I read a note on Twitter yesterday wondering “how to ask” about race? I suppose it depends on what color you already are and who you are asking, but let’s suppose you are white and the other person isn’t. Any shade of not-white will do the job. From a light tan to a rich deep brown, not white is not white. Just your average person in one of the various colors that make up skin on this planet.
Colors are not white or black and I have yet to meet anyone who is gray. White isn’t a human color, nor is black. We are all somewhere in between. I don’t even think albinos are truly white, but a very light version of what ought to be the original color.
We are all shades of pale to dark brown, ranging from fish-belly (me) to dark olive, light tan, to sort of pinkish with levels of blotchy. The freckles of youth turn to liver-spots in age, and some skin conditions cause blotchiness. In the end, though, skin is the largest sensory organ in the human body. Eyes, ears, nose, and mouth can see, hear, smell, and taste … but every single inch of your skin can feel and in various way. Skin is sensitive and discerning and I don’t believe it makes the slightest difference what color it is.
So, if you want to talk about race, why don’t you try asking someone who isn’t the same color as you how it feels to be them? How are they dealing with one more outrageous act of systemic racism? On the other hand, if you hate them because they don’t look like you, maybe you should skip conversation and get your attitudes adjusted. THEN have a conversation. Hatred just isn’t a good place to start.
The easiest way to talk about something is to want to talk about it and have someone with whom to talk about it. If you don’t have any friends of other colors, then maybe you should deal with that issue first. Lectures, book, seminars, and podcasts, not to mention television news — doesn’t really give you a meaningful grasp of even the basics of the subject. If you really don’t know how to have a conversation, that’s a different problem.
If you live in an entirely unicolor area, maybe you should become part of an activity that includes people of other races. Find someone who seems sympatico and get a bit friendly. You might be surprised at how much you have in common. It might be a hobby — photography? movies? history books? Star Trek? video games? Of how much you love/hate/don’t know what to do about our so-called government, drugs, parents, grandparents, teachers, boss, taxes, judges, police, umpires, or referees are a fine starting place
Once you scratch off the surface color, what’s left is humanity in all its extraordinary facets. You might form a great friendship or fall in love. Or start an enterprise.
Ask. If you aren’t a bigot or racist, you can start conversations with a complete stranger as long as you are polite, non-aggressive, and really interested in the answer. That’s how I’ve made many friends of all colors. I wasn’t rude. I was simply curious and interested and it turned out, they were curious and interested right back. You just never know about humanity until you’ve tested a few different oceans, lakes, and streams. It’s all water. What’s really different is its temperature, saltiness, and how many rocks are on the bottom. And how your feet feel about that.
I’ve always been interested in peoples’ backstories. What their lives were like. What churches they went to and how they felt about it. Their relationships with school and the arts. What things made them laugh or cry. Curiosity can take you far in this world, at any age.