Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man

Updated: Feb 10

You ever go to the store to buy one item but leave with ten. That's how I stumbled across this golden gem called, Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man by Emmanuel Acho. I walked into Target to grab something real quick, and while I was en route, I saw his book on the stand. The title caught my attention, and I found myself taking a pause to read the introduction and got so distracted by what I was initially in the store to get. I ended up taking it home and found myself not being able to put it down. I was even saying no to Netflix because I wanted to know what his responses to the opening questions of each chapter would be. So here we are, now, let's talk about it.

What I Can Appreciate

Yall, I was sold at the first three words of the introduction to the book, "dear white friends". I said, oh, this what we doing?! His approach to inviting us to have these uncomfortable conversations is by way of an invitation to the table and cookout. The reference to the cookout is a part of the black culture. Many of us are familiar with how we are bonding with conversations of past and present events within these moments. Suppose you are lucky enough to get invited; it's an invitation that comes from love and respect. That's his approach with wanting to address conversations that may make some feel uncomfortable to proceed with, but at the same time should be addressed. Some may feel why do we need to educate white people about racism when they are the ones who created it? This may be true, but as we continue seeing events happening around the world that further create a divide and ignorance, being silent isn't the solution. He mentions it's about being fluent in both cultures: black and white.

To address the problem, you have to know the root of the problem. You have to understand the history of racism because it builds upon understanding race and how it's applied within cultures. To ignore what we see with our own eyes is pure ignorance. To ignore what's being done to the black culture amplifies white privilege and complicity with being treated separately and unequally. It's 2021, and white people are still afraid to no longer be the majority. They would instead put more time and effort into keeping cultures divided than working towards unity. Acho encourages us to spend more time with people who don't look like us, and I agree. You cant educate yourself without having put in the time to learn from one another. It's about making an effort in areas that are "unfamiliar," and I'm sure the receiver on the other end will appreciate it and become willing to share their stories and perspectives.

We are not born with hate in our hearts. As we grow up, we pick up these cues from our social environments. This is why I believe we become a product of our environment. We inherit a prejudiced mentality if this is the "norm" in our environment. I don't think kids truly understand they are black and white until there much older. My four-year-old nephew, who is white, has looked me in the eyes and says he is not white. My six-year-old son will describe his skin as "tan". Kids are not focused on their race. They care about hopping on youtube and watching other kids have fun. Therefore in hindsight, the only people that place focuses on it are adults. To the white people currently sitting at the discussion table, do you really know why you are hating, like have you ever paused and thought about it? I know the black culture ponders over it, and maybe yall can enlighten us with insight.

The Relevancy and Importance

These last couple of years has been very long and overwhelming between the pandemic and the treatment of people of color. People were losing their jobs, their lives from Covid, and from those who took an oath to protect and serve. Whenever I grasp the magnitude of events that have taken place, I feel it's unreal and unjust. I wonder what people from other countries think of America as they witnessed the divide in our country. So many people travel far and wide to come to our country to escape their own. To escape the dangers within their homeland and try and make a better life for themselves and their families. Recently, my professor asked the class if America was a progressive country, and many of the white students replied yes. They referenced how America is innovative in technology, and we have made a tremendous impact within the market world. This may be true, but my response was no. That was keeping it G-rated. We may be progressive in technology, but what about our infrastructures. What about systemic racism, mass incarceration, voting rights, poverty, broken black families, etc. Let's bring it back to reality and keep it real.

Acho mentions how racism can be subtle or direct. He reiterates the need for discussion and dialogue on biases to further learn about them, critique them, and discover where they come from. I agree because implicit bias is real. Even I can be an example of implicit bias at times because I do not think clowns are friendly. I don't care if they're in a hat or on a cat. I don't want them here nor there, or anywhere. When I see them, all they're going to see is the back of my head because I'm out. This is often how white people feel about the black culture. Acho says white people fall between someone who is not overtly racist but on a spectrum of a person who is a little racially insensitive or ignorant, which calls for the need to create a two-way conversation of trust and respect.

For me, not everyone who is on the receiver end of the message really receives it, and that's part of the problem. Let me explain with an example. I used to hang out with this white guy, and in the middle of our conversation, he said the n-word. At first, I didn't say anything because I wasn't sold on if he said it to begin with. Not many white people will say it in front of a black person. We all know they say it when they're alone, but it's rare to say it in front of a black person. So the conversation continued, and he repeated it, and this time I addressed it. Like, you done said it twice in my presence you are too comfortable. Even I wasn't saying it. I mentioned he couldn't say that word, and his rebuttal was yes, he can. He implied it's said all the time in music and movies, so what's the harm in him saying it. He also felt that I shouldn't take it in the wrong way because he wasn't using it to talk down on me. He was just casually saying it in our conversation. Long story short that was the last time we spoke because I had to casually let him go. White friends who haven't left the table yet. You cant educate others when you need to educate yourself.

The Part I'm Not Feelin, Lets Talk About It

Acho mentions we will never achieve a post-racial America as long as the gears of systemic racism continue to churn. He advises to end racism requires for my white counterparts to get out of denial, to understand that maybe you've been lying to yourself about the existence of racism. In leadership, we have a term called deontological ethics, and it's an ethical theory used in philosophy to emphasize the relationship between duty and the morality of human actions. It places attention on how some acts are morally obligated regardless of their consequences. If someone breaks into your house are you not going to attempt to protect yourself regardless of the outcome. A part of the book discusses how black people who experience chronic racism repeatedly can develop racial battle fatigue. The symptoms include anxiety, worry, hypervigilance, headaches, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. They can even have PTSD. This goes to show how stressful it is to be a black person in this world. Deontological ethics tells us virtue is the reward. To the white community, you have to be willing to see these wrong actions and change your mindset. Not all of us have the freedom of white privilege. We aren't familiar with not having to do much, and it works for us.

We have to set the bar higher in the examples we are setting for future generations. We are tired of being tired, and we are tired of saying we are tired. Police aren't protecting us, nor is the government. Right now, there are laws being put in place to ban abortions and silence us from casting our right to vote. Don't worry; we will talk about that in a future blog, so stay tuned. We must work towards having these uncomfortable conversations because our youth learn from their society. They aren't aware there's a divide until they are taught there is a divide. Acho says language matters, and he's right. We should be open to discussing the Critical Race Theory because it applies to the history of the black and brown community. The intent isn't to point fingers, but we must acknowledge the root of a lot of repetitive patterns. The white community must accept how they use their whiteness as a weapon and how a black man is seen as black before he's seen as a man—he is seen as a threat before he is seen as human. When we open our eyes and ears, we create a safe space to listen and receive. I leave you here with these last thoughts. To everyone sitting at the table, continue to fight injustice and inequality, work on building relationships with people who don't resemble you, and if you take anything away, let it be this: Black Lives STILL Matter!

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