So you’ve wondered why people of color are so exhausted with explaining things. Why we are so quick to our rage, grief, and irritation when we are asked about the various moving parts of this machine that is grinding us to death.
OK. Fair. I can see how you don’t understand. As an aid, I am going to post this conversation between myself and a friend of mine from work. We had recently gotten into a discussion about current events and here’s what happened. I’ll put my words in bold so it is easy to follow.
I would like you to note very well that this is the effort of a person that is trying to understand.
friend from work: it’s a stupid thing and I probably know the answer but I gotta ask: do you think in any way I hate black people, or if I am racist?
Me: Do I think you hate black people? I don’t think you know them well enough to. Do I think you’re racist? No, but I think it would be easy for you to come across as such.
Me: That’s not because you’re racist, though. The issue is that people tend to have strong opinions, but a weak understanding of where those opinions come from. The issue is that people are unwilling to see from another person’s perspective. So “but what about…” is usually met with “but if you did _____ then…” Instead of “Hm… Well, let’s see why this is happening.”
It’s like trying to solve a software bug. Because, to be clear, that’s what we have here. A massive software bug. “Well, why don’t you just do this….”
“No, [redacted]. That’s not how the software should work.”
I actually worked with dudes who were black when I was in the states, one man was a teacher from the east coast, and he invited me and my friends (all bulgarians) to dinner in his house, he moved to Seattle to start a new life and was working in the same depot where we worked.
he was a wonderful person, and I have always tried to judge people solely based on their character and not superficial attributes.
Oh, this is going to take a bit of effort on your part, I think. But this is part of what we call “Doing the work”, so it is just as well. Here’s something that will help.
okay. I will think about this.
“Things are not as they should be.” You have to start right there. Because the struggle is. Things should not be like this, but they are and I have to deal with that.
For example: That person should not have been shot, but they were.
Or: People shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin, but they are.
And that means you have to leave yourself out of these thoughts. Namely: I realize that I am a very unique individual in the way that I think about things, but I am not representative of the average and I am but a very small part of the whole.
The way I think and process things individually does not apply to everyone.
true, but people should be made to think like I do in this regard because I am right and a lot more smarter people than me think the same way. sadly I have no power to change things
but people should be made to think like I do in this regard << this thinking is dangerous.
and a lot more smarter people than me think the same way << also dangerous
sadly I have no power to change things << you do, but it’s small ripples over a long period of time that are centered on you.
people smarter than me thought slavery was a good idea. be careful.
yeah but you know what I mean
people who are on the right side of History, like Dr. King
yeah but you know what I mean << I do, but that’s the thing right – you are communicating with people. People cannot understand your intent except through your words and actions. because of this, you have to control your words or to be more clear say nothing more or less than exactly what you mean as often as you can. it saves time, effort, and energy.
like Dr. King << be careful with this reference. There are those – and many of them – that would use him against black people.
Try to imagine a teacher or parent that says “Why can’t you be like that kid over there?” meaning “If you would do that, I’d love you more/treat you better/etc.”
The most dangerous thing about racism and the arguments on both sides is how people don’t see the structure that allows their opinions to exist. A bias can be useful if you know how it works but any thought you have that you are not owner and master of is dangerous to you.
well I would love people more if they get over being divided because of petty things to be honest
Let’s have an exercise.
Well I would love people more if they get over being divided because of petty things to be honest
This is what you just said. Let’s assume you’re speaking about skin color.
Is this something that shouldn’t be a thing? Yes. It absolutely should not be a thing people are divided over.
But let’s take a look at the idea of getting over that petty thing. (1) What would I need to do in order to get over this petty thing?
well we need people to know that your skin color does not make you the person that you are. it does not dictate your fate. it cannot tell your future.
(2) which people need to know?
all people including those with the skin color in question
(3) OK. Why are the people with the skin color being called out here?
because all other people with different skin colors are tribal and have other’ed them because of a tribal mentality
because people are flawed like that
(4) What do you mean by that?
people presume that if somebody is not the same as them, they are dangerous or in some way not good for them
men towards women
women towards men
black people towards white people
white people towards black people
OK. We’ll come back to that in a bit as we understand that these are long-embedded instincts from a long bygone time.
people are tribal and they feel more comfortable among others like them
(5) How does this help your initial point of people needing to get over petty differences. Skin color in particular.
because there is no need to be wary because of somebody with a different skin color
(6) Is that accurate?
because the simple fact that they are a different color does not make them in any way dangerous. It is fair to say that.
Is it fair, but again (6) is that accurate?
Well today in these days. I guess it’s not because people are wary of each other if they are different.
OK, so (7) what would need to happen in order for that to be accurate?
well we either make them by force to accept thing that are different, or we take the long road and have discussions and educate
(8) Considering history up to this point, is force going to work for the long term?
it’s not a viable choice that is clear
(9) Why not?
because we have killed a lot of ISIS fighters and they still throw gay people off buildings as an example
(10) OK, so what do we do?
well I guess the only option is to try to understand why people act the way they do, and then try to talk to them about it, and explain why the things they do are wrong and what is the right way
I’m impressed. It took us 10 questions to get to “let’s figure out what the actual problem is”. For some people, this takes weeks. For others, years. But let’s continue. (11) Which people are we talking about and how are they behaving?
well to be honest I am not being specific
(12) Why not?
well my examples would be, the police officers and the people who were killed, we must examine who did what and why, and give out punishment according to their transgressions
people’s motivations are important
OK. That is fair. But (13) What is the problem with that? Police go out, things happen, people die. What’s the issue?
well one thing could be that this happens way too frequent and nobody takes time to think in these situations too
(14) Do you really think it is more frequent? If so, why?
so there is a lot of emotions. a lot of brash decisions
Also: yes. You are correct there. Emotions do run high in these moments.
well it is more frequent, I see it all the time now. the violence is a never ending stream now. it’s hard for me to believe that those officers are racist and that they enjoyed killing black people, that makes me sick if it is true
and I hope it’s not
I hope it’s because they had to do a quick decision and they made the wrong one. they panicked
and don’t get me wrong if that is the case they deserve to be punished with all the force of the law
(15) What is there to fear if it is true? Why are you afraid or concerned?
but I cannot believe that they hated somebody because of their skin color. I am concerned about my fellow man. I do not want to see dead people because of absurdities
(16) If this is the law at work and you believe in the law, why would you be concerned about the dying?
I don’t know the people who died, but I certainly don’t want to see them dead
That is fair. Please continue.
because I am not sure what exactly happened
because we need to understand the situations not to repeat them
we need to be level headed
Well founded. OK. So (17) How do you think these situations would be best avoided based on the evidence you have or what you’ve read?
so much emotions in situations where there are weapons. it’s a fucked up thing. well in case of the New Orleans shooting, the police could have used non-leather weapons. or at least try to talk the guy down first. try the human approach if possible. I know sometimes it will most definitely resolve to force and weapons but not every situation is a combat situation
(18) Based on what you’ve said, what do you think would resolve those things? Police using excessive force seems to be a thing based on what you’ve mentioned.
Well I would first talk. try to have a discussion. I would address the person and appeal to their humanity. I would try to understand why he/she is doing what they are doing now and I will try to convince them other wise if possible and use weapons as a last resort.
don’t get me wrong; police should have weapons. I think they should use them less if possible. I would be stern. I would tell the person that if they try to use weapons it will end bad for them but I will not use mine unless I absolutely need to
Well, based on our initial point of people getting over petty differences (and specifically skin color), (19) do you think if there were less occurrences of excessive police force, that the problem would be solved?
yes I do think so. I think that if the police shows that they want to work with black people and their communities more it will help strengthen the relationship and these things will happen less too
(20) Why is this specific to black people? Are they the only ones with issues involving police?
I think that black people are dealing a lot more with the police. well to be honest I don’t have statistics
(21) Why do you think that is?
but since those shootings happen. I think it shows that police and black people have a lot of bad encounters but again I don’t have any statistics. and it could be that white people or asians or hispanic americans have a lot more its just that more shootings of black people end up on the news and
I don’t want to believe that the police has it out for black people that would make no sense
(22) Where is the information you have coming from?
well mainly youtube videos of the things that happen
(23) Also: if the police stopped shooting black people or using excessive force there. Would that solve the issue related to petty issues that are due to skin color?
well if the police stops shooting so many black people, that would improve things overallvbecause people would not other black people
(24) Are you certain of that? Is that the full scope of this problem?
because they think they are criminals or something like that. of course that is not everything but it will be a gesture of good will if there are less killed black people by the police
don’t get me wrong
some people are just fucking criminals
white, black or whatever
we can’t change everybody
Well, let’s go for everything
Because remember: we want to eliminate this problem. It’s petty. Based on our dialogs so far, people are even dying over it.
So we should definitely work to uproot the whole thing.
(25) After we deal with police, what other issues are left?
well how people view black people
black people’s image has been smeared because of a few bad eggs
stupid example, but people always joke that germans are nazis and even now one of the first things that come to your mind when you hear the word german is nazi and some people are wary of germans because they think they hate jews and so on or actual jews that survived the holocaust
those germans might be entirely peaceful but they are still distrusted. it’s the same with black people their image has been destroyed so we need to repair black people’s image.
we need to help them achieve the best since black people can.
Hm. That is an interesting observation. Let me ask a very important question here. (26) Do you think it is right, normal, or fair for all black people to be judged as a whole because of what a “few bad eggs” have done? In particular: as we are discussing lives being taken.
no. it’s not right
Okay, well then (27) why are we doing that?
that’s why we need to show other people that black people are not a mass. they are not a hive mind. that they are individuals with their own character and that should not be judged by the actions of their peers but their own actions
that their skin color does not put them in a box that they can’t get out of
I agree, but I must repeat my question here: If it is wrong, why is it happening?
it’s happening because others have OTHER-ED them. so we need to educate the ones that have done so like any good company’s image, it needs to be repaired by presenting the best of what that company or group has.
if we present the best the people in that group will strive to achieve that and the people that are unsure of said group will be more relaxed towards it
(28) Who “other’d” the black people?
well I guess all other groups of people
(29) Why did they other them?
well that comes to what I said earlier: tribalism and tarnished reputation
(30) Do you think that presenting “good black people” in a certain way so that other people are more accepting of them will fix the issue that they are being seen as a mass and not individuals in the first place?
well it would help but the best thing we can do is to show that black people are like any other people they have the same desires
the same fears
the same emotions
this will override the otherness factor
then when we present the best examples other people would want to achieve those as well and will also show other people that black people have given much, and can be great too
(31) Do you think it is a good idea to attempt to normalize black people instead of individualizing them so they are free to be whatever individuals they want to be whether good or bad?
Clarification: Normalize meaning “black people should look like this” *point to a person or people*
no not normalize but “similarize” if I can use this made up word
of course everybody is an individual and that is above all else but we need to break group thinking and that’s best done when you show that everybody is a human and all humans share the same things
But you mentioned they aren’t being treated that way. So (32) will it break group thinking to present black people as an improved group version of themselves?
well black people are what they want to be, everybody in that group decided what to do with their life but there are human universals, that we can appeal to so that others will see black people’s suffering and empathize with it
(33) Are my questions making sense to you?
Yes I understand what you are asking me
(34) If there are human universals, why do black people need special ones for the sake of example?
Well they don’t need special ones, we need to point out their humanity so that others would see them, and treat them like they would treat somebody from their own “tribe”, the best thing we can do is to achieve people treating each other like they treat their brothers and sisters
(35) Do you feel that black people are seen as less than human? Or at least non-human?
Well, I think that sometimes people see only the bad stereotypes in black people, and that helps others to dehumanize them.
(36) Do you think that it is the job of black people – who are being dehumanize – to do things that will possibly humanize them in the eyes of others? If so, why?
Well, difficult to say, I guess one could say that self-image improvement is a good thing, but then again, sometimes, no matter how hard you work, your image is already ingrained in people’s minds, I would only say this, black people need to help others to understand them better by engaging with others in a productive discussion and by working together to build up a better relationship, there is this saying – It takes two to tango, again I am not saying, black people have not done their part, this is just what I think would help.
I understand. It is a hard question to answer. Unfortunately it gets harder. Allow me to present that same question with a bit of context.
People are human because they exist. In sum, if I see a stranger on the street, they are human. To dehumanize them requires effort on my part.
So then for them to be restored to human would require additional effort to be made somewhere. Based on my question and your answer. The person I dehumanize by my choice would need to do something to influence my choice to – to use a term – “re-humanize” them. Herein lies the problem: I cannot control what causes you to dehumanize me.
well my point is this: in order for this whole process to work both sides have to put in an effort
Fair. (37) is that effort an equal effort or more on one party versus another. (38) in the case of this thing with black people, what should that effort look like?
those who dehumanize must be listened to, understood and then thought better by correcting their views, because they are wrong, because of the fact that black people are humans, and black people will show that they are not different, by engaging in the discussions and opening up to those who judge them to get to know them for whom they are
(39) for non-minority/non-black people, what should that effort look like (40) if those who dehumanize are wrong, should they be listened to or simply corrected?
things will be solved if people are rational and they try to understand each other’s motivations
well we need to know why they dehumanize in order to fight their arguments with reason because dehumanization is never rational it’s more of a fear and fear is irrational
(41) Based on what we understand of history leading to this moment in time, what do you feel is missing in terms of understanding why black people (in this case) are dehumanized?
well there are a lot of things that happened to black people, or have been done to them, by other people
(42) Do you believe that the people who are dehumanizing others understand where their motivations are coming from? (43) do you believe it is better to understand the motivation of others or our own motivations or both?
well on your question no most of the time people dehumanize because it’s a learned behavior
(44) Where did they learn that?
there are a lot of things that happened to black people, or have been done to them, by other people << to add, there have been things black people have also done. some good, some bad. however, unlike others, they were dehumanized. (45) why?
one thing to add: a lot of black people were enslaved in history because all other civilizations – arabs, europeans, persians and so on were more advanced in a particular way more or less technologically so they presumed black people in africa were savages
they did not take the time to understand their culture
they did not take the time to understand their way of life
they simply viewed them from their own lens
I am more technologically advanced, which means they are beneath me
that’s the first way you dehumanize
And here we are, hundreds of years after the fact. Inventions have happened. Business has happened. Black people have become successful and even well-known.
However, they are still dehumanized, so (46) if this has not changed by now, what more would need to be done?
Yes. sadly people have not changed or have changed but only in specific areas of the world
to be honest in the middle-east they have black people as slaves still which pisses me off beyond rhyme or reason
but in the west is not that bad then again black people are subjected to tarnished reputation leftover by previous ages and it’s gonna take more time I fear before we have a star trek scenario of a world 🙂
The only thing we can do is to have rational talks and try to make people understand that black people are not what they think they are
Well, here’s the question I have here. If history is correct, black people were brought here as slaves (to the US) so (47) what reputation would be left to tarnish if your origin is as property here? (48) If I start off being dehumanized, do you think the person I am dehumanized by will listen to me if I try to be rational?
well their dignity was lost so it needs to be recovered as people. no matter if they were brought as slaves black people are still people and that’s a start
start by looking at black people as people flawed or not. they are people like anyone else
(49) but who needs to do that? the people dehumanizing them? black people themselves?
the first group. I think the black people’s own dignity will be increased when others view them as not “the different”
once black people feel like they are part of something and others don’t see them as something different than them we will have progress
(50) should their dignity come from others or from within?
it should come from both places from within and from others because we are social species
(51) do you feel dignity is something you can give to someone?
we need to be appreciated
That is a fair point; we do need to be appreciated as social creatures.
you can give them support and understanding and that will raise it. If you get respect (earned) you will surely feel better about yourself you will strive not to lose that respect and push yourself to be better
About the earlier question: (49) who needs to start looking at black people as people? who needs to initiate that?
well about your question other people
white people, hispanic people, asian people
(52) How do I earn respect from someone that dehumanizes me? (53) is that a worthwhile effort?
well first off we must stop the dehumanization
and there is nothing sweeter than turning your enemies into friends
(54) do you feel that asian, hispanic, or native americans are treated differently than black people? (55) who is “we” when you say `we must stop the dehumanization`?
I do feel that asians, hispanic people are treated way better
native americans have got a sour deal and I feel for them
and there is nothing sweeter than turning your enemies into friends << this I can agree with. My opinion here: native americans have gotten far worse than black people in many respects. That said, the issues remain regardless.
I am talking in general but by we, I mean people who are dehumanizing
I personally have never viewed someone to be beneath me because of the color of their skin as a teenager I loved Jamaicans, I wanted to be jamaican so bad. it never crossed my mind that they are black and would not accept me
For which I am relieved, but I must remind you that we must consider that you are a single individual unit as am I. In the same way I am not representative of all black people, you are not representative of all white or [redacted] people.That said, if people would just be…. for lack of a better term…. better on the whole, it would be wonderful.
Again, let me remind you that this is the level of effort that happens with a person that is making effort to understand and empathize. Imagine the exhaustion of dealing with wave after wave of people that don’t make this effort while hurling all manner of insult – whether personal or to our intelligence – and accusation.