Thursday, July 18, 2013

Race Talks: Listen, Listen, Listen

Wow. Yesterday's blog had over 500 page views. For perspective, the most page views one of my blogs has ever gotten was 4500, and it's been up for 3 years. haha :) I'm going to assume I hit a nerve. I will also assume that I upset some people yesterday, and that what I said bothered lots of people who did me the courtesy of keeping it to themselves. ;) I hope you noticed that I flippantly used the words "white" and "black," and avoided political correctness. I was really trying to share without pretense. I know that many people feel we should not discuss race. I would contend that this approach is doing us absolutely no good. I think we need to talk about it. So, here I go again...

Today, I just want to challenge my white friends. Let's listen. Let's listen without defensiveness. Let's listen with understanding as our objective. Go to one of your black friends and ask them to tell you what it's like to be them. Try really, really hard not to be defensive. Don't receive any of their statements as indictments against you. Just listen. Don't ask questions to try to back them into a corner. Ask questions like, "Do you think racism still exists? How have you experienced it? How did it make you feel? What should we do about it? What can white people do better?" And just listen. As I said yesterday, there are opinions across the spectrum within each racial group, so you may find that the person you talk to shares very similar opinions to your own. If you find that, I'd encourage you to keep digging, just so you can exercise your "listen without defensiveness" muscle even more! You can even go to one of the hundreds of very racially-charged Facebook threads out there right now, look at the pictures next to the names, and try to listen (read) the common thread. What are people of other races saying? They do have the right to feel there is a problem. We should also afford them the right to be heard.

I took a class in college with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was called "Truth and Reconciliation." It really rocked my world. The archbishop taught us about post-apartheid South Africa. The people of South Africa, instead of seeking retribution for the injustices done to them under apartheid, set up meetings (for lack of a better term), where people were able to voice the injustices done to them, and be heard. An amazing thing happened... forgiveness, and reconciliation. Post-apartheid South Africa could have easily been a violent, nasty mess. I'm not saying that was completely absent, but I can definitely see how this process of allowing people to be heard was so valuable in stemming the tide. So, why don't we try it out?

Does it do us any harm to just listen? If nothing else, it's good practice for all our other relationships. Listen. Practice reflective listening. "What I hear you saying is..." and see how well you do.

Please know that I am not trying to assert myself as any authority or moral superior. I just think this is an important discussion, and want us to keep talking... and listening. ;)

Also, I'm trying to convince one of my black friends to share on here soon. Hopefully I'll be successful! :)

Have a great day of listening!


  1. I try. That's what I meant before about looking everyone in the eye and listening. It forces me to see beyond culture to the heart, which to me is the essence of a person. When I listen,I find myself more open. I do want to say though that those applies more to just black and white. I remember my muslim students in the wake of 9/11. They needed to be listened to, not stereotyped. And what of our gay population? Did you read about the young man who killed himself because of bullying? And, as a white person, I need to be able to explain my point of view as well, without preconception.

    On the night after the verdict was handed down, Dad and I went out to eat. Ironically, EVERY party who came in the restsurant was of mixed race. There were NO white only or black only parties (except us). I sat there thinking that these were all people who managed to look another in the eye and see a heart that complimented their own. Okay, if not "color blind" I would have to say they saw straight through to the heart.

    We live in a world of generalization and too much information. All I know is to do unto others as I would have them do unto me.

    AND, I wish we didn't have the media influencing all of us.

    I don't think out my posts like you do. I am sure I have some faulty thinking. That' s okay.

  2. Wow! What a mess I create typing on my phone.

  3. Black friend here... mixed with Korean so you actually a two-fer.
    Well I appreciate both posts and now having one of those moments when I wish I knew someone better. Namely you. It takes guts to draw a line in the sand while many embrace shrugging shoulders in ignorance over engaging people on issues like race. And that's the key word "engaging".
    We live in a world where casual phrases such as "how are you doing?" are actually greetings not invitations to share your thoughts or emotions (That's more of a white thing. Black folks give you a head nod. That means “what's up and keep it moving”. – Janice and I figured that out last night.) So if we struggle with being cordial then it is impossible to engage people on deep-rooted character flaws (how a person really thinks about other people)and life experiences (how a person's life has been affected by racism).
    We would be surprised how people felt if we cared how people felt. Hmmm.
    But that's just my $.02.

  4. Trudy, (I'm calling you that instead of Mom, just for the sake of anyone who reads this later.) haha. Anyway, I think you make some good points. First, I realize there are lots of other issues, but I'm intentionally just tackling one debate for now. As for the idea that white people need to be heard without preconception, I think this is a bit of a defensive posture. The point of this post is simple. It is to encourage white people to seek out and try to understand black people. Let's intentionally try to set aside our own "rights," and just hear someone else. Does that make sense? Let's stop worrying about ourselves for a moment and just really try to understand another culture.... and that's where I'll go with the last part of my response. Culture. Generalization isn't all bad. If we have gone out of our way to understand people, we may have a better idea about their cultural identity. It may serve as a better guide for our behavior in certain situations. Unfortunately, it will never be realistic for us to really "know" all people; however, there is value in doing some research regarding culture, to make ourselves more informed in the future. I hope that makes sense, and I hope you hear my heart. I'm not trying to argue with or criticize anything you've written here. Just giving another perspective.

  5. Lennard,
    Thank you so much for your comment. "We would be surprised how people felt if we cared how people felt." That pretty much hits the nail on the head!