Well here we go.. AGAIN. I stood uneasy and in disbelief! Just when I think he cannot be more insensitive and tactless he proves me wrong. I was livid and sweating bullets at the same time. I mean this guy is a friend and a valued customer. How can I recoup this obvious flub. My mind raced. The more time that passed, the farther from an answer my mind wandered. At last on a seemingly good note we all parted.
On the way home making general conversation ,I could NOT wait for an opportunity to tell my spouse how terrible I thought he was. I had the adjectives and nouns lined up. I was prepared to be as condescending as possible, for he needed to know, just because you feel and think one way it doesn’t give you the right to just go off on these tangents with people you claim to like…
I began with a simple question to bait the trap. “Did you realize that you were talking to someone white when you said that”, I asked. He replied, “yes..” Well with both barrel blazing I prepared to attack, but he through me for a loop and I had to re-group and re-consider. He continued, ” Why do you think it is that we in this country time and time again, talk about having an open forum about race yet it never seems to take place?” Whoa, whoa wait a minute.. he was actually making sense and in a fashion I was ill prepared and possibly ill-equipped to answer…
I am driving home, after a weekend of football controversy about bullying and misuse of words and charges of racism, and here I am being confronted with my own possible missed opportunities to address subject matter that arises again and again. I thought he was being mean when in fact he was doing what we on one occasion or another like to say we believe we need, to have a discussion about race.
Well it’s not the time or place.. question when is it? Things can get heavy and deep when you examine them “head on”. I was so concerned about what my/our Caucasian friend would think about the brash comments my spouse made. I didn’t bother to give either of them credit of being the types of people that, one hopes, open forums create and foster. It did not occur to me that perhaps they were already in the place I say I dream will come to be one day, before I move beyond this Earth. I did not consider that maybe THEY had truly evolved. I was too busy being uncomfortable and judgmental of them both.
When is the right or proper time to have this discussion? Dare we be so exact? In a classroom sounds good, a place where ideas are meant to be exchanged. At work, certainly not unless some problem has arisen. In church, that again is a safe place because no one would be confrontational in the house of the Lord. What about at home and not your home? That is something to ponder. You see all the examples I gave were easily identified as basically safe or non-safe. However, out of these antiseptic, tagged areas one doesn’t know what might occur and that makes one reluctant to broach such a subject in that type of environment. Not in your house out of your comfort zone, anything can happen. Would YOU take that chance?
The biggest problem I see with a discussion of race, is the subject matter is uncomfortable and volatile. You want to be expressive and honest, but at what risk. Can you be truly open with people you care about, work with, attend classes and church with..? The truth is most of us walk around and ignore race until it affects us directly and depending who you are, the frequency of those direct affects varies.
When racial tension hits the headlines, there are naturally more rumblings about the problems, solutions, and yes the existence of racial issues. Case in point Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, the Miami Dolphins, and the NFL. There are rumblings of bullying, hazing, and most prevalent racism. I, being a football fan, have an image in my mind of a football player. I cringe when I see rules changing in the game, even knowing it is to protect the players. It is a rough and tumble game, and you have to be resilient and tough. Yet we are talking hits here, when one goes on the field he has his body armor, but what about the psychological armor. The helmet protects your head, but what do you have inside of yourself to protect your “head”? What about sportsmanship, team camaraderie, and here’s a little blast from the past word for you R-E-S-P-E-C-T! (I will cover this particular incident more detailed on a different post, for now it merely serves as an example.)
The truth is we do not know how to communicate with one another in most instances, so what would happen if we start a discussion about something that makes most of us uneasy. There would likely be arguments, harsh and hurtful words, perhaps a fight would ensue, but maybe something positive could result from this dialog. Never know unless you try, and remember it doesn’t necessarily need to be a planned event. However, you MUST make every effort to “keep-it-clean”.