I Am Sick of Having Conversations About Race with Brick Walls

7 min read

I was in a pissy mood on Friday afternoon.

I’ve written before how I get sick of talking about racism. I just want to live my life. Wake up, do what I do and keep it moving like many other people have the privilege of doing each day. I do not have such privilege, however. Just going to the corner drugstore some days ends with me wondering when the day will come when I won’t have a clerk unsubtly follow me around the store as I shop.

Castro Theatre Marquee Talib Kweli  March 2015 | From: "I Am Sick of Talking About Race to Brick Walls" on The Girl Next Door is Black Friday night, as I sat on the train on my way to a discussion on race, hip-hop and justice, with “conscious” rapper Talib Kweli as guest, I thought, “Why am I going to a discussion about race?”

Over the course of my 35+ years I’ve engaged in so many discussions about race, whether I’ve wanted to or not, I should get life experience credits toward a PhD in the subject. I voluntarily attend seminars and talks and I choose to read books on the subject. On my blog I discuss it in hopes of making continued progress, opening minds and presenting a different perspective.

Involuntarily, I’ve been dragged into race discussions with some of my fellow Americans who happen to have paler skin. I’ve fielded questions from those friends along the lines of “Why do black people ___?” as though I am a black American ambassador. I’ll never forget the time a white classmate in high school asked me, “Why do black people have the same color palms and feet bottoms as white people? Why aren’t they brown?” From her question, I extracted the subtext, “My body is normal, yours is different.” Am I responsible for the design of the human body? My birth certificate didn’t come with a guide to “understanding your black body.” How the hell should I know? I hope she attends discussions about race.

It’s been a particularly rough few months with racist incident after racist incident happening in the country.

So what caused the downturn in my mood on Friday? I read a blog post on race and segregation, called Al Sharpton I Hope You See This, written by a white man, that sent my heart racing, got my hands shaking and my mind reeling with various responses to the elementary logic. This excerpt particularly troubled me:

“Segregation is real. We see it every day without realizing it.

Like a “Miss Black America” that excludes white people. Or a college fund for blacks only. Or a blacks only television channel. Or blacks only magazine. Oh wait…uh oh. I thought we did away with segregation back in the 1960’s? That’s odd, seems segregation and racism are very much alive and thriving. Only difference is, if white people mention it they’re racists. Interesting turn of events.
So what if we had a White Entertainment Television? Let’s face it, WET sounds like a fun name for television. “

I decided to respond to the post because I noticed a few people praised the author for his observations and I couldn’t just let that mess of thinking sit there unchallenged.

Below is the exchange. It’s unedited, so please forgive my grammar imperfections, incomplete thoughts, and lack of citations.

Please share your (civil) thoughts below, I’m curious what others think.

Oh, the Talib talk was incredible, insightful and engaging. I’m glad I went and happy with the diversity of the crowd. I hope minds were opened.

——

Keisha TheGirlNextDoor:
“Like a “Miss Black America” that excludes white people. Or a college fund for blacks only. Or a blacks only television channel. Or blacks only magazine. Oh wait…uh oh. I thought we did away with segregation back in the 1960’s? ”

These institutions exist largely because black Americans were expressly excluded from these predominately (or exclusively) white institutions, not from a desire to self-segregate. In other words, segregation of black people prompted the formation of this things.

It wasn’t until the late 60s/70s that some universities even “let” black people enroll. The first black model didn’t land the cover of a fashion magazine until the mid 1960s. That was less than 60 years ago. If I pick up an Elle or a Glamour magazine for beauty and hair tips, I’d look like a clown because usually the tips given work for pale skin and straight hair that hangs down. It has to be pointed out to the editors of these magazines that part of their readership has darker skin tones and different hair textures. Even the PGA is notorious for excluded black golfers.

People like to bring up the example of “WET” or white history month a lot, but they are false comparisons. When it’s no longer a big deal that there’s a black director, a black lead in a TV show (or Asian or Latino), or a first black President, then channels like BET (which is watched also by non-black Americans), HBCUs, and history books that highlight non-white contributions to the development of America would not need to exist. It’s 2015, we have a diverse America, yet Congress is made up of mostly white males, who are incredibly over-represented.

I could spend most of the day listing all the shows, magazines, movies, books or economic realms where white Americans are represented, but for non-white Americans, the list is quite short.

None of the “black versions” of these institutions exclude anyone by race. What they do provide is an opportunity for black Americans to have a space to see themselves recognized and accepted. You’ll see non-blacks on BET, magazines marketed to black audiences that include white and Latin (and black Latin) people and white student at HBCUs. (One young white student actually wrote a great essay about how welcoming she found her fellow classmates at the HBCU she attends). Meanwhile, just last week the young white men of the SAE fraternity at OU delighted in singing about how they would never welcome a “n—.” Doesn’t exactly make a black person feel welcome.

A desire to be included as part of the fabric of America, recognized for your contributions, not devalued, not immediately thought of as suspicious or less than, in a society where you’ve been excluded and treated like the scum of America for hundreds of years, is not segregation.

No black American wakes up and says “Gee, I think I’ll start labeling myself, hyphenating my identity.” We get labeled first, treated as minorities rather than equals and then we adapt. Then we get called racist for it.

Lastly, we hold no meeting of American blacks. So no one elected Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson as king of the black people. I wish the media would stop running to them every time they want a black spokespiece. Most of us don’t care. It’s so 1985.”

C– T—

I do agree that there was a movement to incorporate black people into these institutions. It was called desegregation.
However, the very act of having institutions such as these that excluded individuals based on color was the very point in desegregation. Integrating society was the reason for it. And society has since integrated. Yet we still have forced segregation.
There were schools and other institutions in which blacks weren’t permitted. A movement was led to end that. So why do we still enforce segregation if it was made illegal? So in the 60’s it was wrong but now that “color exclusive” things exist in the favor of blacks it’s ok?

Keisha TheGirlNextDoor

There is no forced segregation. Comparing the legal, government condoned exclusion of an entire “race” of people from opportunities to forge a livelihood to the creation of a school to educate those segregated people is a not valid comparison.

If a white person isn’t on BET (which is not the case), a white person can check one of at least 30 other channels to find a variety of white people to watch. That’s not exclusion.

Perhaps it’s not that white people are excluded from these forums, but rather that they choose not to include themselves. White students are welcome to attend largely black colleges. They choose not to. It’s like the term “white flight.” Black people do not necessarily choose to live in all black neighborhoods. The term “white flight” exists because once black people moved in, the white people left.

No one has banned white people from anywhere. No white person is in danger of facing meaningful, systematic discrimination from a black american.

Desegregation is a long term process. Surely you’re not saying the day a law passed that everything became okay? Not in a country where it took some states decades acknowledge that slavery was illegal. In a country where people enacted laws via loopholes to ban black people from living, working and exiting in certain areas? Some of those states didn’t remove those laws from the books until decades after the Jim Crow era. These things didn’t occur hundreds of years ago. People alive today are still living with the affect effects.

Everyday, I exist in a world that is largely white. I’m surrounded by white people. It’s unavoidable. Once, I invited a white friend to a largely black church (mind you, white people were welcome, just chose to attend the largely white church instead), my white friend said to me with no irony, “It’s so weird to be the only white person in the room.” “Welcome to my everyday,” I told her.

She said it made her uncomfortable. Had never thought about what it might feel like to live that way everyday.

I think instead of placing the blame on black people for creating opportunity in the absence of inclusion, ask why people feel these institutions still have a place in the world. I’d ask why polls show that white Americans think we talk about race in this country too much, but black Americans think the complete opposite. And it seems that white people expect that to be the end of the conversation. Are we once again being told by white people what we should and should not be doing?

C– T— 

Ok. So, by your reasoning there, segregation is ok so long as it’s condoned by the government. I’m not saying that’s double standard but, well, yeah it is.
Which is the point. We passed laws to prevent segregation. Now it’s ok so long as it’s “condoned”.
A fight was made for “equal treatment” so long as it means “preferential treatment” as well.
I live in a predominantly black neighborhood. I’m literally the only white family within several square miles. I don’t feel out of place. I deliberately bought that house. As such, however, I’m a “minority” in my neighborhood. I don’t expect special reliefs or organizations as a result. Nor do I get offended if someone uses a word around me that’s only “ok” for other white people to use.
I honored the laws regarding equality. So what’s equal about “color exclusive” organizations?

Keisha TheGirlNextDoor

“So, by your reasoning there, segregation is ok so long as it’s condoned by the government. I’m not saying that’s double standard but, well, yeah it is. ”

Never did I say this. If that’s what you’ve extrapolated, then you’ve misunderstood what I’ve stated several different ways and provided examples for which did not get addressed in your reply.

I’ve stated multiple times that I don’t believe what you’re pointing to is segregation. Segregation does not exist when people aren’t excluded. You keep saying “color exclusive” as I provide examples that no white people are being excluded. No white people are banned from BET. No white people are banned from being spoken about during Black History Month. No white people are banned from enrolling at historically black colleges. No white people are banned from being in magazines that target black audiences. Where is this exclusion you’re insistent exists for white people?

If white people choose to exclude themselves from environments that aren’t predominately white, that is a separate situation. YOU may live in a majority black neighborhood, but you are in the minority of white Americans, who largely CHOOSE to live in the same enclaves.

Most white Americans only have white friends. Few question this. However, when a group of black people get together, it’s assumed they’re segregating themselves, DESPITE the fact that black Americans are have more white friends than whites have black friends (or friends of any other ethnicity for that matter).

If white people want to say the “n-word’ they can. They invented it for use against black people. That’s kind of why it’s offensive to begin with. No one is banning any white person from saying it. There are now just greater social consequences when one chooses to do so.

The additional points that you’ve added, I never stated. Please don’t make the mistake of assuming all black people are looking for handouts. We fall all across the economic strata. We just want the road to opportunity to not be paved with bombs, traps and ditches.

Have a blessed day!

—–

I believe he replied, but I didn’t read it because I decided it was bad for my health.

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30 Comments
  • sonja
    September 25, 2015

    Great article! I will use this to teach my kids as they face the same things from living in a mostly white community.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      September 30, 2015

      I’m flattered, thank you!

      It can be so tough being the only black person in any environment so I understand where you’re coming from with your kids. They are fortunate that you’re aware of the challenges they stand to face.

  • fromthestickstothebricksandbackagain
    April 12, 2015

    I admire your patience for engaging in dialogue with the offending blogger. I would not have the patience. I can’t picture him living in a neighborhood by choice where he is the only white person. It has been my experience that a person who chooses to live in a neighborhood where as a white person they are in the minority tends to be slightly more open minded than he was. Just saying. His offering that info reminded me of a woman I used to work with who would say things like, “I’m not racist, but why do all black people …” I on more than one occasion called her on it by saying as she paused “but you are because you wouldn’t feel the need to start your sentence with “I’m not racist, but.” I’d like to think she eventually got it.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 14, 2015

      His offering that info reminded me of a woman I used to work with who would say things like, “I’m not racist, but why do all black people …”

      Exactly. Like he’s trying to establish a type of plausible deniability. “I can’t be racist, I live amongst the blacks!”

  • trininista
    April 4, 2015

    You know it takes me a while to get here but I usually do. This week when I read the articles/comments about Michelle Obama supporting an event called ‘Black Girls Matter’ and it excluding or suggesting that white girls do not matter, I sucked my teeth. That people would see negativity in something meant to be uplifting is just another example of looking at a person, event etc through the narrow perspective of ignorance, personal experience and to a more severe extent, racism. As I have to keep saying to non-black friends, YOUR experience is not MY experience, and vice versa. When the media and society place limits on what black girls can be, by constantly saying to us in subtle and overt ways that you cannot do this or cannot be this, they need to be told otherwise in positive, uplifting ways. This goes for all the other elements mentioned in your post. If people take the time to learn about each other and not live in this utopia created by just what they see, know, feel and experience, we could be an amazing society. Truly.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      April 5, 2015

      ” YOUR experience is not MY experience”

      I’m considering having this tattooed on my arm and just shoving it in people’s faces as needed, because I’m tired of saying it.

      I read one article whining about Michelle Obama and “black girls rock”. I considered responding, but the comments applauding the author were so laughably racist they proved the need for events like BGR.

  • Lloyd Lofthouse
    March 29, 2015

    Segregation and/or racism has always been part of human history in one form or another in almost every civilization and country. I think the best way to combat this dark side of humanity is to never sweep it under the rug or accept it in any of its forms by keeping alive an ongoing, open, honest discussion that might be our only option to keep it in check. Although laws are necessary—for instance, the voting rights act that is now in reverse thanks to the conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court—passing laws isn’t going to get rid of it, but will probably drive racists underground where they will still be racists but in the proverbial closet. Through discussion, maybe we can keep those racists in their closets and slowly educate younger generations to think differently until racists are few and far between.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 29, 2015

      Yes, I think humans will likely always find a way to create ingroups and outgroups to derive a sense of belonging. I believe we are capable of transcending that though. I agree that these biases and prejudices should be discussed so we can work through them. Historically, we’ve proven time and time again that ignoring or avoiding the problem doesn’t solve anything.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Lloyd!

  • BritishMumUSA
    March 28, 2015

    We have shared here … A lot. I live in a predominately white neighborhood, that said the schools that the girls attend are very diverse. Race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation have never and will never be an issue for them or this house. Yet I have found misled driving the oldest friends home late at night because I am unnerved that they may be stopped and questioned as to why they are in our subdivision 🙁 When does this happen, our house is full of the above, and no one sees the race, color, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the people that are in our home. They see friends and good people. It makes me sad and angry that we have not learned and moved on.

    I have raised my children to judge the INSIDE, not the outside. Someone with sleeves of tattoos may save your life one day as they will be the doctor helping you. The LGBTQ person may steer you in the right direction with regards to a job one day… The person of a different are or color may one day be your husband or wife…. Remember inside is the MOST important thing.

    I wish everyone would see the world in this way and act accordingly. I am hoping that my children generation makes large steps forward with this.

    The other day as I was having coffee I over heard a friend say “I have no idea why we have to have a queer parade for them, do they think that they are special?”

    I turned to her and said, they don’t think they are special. They would love not to have a parade and be included with everyone else in any and all parades, but we know that isn’t going to happen anytime soon… They have that parade to have a day where they can be who they are without sneers, looks or judgement. It is the happiest that I see my daughter when she is there in her environment.

    I hope that one day, it can be like that for everyone. I am so sick of people judging other people…. We all live in GLASS houses!!!!!

    xoxoxo

    Your words are beautiful and eloquent…

    xoxoxo

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 29, 2015

      I really appreciate your thoughts here, Ray.

      I have raised my children to judge the INSIDE, not the outside. Someone with sleeves of tattoos may save your life one day as they will be the doctor helping you. The LGBTQ person may steer you in the right direction with regards to a job one day… The person of a different are or color may one day be your husband or wife…. Remember inside is the MOST important thing.

      Wonderfully started. This seems like such a basic idea to understand and put into practice, yet around the world people struggle with it. I’ve long wished real life could have “Freaky Friday” moments where we switch places with people whose lives we don’t comprehend. However, we live in this world and that’s not possible. Instead the “magic” has to occur in our minds as we try to consider what another person’s world might be like.

      With regard to the Pride parade – eek. I’ve heard that sentiment before too. I think your answer was excellent. I hope it gave your friend something to think about.

  • Jarret Ruminski
    March 26, 2015

    Those were eloquent replies to a person who lacks the ability to see both historical context re: racial issues, as well as the ability to see the privilege he maintains by birth. You’re a hell of a writer, Keisha. Well done.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 26, 2015

      Wow, thanks Jarret! I really appreciate that.

      Yes, his removing historical context from the discussion bugged me. It’s as though everything that took place before this century is irrelevant to him.

  • Sam Yang
    March 25, 2015

    The guy’s sentiments are something I often hear. This false equivalence logic fallacy. Yes two people can engage in similar activities, but the activities are different based on who is doing them.

  • Mrs. AOK
    March 24, 2015

    So, this obviously upsets me, maybe because I feel the same way. I feel as though when you try to address racism it is one long a&& game of Duck, Duck, Goose… it’s the song that never ends..
    Nonetheless, I find myself singing it over and over again- I want people to hear me! Racism is very much alive and double standards are present every.single.day.
    I cannot comprehend how people do not see how an injustice that happened “YEARS AGO” shapes today. Perhaps, they should visit my neck of the woods, sometimes it feels like it is not too far removed.

    I had SO much more to say in the car line, I was fuming!
    ::HUGS::
    XOXO

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 26, 2015

      “I want people to hear me!” – Exactly. It’s beyond frustrating when it seems you will never get through.I think one of the problems is some people haven’t caught up with what today’s racism looks like. We know so much more now about how unconscious biases can affect how we treat others. Were seeing repeated evidence of that all over the country almost daily.

  • Queen
    March 24, 2015

    You must be my long lost sister lol

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 24, 2015

      Haha! Why do you say that?

      • Queen
        March 24, 2015

        We both have had those same exhausting conversations with people who don’t get it!! I can’t stand it!! Haha. Chin up though, just start telling people if they want to have this conversation with you they need to pay a fee rofl

        • The Girl Next Door is Black
          March 26, 2015

          Lol, that’s exactly what I was thinking. “I don’t have these conversations for free. Go click on 10 ads on my blog, or pay me a fee, and then we can talk.” :p

  • elizainhollywood
    March 24, 2015

    It made me cringe to read the responses to your very insightful comments to a writer who obviously has not experienced racism a day in his life. It was like hitting a brick wall every time you explained the difference. I commend you for your attempts to educate that ignorant, stubborn idiot.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 24, 2015

      Thanks. I honestly hope that at some point, at least a bit of what I said to him will sink in or at least provoke a different line of thinking.

  • Kenya G. Johnson
    March 24, 2015

    I have to admit I couldn’t read all of the responses because it would be bad for my health too. My thoughts are going off on a tangent – things I’ve read online seen on Facebook as well. Sometimes my fingers are ready to fire off on the keyboard but I never go there. Speaking for asking for handouts, I had a Facebook friend – mother of a friend of my son – btw these are the worst people to friend on Facebook – I finally had to unfollow her so that I wouldn’t see her post. I have given her hand me downs from my son because she asks on Facebook. Always posts that the kids are breaking her pockets, she’s a single mom etc etc, does anyone have an extra this or that. When she asked for a certain size clothes I took my time to go through my son’s stuff. I delivered it to her job. She left her car open so I could put the bags in the back seat. Never did get a “Thank you so much!” Anyone she’s had one too many snarky things and jokes about the current administration and I really wanted to question if I was her only black friend on Facebook and did she even consider that I might read her posts. Did she even use or want the clothes that I gave her. Well anyway see that’s all off the subject. I get tired of explaining why stuff is offensive and I have had THE SAME question about the bottoms of our feet and hands. Dang. I think I was in elementary school though. We’ve crossed paths but I’m coming over from Ray’s blog today where she gave us a nice shout out.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 24, 2015

      I appreciate your stream of consciousness. It illustrates just how fraught with emotion the circumstances are.

      Your FB “friend” sounds like the type who feels better about her life when she’s putting others down. Unfortunately, to some, black people are an easy target. She’s probably sharing those ignorant thoughts with her child, which is a shame. She just sounds rude period.

      Ray’s post was really sweet. I’m happy to be included among such a great group of bloggers. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kenya!

  • Lisa Coomer Queen
    March 23, 2015

    Well said. Very well written.

  • methodius76
    March 23, 2015

    I agree with the original blogger. I rarely even visit my Facebook page these days. I cringe every time I read a “cute” post about how America has become a “post-racial” society (the most ridiculous, demeaning, uneducated and arrogant phrase in the English language).

    Now that I have that issue out of the way, I wanted to compliment you on how brilliantly this post was written and to commend you for taking tough stances against racism, that in my opinion, is worsening every day. I serve on my city’s Human Rights Commission and all of our members are appalled with what we are seeing.

    Please keep up your excellent work, and with your permission, I would like to “reblog” some of your posts. God bless you and your good work, and if I can ever help you, regardless of the size of the issue or the controversy surrounding it, please let me know. [I am not sure precisely help you, but I will provide you my background and let you decide: I am an attorney, professor and, as I just mentioned, a Human Rights Commissioner. I have also been active in fighting bullying/racial harassment in public schools under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act–an activity with which I was surprised to learn was adversely affecting my daughter (at an essentially all-white school) when teachers, coaches and school administrators turned a blind eye to the daily racial/ethnic/national origin slurs hurled at my daughter on a daily basis. Fortunately, a civil rights organization stepped in and filed complaints against the school district, which resulted in a resolution agreement signed by the school district and the U.S. Department of Education, which required the school to update all of its segregation-era policies, establish an anonymous hotline for complaints (because of the rampant nepotism and cronyism throughout the school and many other costly measures to be adopted by the school district, PLUS, and most importantly, allowing my daughter to transfer to a new school without losing any basketball eligibilty (she is an elite college prospect being recruited by numerous D-1 schools.]

    Sorry for the rant but your blog posts really inspired me–all jokes aside. Again, I remain willing to help you in any way I can so you can continue your great work in this “post racial” era [Sorry, but I had to get in one more dig at that ridiculous phrase.]

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 24, 2015

      “Post-racial” indeed. I wonder if I will live long enough to ever see that “joke” become truth.

      What terrible experiences for your daughter to endure. Thank goodness she has a parent who’s involved and willing to work to do what’s right.

      I’m not sure where my efforts will take me. Some days I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend none of this is happening. But, then reality sets in and I remember that’s not much of an option unless I leave the country…and even then….

      Your work sounds important and meaningful and I applaud you for it!

      Thank you for your thoughtful response and kind words. Feel free to reblog what you like.

  • thepretty maven (PMS)
    March 23, 2015

    I have conversation after conversation with multiple white friends and colleagues about race who still don’t get it. I have coined a term for these friends/colleagues of mine. I call them the “ignorant educated.” I just had an interaction with a friends husband over facebook this weekend about the NCAA tournament and a player on the Cincinnati team. He made a comment on his Facebook page that was was subtly racist and before anyone else could comment I wanted to. We went back and forth and finally his wife / my friend ended it. Its so hard to get people to understand a perspective they can never understand.

    • The Girl Next Door is Black
      March 23, 2015

      See this is one of the reasons I’m not Facebook anymore. I could no longer take happening upon those kinds of posts from friends or friends of friends. You think everything’s all cool and then, bam!, that ignorance smacks you in the face.

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