How I Talk to White People About Racism
Clay Rivers

A major problem, in my opinion, is that white folks in the United States do not have the prerequisites of study to have serious conversations about racism. This means one must always expect to start the conversation at a remedial level — and sadly, usually one will not find this to have been in error.

This puts people of color in the unpleasant circumstance of often having to teach a racism 101 class, then prove it’s not fiction, before heavy conversations even start.

By contrast, people of color tend to have absorbed those prerequisites from birth — so it’s possible to have a much more nuanced dialogue that feels much more like it’s going somewhere.

On the one hand I want more white folks to stand up and speak out about racism; at the same time, our voices are already given all kinds of signal boost over others, and what I really want is for white people to just finally get on with their racism 101 homework without waiting for someone to make them do it.

How many generations of people of color must gain competence in how to talk to white people about racism, before white people en masse start to make it a priority to gain competence in talking with, and listening to, non-white voices?

Thank you for this piece — and for continuing to do the thankless thing that I’m sure feels fruitless at times, too. I believe it does matter and it does reach people.

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