Though I've worked alongside and had them as neighbors a good part of my life, denying there's often been a missing element in my relationships with black people would be dishonest. That missing element? Genuine and sustained conversation about race and privilege.
I've got many of the badges I've sometimes noticed white people wear as racial bona fides. For example, black folks have shared important moments in my life - one of the speakers at my retirement celebration was a close colleague for over twelve years. He and his wife have been to my home for dinner; they're not the only African-Americans my wife and I have entertained. If that colleague or any other black person with whom I've had close and prolonged contact reads this post, I sincerely hope they are not hurt by what I say here. At the same time, I would be surprised if any of them were taken aback.
A few months ago, NY Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof began a provocatively titled series: "When White People Don't Get It". Kristof's words have stung me, angered me, educated me. Most of all, they've lingered with me. Several times, soon after finishing his column, I started then abandoned a blog post - my insights felt meager. But with every breaking story, avoiding race in my tiny corner of the blogosphere has started to feel evasive and dishonest. And once again, I suspect I'm not alone on the bell curve. Anyone in my mostly white world want to talk about the last genuine conversation you had with a black person about race and privilege?