What a fantastic article! Thank you so much for sharing. Geez, I wish I had been in the congregation when it was given. I’ll be the first to admit that I am one of those “helpful white people” who wants so badly to be a black advocate that I trip over my own feet. I’m still guilty of it, though after doctoring in a low socioeconomic, black community I have a better idea of what white privilege looks and feels like. I’ll also be the first to confess that my feelings *are* hurt each time I’m called out. Today, however, I can nurse hurt feelings myself without having to justify to a black person that, no really, I’m one of the “good whites.”
I think it’s important to identify that there’s more than cultural ignorance at work here; both participants must also understand the contribution of basic human psychology. Psych 101 would help whites understand how our sense of personal injustice hijacks and smothers hope of change. Like myself, good whites are proud of our “non-racism,” and it’s human, not white, psychology that becomes defensive when a black friend shows us the egg on our face. Human nature defends itself when called out, *especially* if it’s hard to see, and *especially* if someone is angry. Does the Angry Black Person have every reason to be pissed off? Yes, but keeping said anger in check is a cost of meaningful conversation; it gets cashed in with the swallowing of a white person’s pride.
Ways of combating this unfortunate aspect of human psychology include the Socratic method, irony, and self-reflection, which is why Jon Stewart’s comedy is so successful. The average person, however, sucks at it. This means truly progressive conversations about race will be time-consuming and rare. This means a majority of American society lacks the psychological maturity to even even bring a chair to the table. It’s not an easy journey, for either side of the road, but I think each generation gets closer to driving in the right direction.