We Need To Have A Conversation About Race

Come at me, bro!

In 2016 an African-American behavioral therapist in North Miami was shot by police as he purposely laid on the ground with his hands raised.

He was trying to help his autistic patient who’d created a disturbance in the street.

With his hands still raised, Kinsey asked the responding officer, “Sir, why did you shoot me?”

To which the officer replied, “I don’t know.”

Deciding whether to engage in conversations about race and racism is much like deciding how you feel about sex.  Continue reading “We Need To Have A Conversation About Race”

Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

For many, Juneteenth symbolizes what the fourth of July means to most Americans = freedom.

We celebrate Juneteenth today– June 19th.

On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, Union soldiers landed with the news that the war had ended and enslaved black people were now free.

This news came more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation, which became official on January 1, 1863, had had little impact in Texas.

According to General Order Number 3, General Gordon Granger made the following announcement:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.  Continue reading “Why We Celebrate Juneteenth”

Perspectives on Race #7: Vern From New Jersey, "Just My Thoughts"

We need to have a conversation about race.

What frustrates you the most about racism and/or racists?
Vern: That they’re not willing to look at the other side. If you have a point of view about something—understand that someone else has a different point of view. It’s impossible for there to only be one point of view on anything. And for that point of view to be the right point of view. I don’t understand how people think that way. I’m sure there’s a quote that goes something like, “truth comes from the many, not from the few.”

Race: I prefer black.
Birth Decade: 1980s
Hometown: Lawnside, New Jersey

When did you first realize that your race mattered?
Vern: I always knew it mattered. I grew up in a black town. I went to black schools. My town– the history of my town– was rooted in black identity. The Underground Railroad runs through my town and the oldest building there was part of the Underground Railroad. All that history has always been around me. I come from the Still family of Philadelphia. The Stills are well known even today.  Continue reading “Perspectives on Race #7: Vern From New Jersey, "Just My Thoughts"”

Perspectives on Race #4: Cat, On Checking Both Boxes

We need to have a conversation about race.

Is there anything you’re curious about regarding someone else’s race?
Cat: “Most of my questions are for people who are monoethnic/ monocultural/ monoracial, and I honestly don’t think they can be answered. I just wonder a lot what it feels like to have a place you can go home to where there is shared context and experience.”

How would you describe yourself?
Cat: “I describe myself as mixed. This is the term my mother primarily used to describe my sister and me when we were growing up. As I got older and did my own research, it was the term I became most comfortable with.

While I will sometimes refer to myself as biracial in order to clarify my identity for others when they express confusion about my own terminology, it is not a label I use for myself often. I always use the language of black and white in reference to myself as well. This is mostly due to the racist roots of the term Caucasian and the nature of the term African American, which I do not feel is broad enough to accurately describe my family history.”  Continue reading “Perspectives on Race #4: Cat, On Checking Both Boxes”

Perspectives on Race #3: Anonymous in Maryland

We need to have a conversation about race.

Place of Residence: Annapolis, Maryland
Name: Anonymous
Race: Black or, if they make me do it, African-American.
Any other places you consider home: Charlottesville, Virginia

How would you describe yourself?
Anonymous: Muslim.

How would you define racism?
Anonymous: Allowing fear and ignorance to define how you judge people, based on their skin color, before you even get to know anything about that particular person.

Does everyone in your immediate family feel the same way about race? 
Anonymous: No, you can see generational gaps the most, and then you can see other gaps based on where they lived. But there is a general consensus of most of them regarding white people and money and politics.

How often do you engage in conversations about race with friends, family, or peers?

Anonymous: Unfortunately, I think it comes up way too often in nonsensical terms of Us vs. Them– and consistently comparing ourselves or spewing hatred for white people hating on us. It’s just too much sometimes, even when you know what’s based on. I’m also very very tired of being around all white people and all Christians in the sense of I’m tired of feeling like a minority. I’d like to experience what it feels like to be the majority.  Continue reading “Perspectives on Race #3: Anonymous in Maryland”

Perspectives on Race #2: Jamie, From the Midwest

We need to have a conversation about race.

How would you describe yourself?
Jamie: “
White American with strong connection to my German heritage, as many of our customs/language stem from my grandparents’ German upbringing. I’m also ‘25% Irish’ according to my dad’s family, but aside from my last name and a few small things, there’s not much impact in my life from it.

My mom brought us up in Christian churches (non-denom, Baptist, Evangelical), and while I am most familiar with it, I took a big step away from it. I’m at the ‘learning and waiting’ stage. Hometown is hard to describe, as we moved a lot and where I grew up changed a lot. Could be Milwaukee, Richfield, Menomonee Falls, Slinger.”

Name: Jamie
Race: White
Ethnicity: Midwestern German American
Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin & Slinger, Wisconsin
Place of Residence: New York City, New York
Any other places you consider home: Chicago, Illinois.
“I lived there in my first 9 years out of school, on my own, making my own world. Feels much more like ‘home’ than Milwaukee or Slinger (where my parents live now and where I graduated HS).”  Continue reading “Perspectives on Race #2: Jamie, From the Midwest”

We Need To Have A Conversation About Race.

Even if the conversation is futile (Part 3 of 6).

De jure segregation is deliberate, willful, race-based separation engineered by law (i.e. by legislation or state officials).

De facto segregation is race-based separation “by fact,” but it’s not orchestrated by legislation. The literal definition is “in fact” or “in effect.”

It is presumably innocuous, race-based separation resulting from everyday policies or processes.

De facto segregation still exists.

We find it in healthcare, in housing, and in schools.
We find it in the workforce, in churches, and in the Academy.
We find it in politics.

We need to have a conversation about race.

A good, long, Circle of Life, come-to-Jesus conversation.

We need to talk about power and privilege. The War on Drugs. The alt-right and undocumented immigrants. We need to talk about colonization, genocide, and the slaughter of the indigenous.

We need to have a conversation about race.

First: there is no such thing as race.

It was made up.

It was socially constructed. It was invented.  Continue reading “We Need To Have A Conversation About Race.”

We Need To Have A Conversation About Race.

Ain’t Gone Hurt Nobody (Part 2 of 6).

It started with flyers. Flyers that were advertised primarily to poor African-American men and were promoted in black neighborhoods.

By the time the experiment ended in 1972, 28 men had died of syphilis, 100 had died of directly related complications; at least 40 wives had contracted it, and 19 children were born with it.

It was presented as a health care program that would provide free medicine, free meals, free physicals, and free burial services for all participants.

A science experiment that began in 1932 with a partnership between the Public Health Service and the Tuskegee Institute, it was meant to last only six months.

It lasted 40 years instead. The decision was made to “follow the men until death.”

The Tuskegee Experiment lasted from 1932 to 1972.

The last living participant died in January 2004Continue reading “We Need To Have A Conversation About Race.”

We Need To Have A Conversation About Race.

Here, I’ll Go First (Part 1 of 6).

I was the odd man out at the staff holiday party, so I meandered over to the food table.

I wasn’t full-time yet, so I wasn’t sure whether I was welcome. I’d made that mistake once before and wouldn’t dare repeat it.

I looked around awkwardly for someone to talk to. Someone witty, or someone handsome, or someone who’d dominate the conversation so I could nod, smile politely, and eat my cheese cubes.

“My daughter moved back in with me. It’s just too bad because I was really looking forward to having the house to myself. I mean, I’m her mother, she’s always welcome. It’s just that…”

She stopped to make sure I was within earshot.


“It’s just that she shouldn’t have gone to that school. I tried to tell her, but she thought she knew better than me. She’s just so stubborn. And she’s just like her father. I mean not exactly, but enough. If he’d been there, he would have told her not to go to that school. He should have been there. School is expensive, you know! You shouldn’t just…”

Whew! Now I could relax. Let the nodding and smiling resume!

“Have you heard of them?”

I looked back up with a start.

“The band. You look like you’re about my daughter’s age. Have you heard of them? I mean, I don’t think you would have. They’re Irish.”

I wasn’t sure how much time had passed. I needed to re-engage. What had she said? A band? An Irish band?

“You’re about my daughter’s age. Have you heard of them? They’re Irish.”

I struggled to find the target, but then it came to me.

“The Script? I love them! I actually saw them in concert not too long ago. Are you Irish, too? I didn’t realize.”

(She’d mentioned it so many times, I thought it was relevant.)

She looked at me quizzically and rolled her eyes, “O’Brien. Obviously.”

I smiled politely. “Oh. Well, my friend lives in Ireland right now! I’m thinking about going to see her. Actually, one of my roommates in college went to Germany for a semester. I thought about visiting her then. I should’ve, but I didn’t.”

“It’s so drab there. Why Germany?”


She blinked.

“Gunter. Anjeanette Gunter.”

She blinked again.

Gunter is German.” I looked at her quizzically and tried not to roll my eyes.

She blinked again.

“Is it? Oh. I didn’t realize.”

We need to have a conversation about race. 

Continue reading “We Need To Have A Conversation About Race.”

You Don’t Get To Decide (Black on Both Sides)

We need to have a conversation about race.

I volunteered to help out with White History Month at my church.

I sat in on some planning sessions, and I wrote a few perspective pieces (from the perspective of white men and women) for the role-play.

Only a few people knew that I’d written them, so many were surprised to learn later that the perspectives were mine. My friends boasted that I was such a talented writer for fooling everyone into believing that they were written by someone white.

I smiled graciously.

They were easy to write. Before I was black on both sides, I was white.

When I was white, it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. It started because I was a square peg coveting circles.

It started because I stuck out everywhere, even when I didn’t want the attention. Even when race and gender didn’t play a role, I just didn’t seem to belong anywhere.

I struggled to build connections and make real friends. I struggled to find people who cared about me and cared about the things I was interested in too.

I wanted to be a stunt doubleContinue reading “You Don’t Get To Decide (Black on Both Sides)”