Why We Need to Talk About Race
Your son's preschool teacher calls you Bianca by mistake. She's confused you with the other Latina mom in the class. "I'm going to have to give you two name tags!" she says.
Someone asks you whether all Chinese people are good at math. You don't know. You are Korean.
Your smiling white neighbor says, "I don't see color! Doesn't matter to me whether you're blue, purple, or green!" Since such people don't exist, you're not quite sure what point she's making.
If you're living in America in 2017, chances are you've endured some version of these scenarios—and when you did, you stayed silent. You saved your shame, frustration or corrosive rage for later, to be shared with someone who also shares your skin color, who will understand. If you spoke up, you might look overly sensitive. Or angry. Or clueless.
But lately, it seems that the topic of race, always simmering in our national consciousness, has moved squarely to the front burner. In coffee shops and on Twitter feeds, we're talking about border walls, travel bans and movies where black guys are body-snatched by scary white liberals. We're debating whether the Hollywood playing field will ever be level for creatives of color, whether athletes are heroes or traitors for sitting out the national anthem. We're watching yet another iPhone video of brutality trying to disguise itself as justice. People of every color are looking at each other as if to say, "What now?"
Yes, what now? Eleanor Roosevelt had an idea. Pondering another communication breakdown altogether (this one with Khrushchev), she could have been channeling our current dilemma when she said, in 1960, "We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together. And if we are to live together, we will have to talk."
So let's talk about race. Let's talk about the times it's been an issue—in our childhoods and at our dinner tables, in our classrooms and boardrooms, in intimate moments and in the dark corners of our minds. Let's talk about the things we don't understand but really, truly want to. Let's talk about the systemic racism embedded in our country's laws and institutions, and let's also talk about the small but significant things any single person can do to narrow the gap between herself and another.
At this moment in our history, one truth is self-evident: We can't afford to say race is just a black thing, or a Hispanic thing, or an Asian thing or a #StayWoke thing. It's a human thing. And no human anything ever benefited from people keeping their mouths shut.
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