I’m White.

#blacklivesmatter #uncomfortableconversatioswithablackman #writingcommunity #susanstrasserblog

The recent murders of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks have turned my country upside down. Here are a couple of things I’m doing to re-educate myself about racism lately.

Matthew Mc Conaughey wants to know how to do better as a white man. I myself want to be a better white woman. But more on Mc Conaughy later.

In Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section, writer Tre Johnson’s article entitled “When black people are in pain, white people join book clubs,” he describes being pulled over with his grandfather when he’s 10; being 22 and having flashlights shone in his eyes; being 36 and having an officer tap on his car window while he cries.

For Johnson, watching news about George Floyd felt like he’s 10,16, 22, and 36 again. That the pain that racist America renews for him as a black man.

But for his white friends, he describes their discomfort as deferred through email, blogs, and social media feeds filled with book recommendations, such as this trending “This” caption with inspirational links, photographs or quotes encapsulating white privilege.

I agree, Mr. Johnson, I’m going to try something new. 

So I watched the Senate Judiciary hearings the other day on police use of force and listened to prominent senators and congressmen and women discuss chokeholds and no-knock warrants.

I started watching the hearings in my home office live on my ol’ desktop, but instead of logging off and checking out when it was time to start making dinner, I turned them right back on. My handy-dandy iphone and its accompanying stand in the kitchen are quite portable, go figure! I watched glimpses, listened, and rinsed vegetables.

I chuckled at Sen. Graham’s seemingly “getting woke” over the explanation given by Doug Logan, Jr., President of Grimke Seminary, over the importance of building relationships with your constituents.  Mr. Logan explained that the best police for a community would not only build positive, meaningful relationships within that community, but also would come from that community! (Guess Graham hasn’t heard of the gripping autobiography 13 Days in Ferguson, by Ron Johnson?) (Or in general, isn’t aware of the model for any human services position, state or nationally elected official, or any job these days where how you work with others is almost more important than the work you actually do???)

The hearings introduced me to contemporary prominent black professionals, such as S. Lee Merritt, an emerging leading attorney in the United States for social justice causes. Or mayors such as Melvin Carter of St. Paul, Minnesota, just 20 minutes away from hotspot Minneapolis, where of course George Floyd’s life was taken… almost a month ago now, hard to believe!

Also, I get email newsletters from a couple of Substack authors that spark new ideas for overcoming my own white discomfort with racism. 

One such curator, Jae Hermann, recommended another, Shelby Erickson, and the next thing you know, I’m watching a new youtube episode of ex-NFL player Emmanual Acho’s series entitled Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man that Erickson had suggested. 

Two weeks ago, I didn’t know who Emmanual Acho was. 

Anyway, for this episode (no.2; no. 3 was released this morning, check it out!) Acho interviewed Matthew Mc Conaughey who voluntarily and enthusiastically, learned from Acho about how to begin to process the social injustice in America from a black perspective.  

After Acho answers his questions, or offers insight, Mc Conaughey responds repeatedly, “Heard.”

Just that one word: “Heard.”

And Acho just rolls with it 

Don’t we all just want to be heard? 

What Mc Conaughey and Acho model here is yes, navigating racism, but also how to have a civil conversation with another human being.  

You know, we have dinner at our table almost every night. My son(5 yrs old) and I like to talk a lot, but I try to manage us so that my daughter (9 years old) and husband’s voices have an opportunity to be heard as well. 

The kids didn’t know that another black man had been killed by police, so I told them about Mr. Rayshard Brooks the other night. I told them about watching the Senate hearings the other day, and how a bill is being created to be made into law so that the senseless murders of black people will stop.

My daughter said, “That’s good.” 

And my husband chimed in, “So maybe we won’t have anymore of these someday,”

So, not the flash of Mc Conaughey and Acho, but we’re starting.

And I commit to keep looking for opportunities to be uncomfortable, to learn, and to find compassion for myself and others. White and black.  

-Susan Strasser


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