As much as I would like to believe that the act of me taking the precious time to painstakingly spell out dozens of pieces of data and statistics would somehow encourage someone, who has very little desire to connect more empathetically with black people nor to better understand their reality, to become more invested in learning the true history of white supremacy in America in order to understand exactly what kind of efforts are needed to abolish institutionalized racism, I make sure I’m unwaveringly honest with myself about the likely outcome of the interaction.
I have to come to expect the most contemptuous kind of responses, not out of some haughty lack of faith in my fellow man in their ability to look more deeply but because I have to protect what dimly lit hope that still lies in my heart, from what I expect will be a thoughtlessly frigid reply.
I could recite a slew of facts and figures from a pool of thousands of factually, data-based sources, that clearly depict how racism is baked into the cultural make-up of American society and how it has unequivocally disenfranchised the descendants of slaves, African Americans, in every major area of human activity in society we operate within. But, would that, then, somehow convince someone who is denial about the existence of institutionalized racism, who is overtly racist, or even who is covertly racists, they should help in expunging white supremacy, by committing their lives to unlearning racist customs, which we’ve all had drilled into our head through social engineering methods and that we’ve all internalized in some way?
Well, after spending year after year, blathering on the phone with my white friends ’til I was blue in the face and vainly sacrificing lunch breaks for winded debates with coworkers, I was beginning to wonder if all the tense discussions and wordy persuasions were actually being effective at changing minds and hearts, or were they just a contests to see who could remember the most statistics?
And, after sitting up for far too many electronically-lit late nights, straining my eyes to blood-red and typing away my fingers to the bone, in response to dismissive paragraph after paragraph written by shameless trolls and “those wanting to stay asleep in The Matrix”–who offered no real in-depth solutions for contending with racism but had everything in the world to say about how they didn’t approve of the methods other groups were utilizing to combat it, the answer to that question was becoming clearer.
And, after years of passionately and politely taking the time explain how deeply entrenched racism is into the history of America and how much work needs to be put into bringing forth equality in our country to my white coworkers, peers, church members, and website followers, I can tell you with full confidence that the answer to that question, for the most part, is, “Hell-to-the-naw!”
Despite my best efforts to enlighten my white brothers and sisters–and a few of my black brothers and sisters with that “Stacey Dash” type of mentality, I’ve never once evoked the type of humble response I was looking for and that I, as well as other black people who are willing to initiate this much-needed conversation with others who are ignorant about racism, are deserved:
“I never knew all that about racism, and that shows that I clearly do not know everything I thought I knew about the history of America. I really want to learn more about how racism has affected me and those around me so that I can know how my behavior and actions might be contributing to the promotion racist costumes and so I can be a part of helping to make this a more equal society.” (Maybe not that articulate of an answer but at least something to that effect). It wasn’t the response I was expecting, of course, but it was the one I deserved.
Instead, I was met with the same dismissive and insensitive retort over and over again, when I notified them about the specific struggles black people have to live within this country, in addition to the social issues the rest of America (white America) has to contend with:
“Well, cops have a hard job. If black people would just do as they’re told, they wouldn’t get shot. Not all cops are bad.
“Why do you people always have to make everything about race?”
“Well, black people can be racists, too, ya know? I once worked at a job with mostly black people, and they couldn’t stand me.” (Imagine living in a country where the mainstream media tries to persuade all of America to think of you as less than human by unjustly painting people who look like you in a bad light while simultaneously, even though they commit the same exact crimes, giving another group a people the benefit-of-the-doubt?)
“What about black-on-black crime? Why aren’t y’all outraged by that?”
“All we need is love. I just want to live in a world where everyone is treated equally and where race isn’t a factor. We are all one human race.” (Awww…ain’t that sweet. Try proving that to the rest of America.)
“Why do you paint all white people as racists. You’ve become the racist that you’re against. smh.” (Never ever said or insinuated that, like ever, but ok.)
“Well, I date a black man, so how could I possibly be racist?” (I date women, so how could I possibly be sexist?)
No matter how data much I presented, no matter many personal accounts I provided of racist encounters I’d experienced, and in no matter how politely of a manner I shared the reality of being black in America, I heard those same responses over and over.
If I referred books and articles to them about the topic of racism, and they didn’t read them.
I provided studies for them to review, and they dismissed the studies as being bias or incomplete, or they countered those studies with bias and incomplete studies, like the one that suggests more white people get shot by cops than black people in America.
Or, as in the case with the e-mail exchange I had with one of my former writing colleagues, whom we’ll call Mrs. Renee, they just flat out stopped associating with me like I never existed in their life.
After sharing an article related to the Colin Kaepernick “controversy“ on Facebook, this person proceeded to make a brief comment on it, asking me if I ever served in the military. When I replied “no,” I noticed that she went missing from my Facebook friends list moments later.
I thought I would share our exchange, below, to further hit home my reasoning behind why and how I came to the conclusion that I will no longer be arguing with or trying to convince individuals, who have no genuine interests in helping black people create an American society of tolerance, compassion, equality, appreciation for ethnic differences, or that condemns any organization around the concept white supremacy, that the racial inequality that exists in America is crime against The Constitution, itself.
Me: Mrs. Renee, I hope this day is treating you well, ma’am. I was just writing because I noticed we are no longer Facebook friends. Is everything ok? I hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, Steven
Her: Yes, Steven all is well with me. And I hope all is well with you. A lot of your posts of late have been difficult for me. And when I saw the one about the Seahawks team deciding to to sit when the national anthem is played at their opening game, I just decided that It would be better for me to respect you and your causes from afar.
We are from different generations and that may have something to do with this. I was born (1949) and raised in West Virginia. My father was a businessman and taught us that everyone was equal. Our friends were from every background, both economic and cultural. Every Fourth of July there was a huge picnic in our backyard.
The guests were both family and my father’s customers. I did not grow up seeing color, nor did it cross my mind that one day it would be an issue.
Our nation has huge problems…and I cannot see how refusing to stand for the national anthem is going to make them better. I can, however, see how it just might make things worse. It doesn’t take much to divide us. I try not speak ill of people or promote causes on my Facebook page and most of my FB friends do the same.
As I said, it may be a generational thing but I’m here to keep up with my friends lives, travels, children and grandchildren. Please, try to understand where I’m coming from.
Me: Mrs. Renee, I really appreciate you taking the time to compose that and for being completely upfront with me. I respect that fully. I’m saddened to hear of your choice, but I do honor you making the choice to do what you feel is best for you. I really do understand.
Something about what you said really stood out to me: “I did not grow up seeing color, nor did it cross my mind that one day it would be an issue.” And, the truth of the matter is, I wish it wasn’t a factor either.
I really wish I grew up having the option whether or not to worry about race. I wish that it wasn’t an issue.
I wish people could appreciate each other’s diversity and beauty, a mark indicative of the creativity and glory of our Creator, without the color of their skin and their facial features having negative connotations and stereotypes attached to them.
I wish there weren’t oppressive and unjust systems and a cultural mindset of superiority set in place and very insidiously passed down through the generations, going all the way back to America’s infancy, by this country’s forefathers.
I wish I didn’t have to fear for my family’s life or my own life being taken by law-enforcement when the data has clearly shown throughout the years that unarmed black men get disproportionately gunned by cops more than any other race.
I wish I did not have to even consider that before I walk out of the house every day. I wish that when these issues are brought up that people wouldn’t dismiss them by saying things like, “cops have a hard job,” “what about black on black crime,” “all lives matter,” or “if you would just do what cops say you won’t get killed.”
I wish there was as much support for these black men getting unjustly gunned down as there is for police officers.
I wish people really sought to understand and humbled themselves enough to listen to the experiences, the realities, and the day-to-day life from someone who is black, rather than chalking up their anger and frustration to “playing the race card,” “being paranoid,” and “just making excuses for their failures.”
I wish that, just because slavery ended, people understood that the socioeconomic, psychological, and cultural impact was passed down, to both blacks and whites, even if people realize it or not, by our heirs through the generations, like a ripple effect.
Mrs. Renee, the reason I continue to speak on these issues and to make people aware of them is precisely because I care deeply for humanity. It’s not because I enjoy making white people uncomfortable–even though being uncomfortable is necessary to grow–but because I feel that institutionalized racism is, by far, the biggest threat to ALL of our freedom, white and black people—even bigger than isis.
And, isn’t that the very freedom our troops, or at least what most of them believe, they’re fighting for–so that we can be completely free?
When I made that post, it was not because I hate white people. I love all of God’s children, even if they don’t love me back.
It wasn’t because I’m praising someone for disrespecting the military.
It wasn’t because I don’t love my country.
The reason why I made that post and why so many people are applauding what he did is because we saw someone who recognized that the very liberties and freedoms our brothers, sisters, daughters, mothers and fathers are out there dying by the hundreds for, isn’t being upheld in this country.
He didn’t divide people by choosing to sit down. He merely magnified just how divided we already are.
When the outrage, for a football player who chose to sit during a national anthem, which originally had racist lyrics that were taking out and was written by a slave owner, is stronger than when these black men are gunned down by law enforcement and disproportionately incarcerated at a rate higher, more than any other ethnicity, day after day and year after year, there is the division right there.
When people continuously have an opinion how you, as a black man or a black woman, should liberate yourselves from your own unique hardships, oppressions, and negative stigmas, but have no desire to really understand the history, the sinister methods, propaganda and the enforcement the oppressors set in place and that are still unconsciously and consciously being implemented, which are gargantuan force on the influence of the so many decisions made that impact this country as a whole, there is the problem with that flag.
There is the problem he had with singing that anthem. Being American has nothing to do with singing and anthem anyway, but so many people, including the San Francisco police department who boycotting to do security for the season opening game, are pissed at him for exercising his freedom of speech, while Donald Trump, who has said and did way worse, could possibly become president.
There is the division. The division lies in that so many people are more than willing to sweep everything I just talked about under the rug, just to keep their nostalgia of “the old American sport of the pigskin.”
Yet, there’s rapist, drunk drivers, drug abusers, racist playing all in the NFL that no one is raising a funk about or boycotting that.
That post was because, out of the respect of service that the members of your family and my family made, in virtually every war this country has had, was made because so many players in the NFL, when the case is normally the opposite, are willing to put their reputation on the line to voice an unpopular truth–the right to say unpopular and heavy truths that people aren’t gonna like.
While I fully respect your choice to not be on my page any longer, I really will hope that you can reconsider, because I really enjoy exchanging thoughts and ideas with you.
You were there when I first began budding as a young writer, here in the DFW.
You were there at one the first poetry groups I ever joined.
I wouldn’t have even thought to start up Wordsmiths & Readers of Tarrant had it not been for the encouragement of you and your friends have given me. Your company is a blessing.
But, I must continue to enlighten and empower the people with knowledge. That is my job as a writer, even when I know that, sometimes, they won’t like me for it.
Whichever choice you decide, I want you to know, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed you as a writing colleague over the years, and you have made me better as a person. I can only I’ve had the same impact on you.
In any case, may God continue to bless you and your family and to bring you closer to Him. Respectfully, Steven??y hope I’ve done the same to you. In any case, may God continue to bless you and your family and to bring you closer to Him. Respectfully, Steven
Her: Believe it or not I wish for all the same things you do. However, in my 67 years on the face of this earth, I have learned that I cannot make anyone, other than myself, act the way I want them to.
I believe that we all come from the same God, that my job here is to be genuinely kind to every person I come in contact with. I try to smile at everyone I meet and send them positive energy. I am but one person, one soul, one spirit. And I am responsible for my actions. I try my very best to do all the good I can. That is truly all I can do.
As for the National Anthem, I believe that when it is played it offers all of us an opportunity to stand together and show that we are one regardless of all these differences that confront us. For just a few stanzas we are united.
Do you really believe that because one individual refuses to participate in the opportunity to connect on that level will fix a problem that is centuries old? I actually believe it stirs the hatred that we are trying to overcome. People who may not dislike someone because of race may be stirred to anger because they feel the action is disrespectful or unpatriotic.
I know that you feel strongly about this subject and I respect that. I am a believer in the power of positivity and that is why I come to social media. You are not the only person, nor yours the only cause, that I have decided to respect from afar.
I pray for peace and love to rule our world but being the flawed species that we are.