Category Archives: Conversations on race
My World Talks
I’ve been seeking out opportunities to talk about race for a couple of years now, and last night I had the opportunity to be part of a planning group for a discussion on race scheduled for next month. John Mark Eberhardt convened the group – he’s the director of The Steward’s Staff, a new non-profit organization that works on building leadership among youth. (www.stewardstaff.org)
The group that met last night was fairly diverse – about equally mixed male and female, black and white. One gentleman was from Belize, which will be interesting, since his experiences around race have been very different. Most of the group was young, well, except for me, of course. (I guess I was the age diversity!) Most of the other conversations I’ve had about race have involved older people, and it will be interesting to see how age impacts the conversation. I’m assuming it will different because even just last night I noticed a few things.
While I can’t prove that it’s an age difference, I noticed that the group seemed less tense than other groups I’ve been in when the topic was race. I don’t think that all of the members already knew each other well, so that wouldn’t account for it. And of course we were mostly talking about planning the discussion, rather than our own experiences. But still, with older people, I sometimes get the feeling that there is a vast pool of feeling – so much hurt and anger – just under the surface. Even if we don’t actually tap that reservoir, I think I can feel it simmering. When we do tap into it, the feelings may erupt in a passionate outburst, which can be very powerful and moving. I didn’t sense that last night, although that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
I think the group last night was more hopeful, which is exciting and energizing for me. They’re realistic enough to know that there are huge problems, and that we don’t have the solutions, but they don’t seem wary of being disappointed.
We had some interesting discussion about whether or not we wanted to involve “experts” in our upcoming conversations. We decided to start with a more experiential approach – what are your experiences, what are you feeling – rather than giving information, which I thought was wise. At the same time, they recognized that there are so many misconceptions and so much misinformation out there that giving information will be helpful at some point.
So I came home really excited about what we’re doing. I offered to help set up a blog to be used to continue the conversation that will be started in the discussions. (Although really, I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s not like I have any technical expertise. But John Mark looked at me and kind of nodded, like, “oh, you have a blog, you could do this,” and the next thing I knew I’d volunteered.)
But it’s also inspired me to start doing something with this blog! I have a really clear image of what I want it to be. So I’ll put my committment in writing – I’ll add to it at least once a week. And I’ll learn to post pictures and do links and all that neat stuff too!