The events of 2020 and the prominence of the BLM movement has pushed the subject of race relations to the forefront of our national conversation. Entering into the realm of honest discussion on race at any level is a personal decision. For the process to be effective, self-evaluation, an open mind, and willing vulnerability are required. Are you equipped for this? The fact is, many of us have rarely or never engaged in frank, honest conversation about race.
How do you feel about the prospect of honestly discussing your position and responsibility on race related issues? Reluctant? Interested? Suspicious? Eager? Not interested? Why is that?
What should be one’s approach, attitude, and sense of responsibility be when entering into honest discussions about race?
What mistakes can one make when discussing race and how can those mistakes be avoided?
Are you afraid that you may be judged to be politically incorrect or uninformed if you share your true feelings? Yes? No? Can you briefly explain?
How might your neighborhood or local community benefit from open discussion about race?
Please share your thoughts below.
Brene Brown has said that we cannot begin to dialogue about racial [tribal] issues unless we acknowledge the challenge of shame. Shame is so extremely painful to endure that it paralyzes and silences us and sends up defenses before we even realize what it is doing. I have tons of shame over what my white people have done (and to a lesser degree, what I have personally have done) to minorities in this nation. It makes it hard for me to talk about the whole issue.
Some observations/opinions to add to the conversation:
I grew up in a non-US society with very deep racial divisions. Both of these groups, the dominant and the exploited, would be labelled as “white” by Americans. To really talk about race, I think that one of the overarching assumptions that should be discussed is putting everyone in boxes called “white”, “Of Color”, and, within “of color”, “Black”. Race is viewed by many as a continuum, and not everyone even defines “race” the same way. Racial diversity includes diversity of perspective on what race actually means, and how important it is. Some people want to make membership in an officially-recognized racial group an important part of “equity” objectives (in quotes simply because the definition of “equity” also varies); others want to move towards a society where “race” (if you care about it) is a personal and private matter.
There are a couple of things that I think have help me feel better equipped to talk about race with others. One is reading and understanding the historical background of race in the US. In the last 2-3 years I have read several books about Reconstruction, a biography of Frederick Douglas and US Grant.The experiences below perhaps have as well. I renovate and own properties, sometimes renting, sometimes selling. In this role I have encountered black and hispanic families whose lives have exploded or suffered huge challenges, such as domestic violence, job and income loss and because of this, my interests as a landlord suffered. The reality of people not having an extra $400 is very real to me. Race here is about poverty and isolation from opportunity or opportunities that are much more limited than those in exclusively white areas. A lot of contractors I hire are hispanic or… Read more »
I have been engaging in extensive discussions on race on a daily basis for about six months now. My approach has been to simply listen with sincere interest. I have not done much talking at all, and have expressed almost no opinions. I am just listening. That’s my approach for right now and I feel like it is working. I am learning a lot and people seem to be willing to talk with me.
Although I originally come from Australia, I have been interested in the complexities of black-white relations since I moved to this country. Yet I am still hesitant to broach the subject because of the intense emotions and reactions that it brings up in people no matter where they stand. I feel that it is important to make a distinction between White Supremacy, Racism, Unconscious of Conscious Prejudice, Cultural Differences and Miss-understandings. Many times, we mistake one for the other and make a bigger deal out of a slight or misunderstanding than what is intended. I do believe that simply developing better communication and spending time together with people who are different from our cultural norm can go a long way to solving these issues. Beyond that, it is important to have a deep self-awareness of our own shortcomings and to constantly examine the pre-conceived behaviors, habits and expectations that we… Read more »
The word “race” and “racism” was never part of my youth. I was raised in a small town in France. However, as soon as I stepped on to the American soil at the age of 22 I became aware of these words. I don’t argue with people if what I think is irrational or simply very different from my point of view. I simply stop talking. I am told that I am very strong and project strength and therefore “people don’t want to mess with me”. I have been told that recently again – and I am 70 years old. Race and racism is a topic that cannot be put under the carpet any longer, regardless of our discomfort. I am very comfortable talking about it and not afraid to explain my own point of view. I may be strong but not stubborn and can be helped in changing my… Read more »
Hello Anne Marie – I have read you comments with interest. Regarding terminology, in recent conversations we have been using the term European as a descriptor, rather than Caucasian or White. That seems to be working well. Another issue of terminology: We understand there is a single human race, so why do we refer to the Black Race or the White Race or European Race, or Asian Race? This terminology seems to imply fundamental differences that recent science is telling us are not really there. Perhaps a more appropriate term is “Tribe.” In a recent talk at the Unification Theological Seminary this was the term employed by Rev. Zagary Oliver. Also, I am wondering about the statement (found in one of your links) that God does not care about race (or tribe). I have been learning that God has used tribes to bring a diversity of beauty, traits, and special… Read more »
Hi Jim, I completely agree with your very last sentence, “So I think racial or tribal differences are important to God, and therefore should be appreciated and valued by us.” Words are just that “words” which can be interpreted to fit someone’s feeling. What is important is for the reader to understand the heart of the individual using that particular word. I will not debate on a lot of stuff because I am not well read. I am a nurse by trade, and a bookkeeper. But discussions that involved a lot of doctoral papers won’t be my forte. I do feel that the word “race” and the word “tribe” have their own value and beauty, but using one over the other just because… won’t work for me. Tribals wars have been there since the fall a man, as much as the mis-understanding of our skin colors. My 2 cents…everyone… With… Read more »
Dear Anne-Marie, Here is one lesson that leaps from the pages of your discussion with James Edgerly and Roger, so really this reply is to all three of you: To create harmonious relations after a history of denigration, words and symbolic gestures from either side are not enough. I understand that many Japanese and Koreans have made decades of intensive, principled, efforts toward reconciliation between the two peoples. Those whom I have known seem extremely sincere and concerned about what they see as the spiritual aspect of the problem. Yet reactions to the Comfort Women issue suggest that a long way remains. Are the two peoples part of larger economic or political systems of relations that make actual humility and forgiveness harder to achieve? If so, what concrete steps can be taken to address those more “external” aspects of the problem in tandem with its more spiritual roots? It would… Read more »
Unconditional apologies from the white race is one part of the solution, but unconditional forgiveness from those who have been wronged is the other half. Only then, can both sides be truly freed and liberated to become brothers again.
I have black friends, who do not expect me to apologize for something I had no part of. Also, I don’t expect them to forgive me for something I did not do. If Roger is correct then the black “race” and the Muslim religion must also unconditionally apologize.
You are correct Roger.
Forgiveness won’t be true unless apologies are from the heart and come first.
I think, in any situation (even small conflict between kids for example), the individual who is in the wrong has to be the first to act in order to give a chance to the person who suffered because of the wrong can have the ability to forgive.
Perhaps the “Comfort Women” history between Korea and Japan is a related story that can offer lessons? I understand, despite panels and commissions, resolution of that terrible history continues to be an an impass. Apparently, resolution has been blocked because nationalism, particularly on the Korean side, has taken priority over facts.
Perhaps we should have a conversation in this forum on the “Comfort Women” history. It may teach us lessons that can be applied to reconciling the atrocities of racism in the U.S.
Dear James Edgerly, Here is one lesson that leaps from the pages of your discussion with Anne-Marie and Roger, so really this reply is to all three of you: To create harmonious relations after a history of denigration, words and symbolic gestures from either side are not enough. I understand that many Japanese and Koreans have made decades of intensive, principled, efforts toward reconciliation between the two peoples. Those whom I have known seem extremely sincere and concerned about what they see as the spiritual aspect of the problem. Yet reactions to the Comfort Women issue suggest that a long way remains. Are the two peoples part of larger economic or political systems of relations that make actual humility and forgiveness harder to achieve? If so, what concrete steps can be taken to address those more “external” aspects of the problem in tandem with its more spiritual roots? It would… Read more »
I recently had an interesting conversation with a Japanese-Ameican woman about the Comfort Women issue. It seem that no matter how many times Japan apologizes for this, it is never enough to satisfy the Koreans. Holding on to a grudge is like slowly drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! The ones who are really hurt by this are actually the Koreans, in that they lose the opportunities for better trade arrangements and to cooperate more with their island neighbors. Perhaps there are lessons here that we can learn that can be applied to the ‘race’ issue.
Dear Roger, Here is one lesson that leaps from the pages of your discussion with Anne-Marie and James Edgerly, so really this reply is to all three of you: To create harmonious relations after a history of denigration, words and symbolic gestures from either side are not enough. I understand that many Japanese and Koreans have made decades of intensive, principled, efforts toward reconciliation between the two peoples. Those whom I have known seem extremely sincere and concerned about what they see as the spiritual aspect of the problem. Yet reactions to the Comfort Women issue suggest that a long way remains. Are the two peoples part of larger economic or political systems of relations that make actual humility and forgiveness harder to achieve? If so, what concrete steps can be taken to address those more “external” aspects of the problem in tandem with its more spiritual roots? It would… Read more »
My impression is that most people in the US have made up their mind. They either believe that racism is still systemic and widespread, or they believe that it is yesterday’s problem, and that today we are dealing with economic and social inequalities that are not race-based. Only a small fraction of people seem to be willing to stand between these two very different beliefs and consider both of them with an open, fact-seeking and solution-focused perspective. The people who have made up their mind, on both extremes, are not “equipped to talk about race”.
I personally hate the idea of “tolerance” of each other’s racial, ethnic, linguistic, or faith identities. It seems like enduring some irritant. I feel we need to honor, to cherish, to celebrate our special characteristics. If we look at each other for the amazing qualities God has endowed, not only in the very broad distinction of race, but the much more narrow distinctions of one’s individual characteristics and strengths, what emerges is wonder and amazement at God’s vast and profound genius. Many can marvel at nature’s complexity and beauty, but the complexity and brilliance of each human person is far beyond that of the plant and animal world, or even the movement of the stars and the galaxies. The brain performs more complex maneuvers in a split second than even the most elaborate artificial intelligence system. Every part of humanity has been designed and planned and built by God, so… Read more »
How do you feel about the prospect of honestly discussing your position and responsibility on race related issues? Reluctant? Interested? Suspicious? Eager? Not interested? Why is that? Hello my Brother James. I have been working this subject and created a website to discuss it. GOTO: https://www.adlcendingracism.org/ What should be one’s approach, attitude, and sense of responsibility be when entering into honest discussions about race? Real Talk for Ending Racism was intended to create the balance between truth about the history and origin of the construction of “color based power and control” i.e the Doctrine of Discovery (https://www.adlcendingracism.org/cultural-genocide) and how this was the “foundation” for modern day racism. This includes worldwide colonialization, mass incarceration, police abuse, etc. Our nation has tried to bring some “talk” about this, especially now after 4 years of leadership in White House with a clearly ignorant and harmful view of race relationships in America. The Obama Administration did put a… Read more »
I believe in one race: the human race. But, as far as history goes, I find the treatment of the Native American appalling. We did steal their land. But, that is not the first time that has happened. Everywhere the English and Spanish landed they tried to enslave the native population and steal the country (others as well but not as globally). As far as the hue and cry about slavery in America, the Irish were slaves here long before the Africans were. They called them indentured servants but they were managed in such a was as to never be able to attain their freedom and they were every bit as mistreated as the black slaves. The English actually used the women as breeding sows. And, speaking historically, who actually started slavery? A bit of karma there, Wouldn’t you say? So, let’s just let bygones be bygones and embrace on… Read more »
Dear Jeremiah, Please be patient with the length of this response. Your post provides an opportunity to bring up several facts, some of which you surely already know. Thank you for raising the question of where slavery began. According to anthropology and archaeology, the oldest evidence of slavery does not come from the cradle of humanity in Sub-Saharan Africa, nor even from Egypt. Instead it comes from Western Asia, which was the cradle of settled agriculture and therefore of non-nomadic living. The Code of King Ur-Nammu is from the ancient Sumerian city of Nippur, in modern-day Iraq. Written around 2100-2050 BCE, it shows that slavery was well-established in Mesopotamia even before Hebrew slavery in Egypt is said to have begun. Obviously, that history provides no reason to justify Middle Easterners’ and Europeans’ habit of enslaving Sub-Saharan Africans (nor anyone’s habit of enslaving anyone) in the millennia which have followed. or… Read more »
I want to thank Dr. Ellison for presenting the facts. I know enough about racism in America that several posts are missing facts. We cannot solve racism in America completely on feelings or altered history. On a more personal note, I want to thank Dr. Ellison for giving us the true history of our Irish ancestors.