“I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing.”
This is what White People tell me sometimes in terms of “How to Talk with People of Color.” (Reminder: I am a White Person myself.)
- What if I say the wrong thing?
- What if I unintentionally say something racist?
- What if I make it worse?
We will. We will use the wrong prepositions:
“I am angry for you” instead of “I am angry with you.”
We will erroneously expect Black and Brown People to be our teachers.
“Would you please show me how to be anti-racist?”
We will say profoundly stupid things.
“Can I touch your hair?”
We will expect People of Color to be sensitive to our shame and regret.
(Ugly Crying) “I’m so sorry my ancestors had slaves.”
So . . . here’s the thing: it’s not the responsibility of our Brown and Black and Golden siblings to dry our tears, hear our sad stories, be our new best friends, instruct us on U.S. history and policy, or carry our burdens.
It’s our responsibility to educate ourselves, grapple with our own racial biases, listen more than talk, and use our privilege for good.
It might feel like walking on eggshells. But at least we are moving when we walk. At least we are not waiting for cultural transformation to magically happen without putting any skin in the game.
A friend shared with me last week that most White People will not care until White bodies are on the line. I believe this is true.
Becoming anti-racist is something I’m trying to work on. It’s exhausting work, but it’s not nearly as exhausting as it is to live in Black or Brown or Golden skin. I am trying to pay attention. I am remembering and asking others to remember personal stories of systemic racism and white supremacy. I am trying to school myself. I am trying to value friends with whom I disagree.
I will make mistakes. So will you. And we have no choice but to continue to walk forward. As we walk, there will be fewer and fewer eggshells.
Thank You Jan for your on-going posts. Your insights give me hope that I may begin to understand what I don’t know about how I contribute wittingly and unwittingly to the problem of racism and white supremacy. You are a wonderful voice of conscience.
Thank you Brian.
>>It’s our responsibility to educate ourselves, grapple with our own racial biases, listen more than talk, and use our privilege for good.<< Yes. I've been saying this for over 40 years.