AFTER MY Sunday column noting that we need to talk more about race, a white gentleman I talk with regularly emailed to tell me he had recently had a good conversation with a black Democratic elected official who he is sure votes differently from him.
Despite their political differences, they were able to have a civil and meaningful discussion about a range of issues. “I think we have more in common and are (more) alike than different,” he wrote.
That’s the point I try to make when I write about the need to have open, honest discussion to help people of divergent cultures and backgrounds discuss and embrace their differences — as well as discover things they have in common — as they seek to build stronger relationships and better communities. The fact is that whether black or white, we all want the same things: safe neighborhoods, good schools, meaningful and profitable jobs and a good quality of life. There’s nothing uniquely black of white about any of those things.
The unfortunate thing is many people shy away from having discussions about race. Some even go as far as to suggest that doing so is “playing the race card” or “stirring the pot” or race-baiting.
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But as I noted in my Sunday column, “many discussions about race don’t squarely focus on racism or involve labeling someone racist. The fact that people naturally assume that’s the case affirms a point I’ve been making for years: We don’t talk about race enough.”
As you might anticipate, I received quite a bit of response to the column. The majority of folks I heard from agreed that it’s imperative and healthy to have open discussions about race. Here’s some of what people said via email.
• “You had another fine column on race relations in today’s paper. I hope you are never intimidated from playing ‘the race card.’ (I hate that expression — it implies that all discussion of race is off limits.) Your analysis is thoughtful and reasonable. White people and black people need to continue to work together on race relations. That’s hard when so many whites don't acknowledge there is a problem. As a middle-aged white man in America, I will never have any idea what real discrimination is. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to understand the problem. After all, we are all fellow Americans and fellow human beings created by God.”
• “Lately I have been hearing several talk show people and news people say we need to have a honest discussion about race.”
“I believe that would be a good idea if it was conducted with the right groups of people. These so called discussions with so called leaders and distinguished people of politics, news media and journalist seem to think they know what everyone feels and thinks about everything, Race relations included.”
“These discussions would be more fruitful if we had discussions with groups of ordinary people, How about six grade boys and girls, eight grade boys and girls, high school boys and girls, young adults 18 t0 30, middle age men and women, senior citizens. OF BOTH RACES. Let them discuss what concerns they and what solutions THEY WANT TO SEE.”
• “Read your article in Sunday’s The State and it brought to mind a question. Many people condemned the white candidate for belonging to a club that allowed only white members but isn’t it just as bad for black people to belong to groups that allow only black members? Why is that never mentioned in relation to black candidates?”
“I occasionally read about the Black Democratic Caucus in Washington but how would the black community react if a White_____ Caucus (you fill in the blank) was formed? There is the Black Entertainment Network but what would happen if a White Entertainment Network was formed? There is The United Negro College Fund: how would the black community react if a United Caucasian College Fund was established?”
“Perhaps some (not all) white people would quit playing the race card if black people would do the same. I realize that bigotry will exist on both sides of the color line as long as races exist.”
• “I would be happy to have a discussion on race with you or anyone else. We should have those discussions — based on facts so we can improve in all areas of relationships. That being said, explain to me, a white male, why (U.S. Rep. James) Clyburn’s comments are not condemned for their purely racial, inflammatory content? Will we, as a society, improve relations when the president calls in Al Sharpton the day after the election for consultations?”
One reader sent an email with this subject line: “The real player of race card.” He wrote: “Being a 67 year old white male who served in the military and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, I can tell you that Satan delights on turning brother against brother. Jesus prayed for unity in John 17 because he knew the hearts of men.”
In God’s eyes, there’s neither black nor white nor Hispanic nor — you name it. We don’t have to stay divided over race. Unless we chose to.
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