The immense racial divide in my country, the United States, troubles me deeply. As someone who has studied and lived among other cultures, I dream of a day when every human is honored and respected for who they are, and that everyone’s basic needs for belonging, food, shelter, and clothing are met. We will still have our differences and we won’t always get along. We will, however, work it out respectfully together. Authentic, honest dialogue is the place to begin.
I would like to begin an authentic, honest dialogue with you that I can imagine you might continue with your friends and colleagues. Some of the things I write may not sit well with you, but I invite you to be curious, face the questions, sit with them. Discomfort is a good thing here. It gets us to pay attention to what’s going on. It doesn’t last. You can move through it and past it. I’ve done it.
When I think of whom I am writing to, I think mostly of my white family, and my friends, neighbors and colleagues. I am white, and I was raised in a family and neighborhood that was white. We white folks tend to think of ourselves as individuals, each of us unique. We like to think we are objective and nice people. Within that, we live in a culture of white privilege. By this I mean that we as whites have advantages (often taken for granted) that people of color do not. Recently I was waiting for service in a deli, and there was a black woman standing near me who had been there longer than I had. I got waited on before she did. That’s a simple example of privilege. I am not better than she is. Why did I get waited on first? It is because we have a belief system embedded in our culture that comes out of the days of slavery in this country. That belief system gives me the advantage.
If we believe in a core value of Christianity, which is to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” we have to become aware of our white privilege and begin to take specific actions to address this. This is ours to do, as we are the ones who are perpetuating it by ignoring it. The actions we take could be as small as asking this black woman next to me if she had been waited on before I was helped. Or they could be as big as we can imagine, such as supporting our local police to see how systemic white privilege affects how they work in the community.
The authentic dialogue that we need to have about race is not just with our white family and friends but also with people of color. We are so afraid, though, to engage in an honest and open dialogue about race. Am I speaking a truth that resonates with you? Why are you afraid to really open and talk about how you feel about race?
This is what comes up for me about having such a conversation:
- I don’t want to offend anybody (be nice).
- I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
- I don’t want to make you or me uncomfortable.
- I don’t want you to think I am a bad person.
Then I realize that every one of these reasons just keeps the system of racism in this country in place. We have to address these issues if we want to heal ourselves from this racial divide that keeps getting passed on from one generation to the next.
Will you join me in this authentic and honest dialogue and help us all heal?
I would like to continue this exploration with you. You may join in by contacting me. I will create another post in a couple of weeks.
Please share this post with your friends and family. Thank you for being a part of my life and considering my concern about our racial divide.
~ Ann Schauber