Monday, August 18, 2014

A Race, Color, Prejudice and Political Correctness Mashup

In response to this link, Colormute.

I have some knowledge and deeply personal experience in this arena and I would like to seriously contend with several of the points. Most of the time I don't bother and I won’t do so in any extended way here. I find it is not what most people (on any side of the color line) want to hear. I suppose my intention is here to allude to the fact that there is more to this onion than the layers most people see.

It is my experience that, people of color want to hear and repeat a certain set of things that they believe will work to their advantage. White people generally fall into one of two camps, those who are overtly prejudiced and those who are straining to be on the right side of the issue. It doesn’t surprise me that, in such an atmosphere, critical thinking is not often the immediate result.

Parenthetically, as I write this, I am reminded of a conversation, the last conversation I had, with Felicia Gaines before she passed way, too young. Some of you (Harrisburg UU folks) will remember her. I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked but for some reason we both felt a strong connection on very short acquaintance. At some point I decided that I could express to her exactly what I thought about these issues, and even if we didn’t agree on every point, she would listen with an open mind and heart and offer thoughtful critique. That turned out to be a good assumption. I wish I had a recording of that conversation. She did not bring any sense of victimhood to the table, though she had clearly known the sting of maltreatment on occasions in her life. For my part, I felt no need to lead with disclaimers about being a white man or associated guilt. We simply discussed what we had observed and what we inferred about those observations after stripping the emotions from our experiences. To be clear, both of us had felt exactly the level and type of emotions one would expect to result from our individual experiences. We both confessed to wallowing in those emotions at some point. At another point we, each in our own way, had thought past the emotions. Mind you, I didn’t say we’d forgotten. I didn’t say we felt entirely disconnected from those emotions. We were simply able to think beyond the feelings. And in that place we had decided that our view was from a new height and our understanding was forever changed.

 My initial impulse was to offer a disingenuous ending where I apologized if anyone was upset by what I said. Then I decided to just be straight up honest. I flatly hope it did make people feel uncomfortable. And, no, not just to be a pain in the neck. When discussing things that hurt and degrade real people, perhaps we shouldn’t feel too comfortable. What if the things we are (quite rightly) concerned about are complex topics interwoven into a complex societal tapestry and won’t easily fit on a bumper sticker?

That is all I will say at this writing. I am happy to share more with those who are interested.