Today I am continuing on my thoughts that I discussed on my last blog, “Indifference.” About two years ago I decided to read the new books popping up by Black authors or White authors sharing on seeing the Black communities’ perspectives on why discrimination continues in America. Each reading gave me more understanding of how difficult it is to be Black. My readings and close Black relationships have made me aware of the duality the Black community walks in everyday. They are not free to walk without scrutiny where the White man walks freely. Many boundaries are silently in place left over from fifty years ago. You ask, “What boundaries?” Let me share this story.
I have a dear friend that adopted two Black babies over forty years ago. She has been very instrumental in shaping a grandson that often chose to live at her house. She has cautioned him not to buy or wear a black hoodie. “Never wear a hoodie, do you understand why?” He would shake his head yes and mind her words that in a hoodie he could be mistaken for a young Black man up to no good. He could be accused guilty without discussion and shot by a policeman or someone else. Now, how many of your kids wear hoodies? Do you? Do you have to consider whether it will cause you danger or be unacceptable?
For example, a dark hoodie on a Black man pushes an inner button that lives within us because we see countless news items showing Blacks in hoodies fighting or being arrested. Perhaps we have had a Black man in a hoodie approach us, and we felt scared not realizing why. We have the flight or fight reaction. We each have implicit memories that have made racial buttons to our emotions. We are unaware of the underlying cause to our reaction.
Ken Wytsma, the author of The Myth of Equality tells the reader that, “Such shortcuts are often created early in life, and we have no conscious memory of the original experiences. We have buttons-if we hear or see something that connects to a significant memory or experience, it hits the button.” We all can relate to a button that was pushed in a time of grief or nostalgia. This book cautioned me to be aware of my reactions. It has opened my eyes to realities within me that I was either pushing away or becoming indifferent to them. Reading Wytsma’s book helped me filter why I was having an emotional tug and discussed how we might react if a racial bias was built within us of which I were not aware. Wytsma writes from a place of White privilege and helps us unpack what we need to know to have conversations with deeper understanding with Blacks and Whites. Many other well written books have retrained me to think about my gut reactions and why.
I might not agree with everything in Wytsma’s book, but it made me aware to check the introspective work that I must continue to do each day. He is White but teaches on becoming aware of generalizations or cultural biases. Another wonderful book is The Hate That you Give by Angie Thomas. It is my fifteen year old granddaughter’s favorite book. Many in my family have enjoyed her book and gained insights in how to reach out to the Black community. I cherish reading that convicts me to make a paradigm shift that I need to help bring reconciliation and understanding.