When there are multiple people involved, the only way to have a productive conversation is for everyone to share their perspectives. It’s the only way to understand each other’s life experiences. Once you find the commonalities, then you can start finding unity.
With that, here’s a perspective.
Do you know anyone who hates being told something they already know… like they’ve never thought of it before? Perhaps that describes you.
You know, when there’s something you know, or do, with great care, say like writing a thank you note when someone does something nice. So you go to a friend’s house, they make a great dinner, and when you get home that night, someone tells you to write a thank you note, like you’d never thought of it before.
This is where the white privilege and Black Lives Matter narrative runs into trouble with some white people.
Let’s say you grew up with no mention of race at all. Your parents never stopped to point out someone to you because of their race. No one in your family said anything harsh about a person because of their race. People were just people.
Some people were really funny. Some were jerks. Some were mean. Some were nice. You didn’t get along with some, but you became fast friends with others. And this is all people. Whites. Blacks. Asians. People from other countries. Men. Women. Great athletes. Great academics. It didn’t matter.
People were just people, and they were all different. You had to get to know them to decide if you liked them or not. Some you didn’t like, but you respected. Others became very close. This was always just the nature of people.
The people you befriended had a lot in common with you, as most friends do. But one thing, in particular, was that like you, they saw people as people. They didn’t treat anyone harshly. They gave everyone a chance. In short, race wasn’t an issue. It wasn’t even noticed… not any more than what they were wearing on any given day.
This is how you grew up.
Then, someone comes along and tells you that black lives matter. And you’re stupefied. You don’t understand. You can’t believe it. And maybe, you’re insulted. Isn’t it obvious? Don’t all lives? Why would someone single out one race over another? That’s not something you’ve ever done before. It doesn’t make sense.
Why would someone tell you that black lives matter? They may as well have told you to write a thank you note. So? Who doesn’t know that? Go tell that to someone who never writes a thank you note.
Only, in this case, after living an entire life free from color. A life of judging people by the content of their character, which, if I’m not mistaken, was a central goal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s movement.
Add on another element to this: Your told your life has been free from challenge because you are white. Everything’s been handed to you. You’ve never had to look over your shoulder or worry about someone harming you or an officer patting you down because you’re white.
You bristle at this because you know, like everyone does, that life isn’t challenging because you’re black. It’s challenging because life if challenging. Some people endure more challenge than others. Some white people endure more challenges than some black people. Some black people endure more challenges than some white people.
Then throw this on top of it: It’s only conservative white men who are racist. If you’re conservative, and you’re white, you’re a racist, bigot, etc, etc. But if you’re liberal, and you care, you’re OK. Nevermind that conservatives have been fighting against slavery and racism throughout their history.
People who tell you that racism is everywhere, and it’s wrong, tell you, just because you’re white and conservative, that you are racist. The entire accusation is backwards. In fact, it’s racist.
You review what you know. You don’t pay attention to skin color. No one you know does, either. (If they did, you wouldn’t hang out with them.) You’ve never seen an act of overt racism (or not more than a handful).
So you start thinking, who are all these white people treating all of these black people so poorly. I don’t know any white people who do that, and in all the time I’ve spent with my black friends, I’ve not seen anything race-related happen to them.
Yet, white people all over are holding back black people.
You’re left to wonder if it’s just a narrative. Because what else could it be? Society has been telling the black community for decades that everyone is out to get them or hold them down, and so it becomes a reality.
Any sideways glance you get is racism. Every interaction with an officer is because you’re black. Any job you don’t get is because you’re black. There’s no way to know that’s true, but it becomes the prevailing narrative. Then it becomes an excuse. It’s why you can’t make it.
The system is rigged. America is set up for white people to succeed while holding down black people. The problem is, this fails to explain both the blacks and asians who have successful careers and lives in America.
Which introduces another amazing element: blacks who hold back blacks. The American system that is “rigged” is capitalism, and it’s there for anyone who wants to engage. But when black people engage in it, many in the black community say those black have been “whitewashed” or are “Uncle Tom’s.”
They’ve built a stigma around participating in capitalism and living a better life because of it. And if you have white friends or white neighborhoods, you’ve completely sold out.
Yes, the black community faces a host of challenges, but white racism is only a fraction of it. The deck is stacked against them mostly by the people who claim to be helping.
The black community needs to stop thinking like a community of blacks and start thinking like individuals who have their own potential, their own thoughts, their own beliefs, and their own unique talents.
None of this gets solved until we change “black people” to “people.” When we turn “white people” to “people,” we’ll be halfway there.
We’ll still be left with the reality that when we removed many of the legal barriers, we didn’t leave blacks with a solid foundation upon which to build a life. We could start to correct that by instilling hope instead of despair and sharing the roadmap of how to build productive communities to raise everyone out of poverty.
We’ll never know what percentage of our country is racist, or just what proportion of whites are racist against blacks. I don’t think it’s as large as others make it out to be. I could be wrong. But I’m pretty sure about what we need to do to end it. And continually telling blacks how bad they have it is not part of the solution.
People who need help, no matter their skin color, need inspiration and instruction. They need to see how it’s done. They need coaching and support. We can’t achieve a future that is great for all until we move beyond the past.