You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Can’t “Make” It Stop Being a Racist
Clay Rivers

Oh my — so much to respond to! First of all, I appreciate the boost although with everything that’s wrong in this world, please don’t ever worry about me. I bounce in and out of the quicksand regularly, as I’m an eternal optimist with maybe too much empathy…interesting combo. :-)

I agree with everything you say, of course, and for clarity’s sake my main focus in life is on dehydrated horses who are at the watering hole, heads down, licking the surface but not quite drinking. I recognize that you can’t just shove a feeding tube down anyone’s throat.

I dare say that the very term “white privilege” (as in, the specific name, as you note) overwhelms some people, if my own initial response is any indication. I was already pretty far ahead of most white people I know in terms of awareness when the phrase came into being, and my initial response was, “Wait, what? I don’t have that!” Obviously it didn’t take long to unpack it and realize that yes I do too, but I know a fair number of people who will readily acknowledge the pieces yet continue to deny the package. I’m thinking these folks have the most potential but, again, dreadfully slow going for me at least. You are clearly a more patient person than I!

Your comments about self-incrimination and/or guilt do have me thinking about the concepts more generally. I have long recognized that saying sorry is invaluable and that preserving a relationship is more important than being right, but I definitely wasn’t always this self-aware (and still far from perfect in application :-)). But generally speaking, people — or Americans at the very least — are so obsessed with egos and perfection. We give our kids awards for breathing!

I have written some “kindler, gentler” pieces on white privilege where I’ve implied that “it’s something we’re born with, much of it is beyond our control, but we can make a difference!” I’m thinking now that perhaps I should try to talk directly about how our feelings of guilt limit us.

When you reference the “potential costs of fixing what’s broken,” I would actually argue that the costs of not fixing it are far greater. What the average white person gains in our daily lives from white privilege is far less than what the average person of color loses. But what we all lose in terms of our humanity? Incalculable.

Take care of yourself, Clay.

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