Yesterday, I attended a book discussion among members of the Hennepin County Bar Association and other legal professionals regarding the book, “Between the World and Me” by the acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. There were about 55 people. The mix included public defenders, judges, and other types of attorneys. There were a bit too many people to make it a worthwhile back and forth discussion, but I appreciated hearing the viewpoints of some intelligent and highly influential people.
I came away with a few thoughts about it. Mostly good, but I still wanted to discuss some things. So here are some thoughts I had afterwards.
- I’ve probably done some racist things in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever done it intentionally, or if I ever did, it was when I was a dumb kid and I was shut down immediately. However, my unconscious bias has affected the way I’ve done some things. I’ve walked away from people who’ve looked suspicious on the sidewalk, and I’ve assumed some people are asking for money, when they were just making casual conversation. That’s something I know I need to do better at. I’m not quite sure how.
- There was a lot of talk of, “Well, what should white people do?” And while I don’t expect every black person (or white person) to be able to answer this question, there really isn’t much guidance out there for people. There is so much talk about being educated and reading. I get that. I read the Coates book. I try to stay on top of big articles addressing racial issues. I understand and definitely believe in white privilege. I talk with my close friends about these issues. (All of whom are white.) I’ve participated in discussions surrounding race and comedy, race and the legal profession, race and politics. I’ve supported my friends who are comedians of color (all of whom are funnier than me.)
So all of the “education and discussion” talk felt a little like preaching to the choir. But, it still doesn’t feel like it’s moving the needle much. And while my generation love to use social media to share opinions and thoughts about “recent events.” How much does that really affect things? I’ve slimmed down my friends list to basically only see people I agree with. Engaging online with someone you disagree with is rarely productive and fulfilling, and I don’t think lecturing a family member ever solved anything.
(I never really acknowledged this, but damn that must be annoying when white people tell [insert race/religious community here] to “talk to their community.” That’s awful and dumb and needs to stop. I’m annoyed when people do it to me, and I’m guessing it’s just as bad the other way around.)
(To be continued…)