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Dear Black America, We Cannot Stop Talking About Racism

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Richard Wagner responds to Zack Linly’s “ It’s Time to Stop talking to White People About Racism ” in the Washington Post.

Richard Wagner responds to Zack Linly’s “ It’s Time to Stop talking to White People About Racism ” in the Washington Post.  

The worst thing we can do is stop talking about racism.

I am deeply troubled by Zack Linly’s recent Washington Post article – It’s Time to Stop Talking to White People About Racism.   No matter how frustrating it gets, we can’t afford to stop talking to white people about racism.  I say this  as an American.  

I understand Linly’s frustration.  When expressing the phrase “black lives matter”, it’s often met with a response “all lives matter”.  Linly had some pretty solid retorts:

“Hey man, you wouldn’t go to a cancer rally shouting ‘All diseases matter,’ would ya?”

“Hey Scottie, ‘Save the rain forest’ doesn’t mean ‘Kill all the other forests.’ ”

“Hey Kip, when a house is burning, you don’t turn the fire hose on some non-burning house because #AllHousesMatter.”

These are pretty good.  Guess what, Linly?  This is actually the first time I’ve heard these.

The worst of us are usually the loudest

Linly is seeing the worst in white people, and it’s probably because the worst are usually the loudest.  On issues like these, whites usually fit into roughly one of these three categories.  

1. The way Linly describes, pressing a counter-narrative that is disingenuous and just plain spiteful.  

2.  The guilty white liberal, as well as the opportunistic white liberal.  

3.  The critical thinker.  We’re listening, we’re questioning, and we’re trying to figure this out.  

See, that’s where you come in.  Without your voice being heard, we might be on the same side of an issue with you 20% of the time.  But if we’re talking, and yes, debating, and disagreeing, and getting frustrated, and cooling off, and thinking it over, we might find ourselves agreeing with you 50% of the time, or 60, 70 or 80%!  But you’ve gotta be ready for disagreement.

Take our President’s advice.  “But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.”

Responding to some of Linly’s points

Speaking of engagement, I do feel the need to debate some of Linly’s points.

Even “well meaning” white folks tend to center themselves in the discussion (#NotAllWhitePeople #IDontSeeColor). Yes, there are plenty of white people who aren’t racist, who think shouting “Blue Lives Matter” is wrong, who truly do wish things would change. But the fact is, they figuratively and literally have no skin in the game.

You know how you hate being stereotyped?  I won’t list them, you know the racial stereotypes you face, and I know some of them too.  Guess what?  We don’t like being stereotyped either.  

They’re getting the tint snatched off of their rose-colored glasses; that “Shining City on the Hill” they know as America is starting to lose some of its gloss.

Where we are now

Just like every single black American has a mind of his or her own, the same is true of the rest of us.  I was born in the 1980s, and all of us millennials of every race in this country have been born into this paradigm of racial tension and residual white supremacy that our ancestors left us.  It’s not our fault.  But whether or not it’s fair, here we are.  

What happens in this country affects us all.  As long as black America continues facing injustices, 12% of our fellow Americans are not getting what they deserve.  As a political science professor, I look forward to the day when I can discuss any given political issue with my students without an obvious racial divide lurking over what should have been an objective discussion on welfare reform.  

Checking my “privileged” isn’t going to accomplish anything.  If I’ve got some advantage you don’t have, then let’s talk about how you can have it too.  Privilege should be expanded, not checked.  This whole country overcame the Great Depression, won WWII, won the Cold War, and became the sole Superpower on earth.  This whole country has, more or less, maintained the oldest continuing written constitution in the world.  This belongs to all of us.

Talking about these things is going to be hard, as it always has been.  It’s going to make us uncomfortable, awkward, offended, and angry.  Sometimes we may need to step back and cool off.  That’s fine.  But the worst thing we can do, is nothing.  That’s why we can’t stop talking about racism.

 

 

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About the author

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is not talking politics, Richard is an aspiring novelist, and culinary hobbyist. Richard holds MSc from London School of Economics in Political Science.

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