If You Must Talk About Race, Be Gracious

Racism is no longer systemic in the United States. Trust me.

I grew up black in the 1960s in a small South Carolina town. Trust me, today’s America is nothing like it was then. And even under segregation, the marginalization was not total. My father was a plumber, my mother a school librarian. We were treated kindly. The local shopkeepers wanted our business, but they also wanted to avoid trouble from the few who believed wholeheartedly in racial segregation.

The segregation wasn’t uniform. One doctor had a separate waiting room; the other didn’t. Ditto for the town’s two dentists. Once the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlawed separate facilities, things opened up very quickly.

Many of the authors, commentators and journalists who spend all their energy thinking and talking about race today fail to acknowledge how much has improved with regard to race in this country. There are countless successful black Americans today—doctors and lawyers, entrepreneurs and academics, journalists and artists, compassionate politicians and famous Hollywood actors. Their numbers will keep growing as long as we remember six things:

First, every life matters. Mine is not one cell more or less valuable than anyone else’s. That this idea has to be debated or defended is lunacy.

Second, racism still exists but it is no longer systemic. Those who claim that racism is everywhere today are delusional.

Third, we tend to think too highly of our individuality. My color, weight, sex and sexual orientation are four of the least interesting things about me. I am a Southerner and love Southern food. Now that is interesting.

Fourth, policemen have to be held accountable for their actions, as is being done more and more.

Fifth, do what law enforcement officers ask you to do. Obviously that won’t solve every problem because policemen are humans, not angels. But that’s part of life. Simply doing what the people in blue ask you to do would drastically reduce needless confrontations, injuries and deaths.

Sixth, if you must talk about race, be gracious and respectful. Discussions about it shouldn’t be antagonistic—one’s race isn’t a choice, after all—but for some reason many popular figures insist on making the subject as unpleasant as possible.

Genuine insight generally doesn’t make you angry and anxious. It makes you smile, and generates gratitude.

Source: If You Must Talk About Race, Be Gracious