What we need to stop doing
This morning I read a hilarious and sobering opinion piece from Damon Young in the NYTimes. It’s titled “Yeah, Let’s Not Talk About Race.” Damon Young offers a strangely funny lament (my choice of words, not his) about what happens when he’s out on his evening walk around the neighborhood.
If you can access this piece, here’s the link.
Here’s why his piece struck a chord with me. It’s a cry for honesty and for justice. In a nutshell, he’s tired of being expected to listen to uninvited comments from white people who aren’t willing to pay for his time or do their own homework. Especially when he’s out walking at the end of the day.
No, he isn’t mean. He’s just suggesting we might want to back off. Put another way, he’s letting us know we can’t atone for our sins of commission or omission by talking with him. Nor can we receive absolution from him. It doesn’t matter how much we care about him and other black and brown people. Or how eager we are for him to answer our questions for free. Not that he’s looking for our money. He isn’t.
You might say this behavior toward him is the price of being a celebrity. I don’t think so.
Furthermore, we don’t have time to try atoning for our white color by interrupting persons of other colors just to signal or prove to ourselves (?) that we’re one of the good guys or gals. Or that now we’ve got it, when we don’t.
Seriously, the problem of presumed or arrogated white superiority has been our problem since the founding of this nation. It’s high time we white citizens began addressing it with each other.
I’m not saying a conversation with a black or brown friend or colleague is out of bounds. Still, I want to know I’m having the conversation because I’m a learner, and my friend of any color isn’t afraid to tell me the truth about myself as a white woman.
Happy reading and talking about things that matter!
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 July 2020
Image found at NYTimes.com
Interesting take on something I can only imagine is indeed exhausting. In these days of social media and social distancing, finding appropriate venues for dialogue (as opposed to keyboard warriors acting out or people simply seeking validation) is a real challenge. As a pastor I have “frequent flyers” stopping by the office or calling me on the phone largely to have the same conversation over and over again. It has gotten somewhat less frequent during the shutdown but it is one of the burdens of my profession. Many writers are introverts (unlike me) and I can only begin to imagine the gasoline that throws on the fire of exhaustion! Thanks for keeping us thinking (and laughing)!
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Thanks for this comment. You highlight a reality that makes all this (perhaps) more difficult. We’re dealing with white supremacy and Black Lives Matter in the context of a raging Covid-19 pandemic. As an introvert, unlike you 🙂 I don’t mind having a small circle of people to talk with. Especially about white privilege or white supremacy. Nonetheless, talking about things this important in the midst of this pandemic is difficult in any case. No one wants to get the virus or give it away. And yet we must find ways of communicating that invite us to change our ways. In and out of the church.
I appreciate your image of ‘frequent flyers’ searching for something (validation? human connection?) via conversation with you. The sad thing is that you can’t make everything right. Yet they need human interaction about things that matter, beginning perhaps with the reality that they matter? So do you.
I thought the opinion piece was one of the best I’ve read recently about this need we whiteys have for validation! I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
It is a huge problem We whites come from an assumed position of superiority and therefore any contact we make with any people whom we have considered – in the past – as inferior will therefore be considered as condescension. It is a problem that in Australia has been three hundred years in the making and will probably take almost as long to remedy. But in America the obvious rift between North and South that is the continuation of the war that never finished, will continue until that war is finally concluded.
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Thanks for this comment, John.
I’d say that here in the USA, especially in large cities, speaking with strangers of any color isn’t (in my experience) common. If I still lived in the South (at least through the 1960s, though also today in many rural settings), no one would think it strange for me to greet a person of any color. And I would receive a greeting back. I think the article is about (going out on a limb here) white guilt suddenly needing/wanting to demonstrate how harmless and friendly we are, and how much we need “them” to help tell us what’s wrong with us. Which, of course, they’ve been trying to do for decades. It’s time for us to do our own homework.
Your last line is so important. I would add to it the horror of what this country has done to ‘foreigners’ — many of them already here when we ‘found’ America! It’s mindboggling, I know. Bottom line: It’s high time we white people talked with each other about white privilege and white supremacy, and decided just who we are and are not and what we’re going to do about it. Especially in our churches. Sadly, there are many white citizens who think otherwise. And, of course, POTUS has no intention of doing anything at all about this. Or the pandemic.