Why Do I Write About Race?

Why Do I Write About Race?

In case you’re wondering what an elder White woman might bring to this conversation

“Why do you care so much about race?” a White acquaintance asked me once. “I mean, it doesn’t really affect you directly. You seem a little obsessed. What do you get out of it?”

Yes, I guess I am somewhat obsessed with the topic of race, although I prefer to think of it as being passionate and focused. ’ll be grappling with these questions for as long as I’m able to speak and write, but for now I’ll share briefly my reasons. This is why I care and how I’m affected.

The heart reason

My husband and I lived on the road in an RV for 15 years. We travelled around the country facilitating workshops and dialogues on racial justice and healing. Now there are Black women, men, youth, and children that I love in every part of the U.S. They are my teachers and my friends. My heart is torn and battered by the racism my Black friends experience day in and day out. It would be unbearable to stand by idly while loved ones are being hurt. My heart demands that I do something.

The spirit reason

The central teaching of my religion, the Bahá’í Faith, is the oneness of humanity. We are directed to eliminate all forms of prejudice and build a society founded on justice and unity. We’ve been given explicit guidance on how to create authentic relationships between Black and White Americans. Because I’ve committed my life to these teachings, my soul demands that I strive continually to make a difference.

The mind reason

Here’s where my passion/obsession gets really fired up. I can explain it best with a story, taken from the book my husband and I co-authored.

“[When I was in my 30s] I attended for the first time a workshop that directly addressed the dynamics of racism. There I saw a documentary that explained how stereotypical images of African-Americans had been intentionally created by the media.

To illustrate their explanation, the filmmakers used excerpts of cartoons from the 1950s — the same ones I had watched after school and Saturday mornings throughout my childhood. I knew exactly what would happen next in each animated scene; my memory of the images was so vivid that I heard myself saying out loud what was coming, describing to the others in the room what each character was going to do seconds before we saw it played out on the screen.

It was as if I’d just found out I had a mind-control chip implanted in my brain — only this was my real life, not some science fiction horror movie. In an instant everything changed from theoretical to personal. I realized that those images had been dished up with my milk and cookies and fed directly into my hypnotized brain as I sat on the floor in front of our TV.

My mind had been poisoned without my consent, and the pictures were still in there, manipulating me subconsciously, robbing me of the freedom to choose my own thoughts. I was shaking with rage by the end of the workshop.” (Longing: Stories of Racial Healing, p. 70)

How could we White people think that racism doesn’t affect us? Our minds have been — and are still being — manipulated by toxic conditioning that dictates our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. I want to be free of that control. I want to choose what I think, feel, and do based on my true priorities and convictions. My mind demands that I reclaim my freedom to make those choices.

What do I get out of it?

This is what my acquaintance wanted to know, and I think his question was sincere. I can tell you that the benefits, blessings, and rewards are far too many to recount here. You’ll find examples scattered throughout the stories I’ll be sharing.

For now, though, I’ll say this: When I speak and write about racial justice and healing, I know that I’m doing what I’ve been called to do in this world. And given the chaos, confusion, hopelessness, and doubt we’re all immersed in, that’s no small thing.

photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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