How to Be White in a Black Lives Matter World
This week someone handed me a blueprint during a stand-off sparked by race.
I had several uncomfortable conversations over the past week that, like so many uncomfortable conversations I have these days, involved race. No-one raised their voice, no-one hurled accusations, and no-one uttered the dreaded R-word (“Racist!”… Shhh). Still, some of the discussions, all of which were related to the first one, left me feeling frustrated and disappointed. It took a few days to resolve the initial point of contention, which had evolved into so much more. In the end, I had to admit I had been uninformed, driven by impulses that ran deeper than that initial point of contention.
I was wrong. I stepped into the ring with my gloves on and my headgear in place but lacking all the pertinent facts. My frustration and disappointment, though, were never really about whether I was right or wrong. The crux of my exasperation was the way White people often listen to Black people — or more precisely, don’t listen to Black people.
We’re not always right, and we don’t have to be. Sometimes how we feel matters more than who’s right and who’s wrong. Black or White, we all have the capacity to be overly sensitive, and if the way Black people often seem to be on the verge of erupting doesn’t completely make sense to White people, well, American society has done a thorough job of making us that way.
One person on the other side of the first uncomfortable conversation — someone whom I consider to be a strong White ally — admitted that perhaps she had been a bit too White in her response to me that day. I was as surprised by this as I had been by her initial apparent apathy toward my point of view. I’ve had enough conversations about race with White friends, White colleagues, and White strangers to always brace myself for the worst once I’ve had my say.
I’ve lost count of how many times White people have told me I’m being a crybaby or playing the victim.
Sometimes the worst is telling me how I should feel. I’ve lost count of how many times White people have told me I’m being a crybaby or playing the victim. Recently, several have…