We Hold These Truths: An open-ended discussion

We Hold These Truths:  An open-ended discussion

A week ago, I ran into a woman who I consider to be a distant friend.  I’m Black, she is White.  I’m in my thirties and I estimate that my friend is somewhere in her forties.  She is a fierce advocate of public education, and I am a strong supporter of her work.  She pursued her doctorate in Divinity at the university where I once considered doing the same thing.

She is of a class of non-Black women who I secretly refer to as “soul sister,” but not because she makes any effort to present as Black.  She is an unapologetic White Evangelical Republican.  However, my friend, like several other non-Black women who I have known throughout my life, actively champions equality to greater lengths than many Blacks that I know.  In another life, I’m sure that this friend would own some bamboo earrings, at least two pair. (Shout out to LL Kool J)

We crossed each other’s paths outside of a supermarket nested somewhere between both of our homes.  Moving in opposite directions, we almost walked past each other, until we both caught glimpses of each other’s puzzled look.

Our brains made the connection quickly and we soon embraced in a hug.  As a relationship buttressed with an odd openness in talking about race, it took less than a minute for her to mention how weird things have been in the world as of late, thus pushing her off of social media for a while.

Because of all these White people talking crazy, right?  I automatically assumed.

But I was incorrect.  It was one of her Black friends who had said something that had offended her.

I listened to her story and I cringed.  One thing I know about my distant friend is that she is a woman of strong faith, so I could understand why her friend’s emphatic declarations that Christianity is an oppressive religious hoax might not have sat well with her.  She privately approached her friend and their subsequent exchange seemed to be less than positive.  Suddenly their past, which was grounded in affection for each other, came a distant second to the differences they experienced because of their race.

I listened to my friend’s story where she confessed the constant numbing sensation to apologize for her Whiteness.  Once she concluded her venting, she seemed certain that her and her friend’s relationship would never be the same.

I could see the discomfort and the angst on her face.  It was neither White guilt nor Christian self-righteousness.  It was simply the look of someone who was genuinely sad to have lost a friend.

Her discomfort stayed with me.  It didn’t seem sensible that race had essentially killed an otherwise fruitful friendship.  Foolishly, I tend to believe that a middle-ground can always be reached.  Call me a dreamer, but hearing that the two friends parted ways seemed like the opposite of what needed to take place.

Our country, and each of us who reside in it, could benefit from intimate conversations like the one that these two women dared to have.

Conversations that question how many Southern Whites demand that we overlook the illegal enterprise in which their ancestors defended (for their own livelihoods) but can’t forgive Blacks who sell drugs for the same purpose.

Or dialogues that question whether the Confederate flag coming down could, or should, have a greater impact than if Blacks stopped calling each other n-ggas?

I don’t have the answers, just plenty of questions.

Meet a Black Dude (but it’s not a dating site)

A few months ago, I had an idea to write a series entitled, “Meet a Black Dude.”

It came to me in April, after a police officer in South Carolina shot Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man several times in the back as he ran away from him.  Like millions of others, I watched the hazy cell phone video of the incident more than once. I didn’t have to be there to see the vacancy in the officer’s eyes as he raised his arm in direction of Mr. Scott. I didn’t have to be there to understand the indifference that pulsed through one man’s body as he took the life of another.

“Got him,” he probably thought once Walter Scott fell to the ground, proud of the civil duty he had done that day.

Each time the video was featured during a segment of the 24 hour news cycle, I kept wondering why the scene rang so familiar to me.

Vacant eyes.

Raised arm.

Shots.

Clearly, no empathy for the life that was lost.

I dared not say this aloud at the time, but the visual of Mr. Scott’s murder felt similar - too similar - to the senselessness in which lives are taken every day in Chicago’s streets.

The White racist cop and the Black gangbanger together raise their arms with no remorse.  Another day, another n-gga dead, they both surely think without a second thought.

My mind shifted from trying to understand the perpetrator to needing to understand the archetype of the victim.   I wanted to understand why it is so easy for everyone – from racist cops to Black corner boys - to ignore, despise and so easily dispose of Black humanity?

As a person living in Chicago, this question stays on my mind, as gang violence presents a far greater threat to me than being the victim of an interracial hate crime.

As a result, I initially decided that I would use this blog to present as many counter-images of Black people as possible.   My primary assumption was that misperception is the biggest threat to Black Americans, and if the most successful television shows are any indicator to the world of what Black Americans might be like, then clearly the best that we have to offer are our:

Music moguls, who are bankrolled by the drug trade (Empire)

Business moguls, who are bankrolled by the drug trade (Power)

Our hyper-sexual, morally- compromised females (Too many shows to name).

Or Olivia Pope.

However, my chance encounter with my friend reminded me that any real dialogue on race has to stretch beyond one set of cultural boundaries and experiences.  For that reason, I decided to name this upcoming series of cross-racial interviews, We Hold These Truths, in honor of the ambitious yet greatly unrealized document that helped to conceive America, the Declaration of Independence.

In my first Q&A, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to talk to a journalist whose work I have followed for some time.  He is a bouncer turned sports columnist who loves hockey, his wife and the city we both call home… Chicago.

I’m happy to introduce to you, Evan Moore.

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    Kay S

    Kay Smith is a Chicago-based freelance writer and blogger who focuses on race, politics and urban culture. Having worked on public policy at the state, regional, city and community level, her opinions have been featured in the Chicago SunTimes and a host of news websites (under very mysterious sounding pseudonyms). Follow her on Twitter @kaywillsmith or contact her at kaywilliamsmith@gmail.com.

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