issue. So, currently, the minorities have to point things out. But, if one minority is shouting so loudly about their issues that they’re drowning out smaller minorities – do they need to then consider their black privilege (as being the most recognised minority)? Are should black people be ultra aware of the battle for recognition of other minority minorities – shouldn’t they in turn be showing the same thinking towards other minorities that they expect from the white majority – or is it too much effort to fight your own battle let alone anyone else’s?
    Plus, there will always be history. How long before we can move on from that so that everyone is accepted as equal? Or is it not actually possible? And as a part of the majority group – a position we were born into, but also shaped by – can we ever truly understand?
    My head is spinning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve had every one of those same thoughts and questions running through my head since that day. It finally hit me this morning that the loud black voices in the room, belonging to people who truly had legitimate things that need to be said, were also being extremely rude and unfeeling. I don’t think it’s racist to feel that way. I think you’ve hit on something when you say that it would help if people of various minorities could support each other in this type of dialog. At the same time, my understanding is that there’s a great deal of racial animosity between blacks and Latinos. It’s more than I can ever truly understand, and yet I’m definitely so introspective I swear I’ve been over this issue in my mind a ridiculous amount in my lifetime. Like you, my head is spinning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I still can’t really grasp feminism (I think leaps forward have been used against us as women, eg the ability to work leading to an economic need for dual income families, thus eliminating the very choice fought for) and I’m a woman. So being a white girl from a white area I do struggle. And then voicing thoughts whilst making head or tail of things is racist, so we keep quiet and nothing’s resolved. Like I say, spinning.

        Liked by 1 person

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