How Black and White Folks Can Listen to Each Other even When We’re Afraid

By | September 6, 2014

In the brilliant and paradigm shifting masterpiece, Where We Stand, bell hooks takes on the subject of class in America and Americans refusal to discuss it.

Classism, bigotry and racism affect us all and lead us all to make some dumb ass assumptions and then commit to some even dumber behaviors.

When we view history in terms of the fights that took place to end racism and white supremacy in this country, we are encouraged to overlook the whites that placed their lives on the line.

When Black folks are seemingly angry and aggressive for “no apparent reason”, we are instructed to simply chalk it up to being angry non thinking beast who need constant and forceful control.

We are systematically inducted to ignore the pain and emotional reality of the other.

I have denied the pain of white comrades and suggested that they walk it off and have no right to bitch about anything ever.

Folks have interpreted my anger in ways that were dismissive and demeaning.

If I can’t or won’t recognize your pain, I probably am not dealing with my own.

By keeping us blind to the ways that we inflict pain and cause psychological pain, racism and its offshoots go unchecked.

As I deny the pain or upsetting reality that an individual finds himself navigating, I am allowed the freedom to not self reflect nor take any responsibility in how I treat another person.

If we refuse to speak of certain things and steer others towards doing the same, we create an environment that is devoted to not speaking up when we should, things getting misheard and feelings getting hurt.

A better solution would be to discuss the pain and work together to develop kick butt strategies to usher in new ways of interacting.

This requires another item: Black and White folks trusting one another.

I have often feared whether I can trust the white person who calls himself my friend ?

If it gets ugly will you (white ally) go down with me or deny our association?

If there is a racist joke told in your presence will you speak up ?

Walk away ?

Tell the person to shut their gravy hole ?

If I hear an off color remark about a Jew, Italian, Irish person, will I speak up and out or mentally stat : It wasn’t a black joke; the group that’s a target runs the world so it doesn’t really mean that much.

As a member of several subcultures, I get chances almost hourly to determine how I will deflect and respond to foolishness.

When I have tried to explain this battle to white friends, I am often met with blank stares regarding why certain things happen and how I should feel about them.

Mistrust and the inability to hear and share in another’s pain makes it highly improbable that a real loving, compassion based relationship can or will be formed.

We spit in the face of domination and oppression by sharing our pain and learning to hear that of another.

We challenge and subvert our well honed culture of domination when we fight like hell to see one another as individuals and treat each interaction and exchange as unique.

We face our fear of being “tricked” and unseen by willingly going into battle and knowing that the shit might get ugly and real.

It is easier to stay mired in familiar and uncomfortable pain and relentless unmet desire for closeness.

To produce loving, trust-filled interactions with white friends and lovers, it is imperative that I pinpoint and eliminate trust issues that have nothing to do with the person in front of me and support the individual that I care for and about to do the same.

Mistrust and the refusal to listen are learned behaviors.

We all are born with the desire and need to find persons and create communities of ride and die peeps.

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