Real, uncensored talk … from a person who, arguably, straddles the line “of color.”
Real, uncensored talk about … skin. That’s all. Skin, which has dictated attitudes for centuries and yet I know I’m “no better” than anyone, and neither are you.
So what’s the deal?
My buddy Bill Duke once directed a significant, award-winning documentary that aired on HBO called “Dark Girls,” about the innumerable cultural differentiations between light-skinned black women, and dark-skinned black women.
The simple image heading this article is in his honor. He told me, “Blacks and whites have all been playing checkers for all these years. It’s now time to play chess.”
This post will be an examination of black and white. Like Bill’s doc, this will be about skin, to its basics.
Take a look at my profile picture. Though I’m Jewish and considering my own bloodline it’s an arguable point, I look white so let’s go with it.
Are Jews White? It's Complicated
Speaking at Emory University a couple of years ago, playwright Alfred Uhry recalled that when he was growing up in…
What follows then is a given white man’s perspective of a certain issue that he finds notable.
It’ll take me a minute to get there.
A very accomplished Hispanic former business partner of mine once told me, “I may speak with an accent, but I don’t think with an accent.” The context was one of rage, and in my opinion rightfully so. She lost a business deal when two men pandered to her, thinking her accent was ”cute” and talking to her like one would a child. She could not hold back her temper at the insult.
Many of us have been guilty of this, or something similar: Who among us has spoken to an elderly person like a child, wIthout knowing anything about them?
Maybe we meant well. Illness, after all, is one thing. But generally speaking to a senior as one would a child is something else entirely. It’s an “assumption” of cognitive decline.
To my point …
I’ve been seeing an awful lot of white on black pandering of late. As in, well-meaning pandering believing we (so-called “whites”) all know what a given black person knows and needs.
Newsflash: There is no singular black mindset, as there is no singular white mindset.
I see, for example, many who identify as white assuming black people as a whole want offensive statues destroyed, as opposed to removed. I disagreed, loudly, and was told, “I can’t believe you want to die on that hill.”
I was told that by a white man in the comments section of my original post on the matter. Black friends who I’ve spoken to and who also responded in the comments — with one exception who saw merit in both sides of the debate — agreed with me. No, I do not assume this is an across-the-board opinion, as if I did that would be another assumption.
It was notable, nonetheless, that those expected by many to be the most offended were far more reasoned in their opinions.
Another observation: I see the words “African American” everywhere, when — though this certainly does not mean it’s the case with everyone — the vast majority of my black friends and associates have expressed loathing of the term, and some find it even offensive.
This is why I tend not to use it, save for an academic-type essay.
I also see a substantial amount of posts of late proclaiming censorship is suddenly okay based on an assumption that’s what ”all“ black people want, and that works like “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn” are suddenly worthy of destruction.
You’re wrong to make any such assumption.
It’s not about agreeing with someone based on their skin color. Would you agree with everything anyone said based on your mutual whiteness?
It’s about COMMUNICATION. It’s about AUTHENTIC dialog. This has been our great gift during the otherwise tragic pandemic era. We’re fighting together for real justice globally, the first time on such a scale.
This is how it should be.
And one more gripe.
When I hear that a person is “colorblind,” I wince. It’s a self-congratulatory comment. I get that person may mean well, but it doesn’t make one more liberal, or “better,” to say, “I don’t see color.”
We ALL see color, save for those who truly are — physically — colorblind. As I’ve said here repeatedly, most of my closest friends throughout my life have been black. My cousin is married to a black woman. I could have done the same. I was born and raised in a mixed Jewish and Black (Christian) neighborhood in Brooklyn.
And so on.
There’s a difference between lying to oneself and calling oneself “colorblind,“ and not treating people as anything less than equal based on the color of their skin.
It’s about treating EVERYONE as equals while cherishing our similarities and celebrating our differences.
If you want respect, you have to give it.
Pandering really is an insult. So is assuming.
We need to “hear” and never assume.
I’m going to post two more Zoom interviews here this week, similar to Bill Duke’s, below. In the article is a link to our conversation about racial issues today.
My Zoom Interview With Actor-Director-Writer Bill Duke on Racism Today
Bill, an old friend, joined me for a no-holds-barred conversation about race and transformation.
Take a look, if you haven’t already.
And let’s respectfully converse about it.
No, the world is not binary. It is not “black and white.”
It’s a melange, and we’re all brothers and sisters … under our skin.
Thank you for reading.
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