Monday 21st August 2017,

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Why You Need to Talk to Your White Friends about Race

posted by Randall

White people on race

By Ed Diokno

Don’t be too hard on your European American coworkers or classmates. Life is getting more uncomfortable for them as they find it nearly impossible to not interact with people of color in our changing America.

As the Black Lives Matter movement, the political rhetoric of the presidential candidates, the attacks against Muslims, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia and the attempts to use the Model Minority Myth against other people of color clearly demonstrates – race is still a dividing line in America.

The lens through which we People of Color (POC) see the world is dramatically different from the way European Americans see the world.

While European Americans may find it difficult to talk about race, that is a topic most of us are all too familiar with since we deal with it every day.

Racism has taken a different form from the days of lynchings and cross-burnings that spurred the Civil Rights Movement.

In our country’s discourse, racism is still defined as a matter of individual, intentional and overt action. If there isn’t a lynching, many people will not identify an action as being racist, even if it results in racial disparities. Redefining racism as something that is often systemic, unconscious and hidden is a reboot that all Americans need right now, whatever their age.

The brilliant satirist Molly Ivins said: ‘The second George Bush was born on third base but believes he hit a triple.’ In the same vein, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s father gave him $1 million to start his career and the Donald believes he’s a self-made man.. That gets to the heart of what White privilege is all about, Bush, Trump and many folks in the top 1 percent are people who achieved their status in life and believe it’s solely because they have sacrificed and worked hard.

It may be too easy to dump on Euro Americans in retaliation for all the slights and microaggressions heaped upon you as you were growing up. You might unwittingly push them into a self-defensive corner.

As this video from our friends at BuzzFeed demonstrates, not sharing the experiences of POC, even the most well-intentioned EA’s – many of whom we call our friends – get tense and awkward about the topic or race. They may be reluctant to join the race conversation. You shouldn’t avoid it either when the topic arises. It is important that they understand your perspective if you want your friendship to flower or professional relationship to prosper.

When is the best time for that conversation on race? It could be anytime or anywhere. Drinks after work, at a friend’s party, during a video game, at a pizza joint or in the classroom. Your EA friend/coworker/classmate should feel honored that you trust them enough to include them with the thoughts we have been taught to keep to ourselves.

When the forbidden race topic comes up, try hard not to get defensive or too combative, says Derald Wing Sue, a psychology and education professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and author of “Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence.”and “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation,”

 

“Most whites get defensive – ‘Oh no, you are just over-sensitive. You are reading something into it,” Sue says. “Entertain a possibility that the individual bringing up the observation, complaint or a problematic situation may be accurate. Don’t shut it off immediately by denouncing it because it is not within your consciousness.”
 

When people say that they are “color-blind” in their relationships, they are missing the point. The color of my skin helped define who we are. If someone doesn’t see the tone of our skin, they are not seeing us.
 
People of color shouldn’t let themselves off the hook, either, says Sue. Consider how you might respond to the earnest efforts of Whites you know by asking questions and allowing them to be human, too. “Committing blunders is okay if we learn from them. When you commit a racial blunder, it’s how you recover, not how you cover up. … I try to communicate that we are all good, moral, decent individuals. I don’t see you personally as the antagonist or the enemy. … You weren’t born wanting to be a racist. … You took this on, through a painful process of conditioning, just like I as a person of color have been culturally conditioned in ways that have been harmful to me. . . . We need to work together to overcome these shackles of cultural conditioning.”
 

We are all human and we all have our own personal biases based on our own personal experiences and the environment in which we were raised. Maybe admitting that is step one.

 
(Ed Diokno writes a blog : Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)

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One Comment

  1. Alouette says:

    RE: Why you need to talk to your white friends about race: I hope it works in a positive way. I might be easier for the younger generations to openly have conversations about race with white people or their white friends. I am over 40 and I have tried to openly discuss racial issues with white women. They are either condescending or just don’t allow themselves to see both sides. I usually get the time old response. I am not like that I have a black friend or well your lucky because your not all black. I give them usual response… A blank stare.

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