That whites and blacks have vastly different cultural experiences of being American is well established, with blacks generally getting the worst of the bargain. Significantly, our differences remain caged off. Opportunities for experiencing anything outside the cage are locked away, precisely because we are all conditioned to react to skin color; we can't not react to this otherwise meaningless factor.
In this blog, I have tried various approaches to stimulating conversations on race, looking for keys that will open our cages. Starting with Speak Right On, I've tried to point out how Dred Scott remains relevant today, and why.
I have posted comments to online articles and then reported on those "conversations"—a nice word for what amounts to, in most cases, people barking from behind a metal grill that blocks broader perceptions and understanding (me included).
I have reiterated news reports and statistics, because we need to know the facts before we engage in meaningful talk.
And I have tried to understand some of the emotional and psychological underpinnings of what works and what doesn't.
But I get discouraged. News on this topic is typically depressing, horrifying—and it's overwhelming in its frequency and magnitude.
In any given week, I read articles from a variety of sources that report (progressively and conservatively) on racial issues. I watch documentaries and "town hall" meetings when they're aired. I buy books, like Keeanga-Tamahtta Taylor's From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (which I recommend). And I often have discussions with others in my personal circle.
This week, I watched President Obama on ABC answering questions directly pertaining to recent killings of black citizens and white police officers. He seemed a bit overwhelmed himself. I guess he was trying to be balanced, trying to avoid stoking emotions that are tender and volatile. But he seemed vague and evasive, and I felt disappointed by the absence of two things I've often admired in him—leadership and inspiration.
I'm left feeling, today, at this point in time, that maybe words and talking just aren't a strong enough tool for the job. Worse, I don't know that there is a tool that can do the job of creating more unity and less divisiveness when it comes to race.
Thankfully, I'm pretty confident this mood will lift; I've been down this rabbit hole before.
Part of me realizes that this bleak perspective also belongs to the conversation. . . .
And as soon as I accept this thought and this feeling, room is made for more creative thoughts: imagine how often black people have felt this way, exhausted from the effort of trying to make the world accept that they matter?
I mean it: try to imagine just that.