Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dance

One of my female friends is engaged in The Dance right now.

The romantic two-step that precedes an actual relationship where people try to determine if they can actually stand the personality of this person who makes their hearts flutter and nether regions thrum.

It's a complicated waltz, particularly since the person she's dancing with is black, but not American. He lacks certain cultural reference points, and consequently has a very different view of black folks in this country. She finds some of his ideas about race, racism and black folks to be naive and borderline offensive.

I'm not surprised.

While her dance is romantic, it reminded me of the careful steps we all take when talking about race with folks with different ideas about how the world works. I recently wrote about the problems with attempting to consider people's intentions when trying to determine if their actions were racist. But, just because I think we need to minimize the importance of intentions doesn't mean I don't understand the realities of having a normal conversation.

Conversation, marriage and dancing have some things in common. Partners must be evenly yoked, have a willingness to compromise and a dedication to paying attention.  Otherwise, you end up with an ugly and uncomfortable mess.

But, finding the balance in a conversation is a difficult task, particularly when you're discussing complicated and serious topics that you have a vested interest in. How do you talk to someone about "rooting for the black guy" when they consider that sort of worldview the worst type of racism? Can you have a productive conversation about discrimination and classism with someone who believes that American blacks are inherently lazy, incompetent and rude?

Does conversing, or "dancing", with that type of partner provide any real benefit? Is the gulf in mindset too vast to ever traverse? Do we have a responsibility to try to educate certain folks, to force them to re-think their positions on life, particularly if we say we care about them? Or should we be more concerned about keeping the peace and focusing on our areas of agreement?

Do any of you have the steps of the dance mastered?



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4 comments:

BBCSR53 said...

The really sad part of this is there are people who know better. For instance: Franklin Graham, the Christian evangelist and son of Billy Graham 'President's Problem Is That He Was Born A Muslim' he said this and other lies , during an appearance Thursday night on CNN. Franklin Graham has too know this is not true. It is really bad when evangelist becomes a partisan political hack .

Anna Renee said...

This is my life for the last 8 years! My second husband is Nigerian. And they are victims of the negative media of America. They have access to all of the bad stuff about black Americans and have to divest themselves of it.

In my case, I had to learn patience. Which was hard because I'm a die-hard pro black, DOWN for my black people person!

But I learned that mine is not the only black point of view. And my husband learned some things about being black in America when the police pulled his butt over while driving!
And when he went through hell just to get a job, with the extra handicap of having a strong accent! He was just a nigger with an accent for some people, and I think he felt it and related to African Americans.

I read small black neighborhood newspapers that are usually brought to the churches. They talk about all our accomplishments in education, jobs, business, entertainment, etc in their eight pages.
My husband reads them all and these papers have had a profound effect on how he views African Americans.
He then compares the crap he sees about us on TV with these papers and come to a deeper understanding about this country he's adopted.
It's not the land of milk and honey as he once believed.

I've made a point of studying black culture worldwide, so I had that benefit already. He really appreciated my knowledge and understanding and willingness to learn.
A lot of black people of the world are dismissive of black Americans because we tend to have an ugly American mentality. It's all about us as black Americans. We tend to be ignorant of the issues and struggles and triumphs of other black people and we tend to believe the stupid racist info about them, especially if they are from Africa. We dont believe they have access to the modern world. We think they all live in deep poverty and ignorance in villages. I would advise that your friend make a great effort to learn ALL she can about her man's place of origin OUTSIDE of the negative media of CNN and the like. Do some google searches about his country and culture. Make a point of doing it.

I would say to your friend--be very patient, dont try to win his understanding of black America over, allow him to learn by bringing good information to him--black published newspapers and periodicals are fantastic for this. Learn how to not take his ignorance personally. It's hard but not impossible.

All of these things happened for my husband over a period of years--probably 4 years or so. I now got him to the place of saying "fuck the police" and really meaning it!!! ;-)

Anna Renee said...

This is my life for the last 8 years! My second husband is Nigerian. And they are victims of the negative media of America. They have access to all of the bad stuff about black Americans and have to divest themselves of it.

In my case, I had to learn patience. Which was hard because I'm a die-hard pro black, DOWN for my black people person!

But I learned that mine is not the only black point of view. And my husband learned some things about being black in America when the police pulled his butt over while driving!
And when he went through hell just to get a job, with the extra handicap of having a strong accent! He was just a nigger with an accent for some people, and I think he felt it and related to African Americans.

I read small black neighborhood newspapers that are usually brought to the churches. They talk about all our accomplishments in education, jobs, business, entertainment, etc in their eight pages.
My husband reads them all and these papers have had a profound effect on how he views African Americans.
He then compares the crap he sees about us on TV with these papers and come to a deeper understanding about this country he's adopted.
It's not the land of milk and honey as he once believed.

I've made a point of studying black culture worldwide, so I had that benefit already. He really appreciated my knowledge and understanding and willingness to learn.
A lot of black people of the world are dismissive of black Americans because we tend to have an ugly American mentality. It's all about us as black Americans. We tend to be ignorant of the issues and struggles and triumphs of other black people and we tend to believe the stupid racist info about them, especially if they are from Africa. We dont believe they have access to the modern world. We think they all live in deep poverty and ignorance in villages. I would advise that your friend make a great effort to learn ALL she can about her man's place of origin OUTSIDE of the negative media of CNN and the like. Do some google searches about his country and culture. Make a point of doing it.

I would say to your friend--be very patient, dont try to win his understanding of black America over, allow him to learn by bringing good information to him--black published newspapers and periodicals are fantastic for this. Learn how to not take his ignorance personally. It's hard but not impossible.

All of these things happened for my husband over a period of years--probably 4 years or so. I now got him to the place of saying "fuck the police" and really meaning it!!! ;-)

Big Man said...

The dude my friend is dating is Nigerian... Coincidence?

I pointed her to your comment, and I appreciate you saying something.

Raving Black Lunatic