Our country is in the middle of the largest conversation on race in my lifetime. Well, conversation isn’t the right word. “Monologue” or “lecture” would be more appropriate. And for some, I’m sure it’s cathartic. But I have a hard time believing it will be productive in the long term.
I know that because I’m black, I’m supposed to either agree with what’s happening or shut up and pretend that I do. But I don’t and I won’t.
When it comes to systemic racism, I don’t think either side is completely wrong or right. The people that think it’s everywhere, and to blame for everything are wrong. And the people that pretend it doesn’t exist are wrong too.
People in my family have succeeded against all odds. My great grandfather made a fortune for himself in pre-civil rights Georgia despite his formal education ending in the 4th grade.
My dad was born to a 14 year old single mother on welfare and wore shoes that were two different sizes because they were all he could afford and is now a C suite level tech executive. My grandfather had his own successful business too in Georgia but he was an alcoholic and lost it all, but that’s beside the point.
They are why I think the way I do. Because with all the challenges they faced, and all of the reasons they had to fail, they still made it. And even with America’s flawed and complex past, it made their triumphs possible.
People will use my political affiliations and the whiteness of my social circle to discount what I’m saying, and call me a coon or another derogatory synonym, but their insults mean nothing to me. Some of the loudest and most radical left leaning black voices on social media right now have just as many white friends, and white coworkers and white exes as I do. But no one cares as long as they stay on script.
I think there’s value to be had in honest discussions on racism and race relations. But lambasting white people and self righteous soap boxing don’t make a discussion, and don’t get us any closer to real solutions.
When social media mobs (and literal mobs) are pressuring people to repost black boxes and viral infographics (or even criticizing their execution/accusing them of not being woke enough), on the surface it may seem like something is changing for the better. It may seem like people are understanding each other. But progress means nothing if it’s just for appeasement. If people are only pretending to care because they’re afraid of what might happen if they don’t, nothing has actually been fixed. None of us are better off.
I’ve seen people say that it’s good that people realize that there are consequences for being racist, but if it’s all to save face and no one has changed behind closed doors, what’s the point?
How do you actually change someone’s mind? How do you actually change someone’s heart? And when do you accept that sometimes your mind and heart are what need to change?
When I was in high school my parents would yell at me all the time. Whether it was about school, boys or cleaning my room, they were constantly berating me. There were consequences too, like curfews and having my phone or iPod taken away. But it was completely ineffective. I did the same things over and over and got better and better at hiding them.
I don’t fault them, but I was always jealous of people with parents that tried to have real conversations with them. I remember my friend sharing an anecdote with me about how she was unmotivated in high school, and her dad took her on a drive to the really nice part of town and the really bad part of town, with the lesson that the people that people that did well in school lived in the mansions and the people that didn’t lived in the shacks. I’m sure many will disagree with his generalization, but it drove home the point for my friend that she needed to actually apply herself in school. And I wondered what might have been different in high school if my parents had ever had a talk like that with me.
America could benefit from an open and robust dialogue on racism. But it actually has to be a dialogue. Not a rampage or an unhinged reprisal.
If left wing black Americans want to use this moment to incoherently air their grievances and talk AT white people instead of to them, they’ll only have themselves to blame when this goes nowhere.