Where “The Conversation” goes from here

April 18th, 2015

convoDriven by mainstream news coverage of the shootings of black men by white law enforcement officers, corporate initiatives like Starbucks’ “Race Together” campaign, and social media commentary such as that generated by YouTube sensation Dixon White (a/k/a Jorgé Moran), both the volume and the intensity of “The Conversation” are increasing – and that’s a good thing, generally speaking.

But recognizing that a problem exists is not the same thing as acknowledging one’s own role in it as a contributing factor, or accepting responsibility to find a solution. For example:

It’s one thing for a white person like me to say that black people are discriminated against; that they’re economically disadvantaged; that they’ve been cheated by our education systems; and that they are disproportionately arrested, convicted of crimes and imprisoned.

It’s quite another to admit that I enjoy certain privileges and benefits as a result of all that, and it’s often at their expense.

Maybe it’s because, if I do admit that, I might be obligated to do something to balance the scales, and either I have no idea how to do that, or I’m afraid I might lose some of my privileges, or both.

And this is where the rubber really meets the road in “The Conversation” about race and race relations.

After a lot of research, thought and consideration, I’ve developed the thesis that when it comes to racism, white people generally fall into one of five groups, i.e.:

  • those who know there’s a problem and want to do something about it
  • those who know there’s a problem but don’t want to do anything about it or have other priorities
  • those who don’t think there’s a problem
  • those who think the problem is black people themselves
  • those who believe in white superiority/supremacy and support policies to preserve white privilege

It’s anybody’s guess as to what the percentages are for each group, but I’m pretty sure that only the first group of white people have any real interest in moving “The Conversation” forward, to the point of taking the kind of meaningful action that will effect real change.

Whether we can find the courage to do that depends on whether we can find each other — and the black allies we will need to work with us.

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