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How and why white people can talk about racism

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How and why white people can talk about racism

It’s been a week of disruption, fighting and death. The cause of this horrible week is ugly. It’s fierce. It’s scary and so heartbreaking you catch your breath for a moment in disbelief. It’s racism. This week it has reached extremely dangerous levels on U.S. soil. It has at least half the people in this country openly reeling in shock and disgust because this fight is still going on in this day and age. I am one of them.

I’ve kept myself informed throughout this week on the racial tensions that have been swirling in the air. I’ve definitely paid attention, but I didn’t want to write about it. Hell, I have sat down so often over the past week and tried to write about something completely different, but my thoughts and words kept coming back around to what was happening right before my eyes.

No, I wasn’t going to write about it. That is until I sat down and thought about a conversation I had with a mentor of mine and the advice I gave him.

My friend called me on Tuesday afternoon, after I shared an article called ‘Maybe Now Isn’t the Time, Guys’ on my Facebook page. This article, in a nutshell, basically explains why it might not be the best time for white people to come out strong with their message and examples of how they, themselves, are not racist during times of high racial tension.

My friend is white and the article I shared made him rethink a letter he was in the middle of putting together on this exact topic.

He had two main questions for me: Did I think he should address the events which were unfolding around our country as a result of racism; and, Did I think it was becoming a cliché, which would soon be swept to the sidelines if everyone kept writing about it? He called to ask me these things because I am not white and who better to ask such a question than to a non-white person? What’s more, he knew he would hear the truth from me without judgment, fear of ridicule, intimidation or hate.

We had a conversation about racism without a feeling of threat to either of us. It’s a sad fact to point out, but that, in itself, is rare in these times.

And so I told him what I thought, and that was despite the article I shared on Facebook that day, he should definitely write about the escalation of racism over the past week. I shared that article with my friends because I believed it made some excellent points that should be taken into consideration before tackling the subject. And I also shared it because I believe that racism isn’t an issue that can be spoken of by just anyone during times of high tensions. People need to be aware that many will take their words with a grain of salt. How could you possibly understand racism when you can’t even explain white privilege? Everyone is on the defensive right now and people need to be cautious.

My friend understood this, hence the conversation to help think it through. And my encouragement to him to definitely write about it stems from many facts. He’s an excellent communicator. His messages almost always make people see things from a different angle. He’s someone people look up to and go to in times of turmoil. He’s empathetic and a voice of reason in the community. He’s educated and honestly, if I were to choose any of my friends to write about this, I would most definitely would pick him.

Once confirmed that he would continue to write his letter on the events of the week and racism, he asked me his second question. Did I think all the news media covering the violent protests in Charlottesville, as well as the many other cities which took a stance against racism after the attack in Virginia, was turning this blatant hatred into a cliché? And if so, was it even helpful to discuss the topic or had people already tuned it out without considering all sides?

There is no doubt in my mind that the racism fight has become a cliché. It may go away for a short time in different places, but it always comes back just as strong, if not stronger than before.

And though my answer to him was “yes, yes it has become a cliché,” I followed up with saying that maybe it is supposed to be. Maybe we as a country need to tear the subject apart and talk it to death. Maybe that is what it will take for people to become comfortable with our differences and not fear them.

It may seem like we are beating a dead horse. But maybe, just maybe, this is the cliché of all cliché’s – which is what I like to think it is. At least I hope it is, because that would mean that it’s working–that constantly speaking of it openly, reading about it daily and encountering it personally could make people’s feelings about racism evolve.

The alternative would be to call it a cliché and then not talk about it anymore. I’d like to think that we are all striving to evolve in positive ways for ourselves, family and community. If we don’t, we remain stagnant, and the smell of mold will continue to linger. So, please, do your part. Talk about it–a lot. Give examples. Lead by example. Speak up when words of hate are spoken. Always stay strong in your convictions against it and others will follow.

Sometimes, we need to be guided towards the unknown. Remember, hate is learned. Therefore, it can be unlearned. And that, I believe, is what can happen if we choose to overuse this particular cliché.


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Sandhya is a wife and mother of twin boys (4) and little girl (3), first. She also goes by author, writer, caregiver, and the family-glue for her village. She's a dreamer, a soul-catcher, lover of words, an empath and wanderer searching for lost souls, all while craving culture and diversity to bring everyone together. She is author of the book, When It's Not As Simple As The Birds And The Bees: Finding Hope While Dealing With Infertility.  She enjoys writing poetry and has been published numerous times, as well as being a two time award winning poet.  She's dabbled as a songwriter, but leaves that to the pros. Stay tuned, you will see all of it here.

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