"Do You Hate Black People?" Part 2: Hope & My Naiveté
I very recently said, “The last thing the world needs is another goddamn straight, white, middle-aged man talking about how to fix or even address issues of race and gender inequality.”
I should have taken my own advice.
When I wrote yesterday’s post about my wife’s encounter with a mother trying to convince her son that not all white people hate all black people, I should have refrained from adding my commentary at the end. That commentary—that love conquers all—was not posed as a solution to racism. But, in the context of the post, it does come off as, at best, laughably naïve and, at worst, offensive.
People who have grown up amid rampant and systemic racism affecting every aspect of their lives surely don’t all agree that love always conquers hate. After all, there’s no shortage of love in the world and yet that hate still exists, nay thrives.
In fact, I hate, too. I hate how the world is right now. I feel powerless to overcome it. And my kids know it shouldn’t be this way. So, I fill myself with hope—hope that it will change, that it will get better. And that hope keeps me from just accepting that nothing can be done. That’s where the commentary at the end of the post came from, a place of hope.
But, hope doesn’t stop a bullet.
Though I still believe love conquers hate, this is a much more complex issue and it won’t be solved with greeting card platitudes. As I said in the first linked post above, the best thing I can do is listen to people affected by social injustice and then take the appropriate actions they suggest.
My wife was at the market when she overheard a black woman arguing with her pre-teen son. The woman emphatically repeated, “It’s not true! It’s just not true!”
The woman then led her son over to my wife and this conversation followed…
Woman: Excuse me, may I ask you a question? Are you what’s considered white? Wife: Uh… Yes. Woman: And do you hate black people? Wife: God, no.
The woman then turned to her son and said, “See? Not all white people hate black people. Your friends are wrong.”
My wife immediately felt simultaneous senses of heartbreak that any young black kid would believe that and hope that this interaction could, in some way, help. But, she knew anything she said would seem outweighed by the countless acts of murder perpetrated upon black youths week after week. Even hearing it from someone standing right in front of you doesn’t compare to visions on TV of dead black children lying on America’s streets.
My wife told the young man about our boys’ best friend, whose dad is black, and how we consider their family an extension of our own. (Admittedly, it’s a version of the “some of my best friends are black” cliché, but in this case it directly applied.) She also talked about the many other people of color in our lives that we love. She said to the boy, “I’m white and I don’t hate you.”
The woman thanked my wife, then guided her son on their shopping errand. My wife felt as stunned as she imagined the other mother did. She thought, Is this what is happening? Is this what continues to happen in 2014? And far more chilling, Is this what children think the world is supposed to be like?
My hope is that the boy felt stunned, too—stunned that, despite violent and unjust evidence to the contrary, there’s an overwhelming number of people who care for others without stipulations, without allowances.
To that young man, wherever he is now, I want to say this:
Yes, hate exists and it seems powerful, but it isn’t. It’s weak and petty and fearful. I’m white and I don’t hate you. Because love is strength. In fact, tell your friends you are each loved by many, many strong people of all races, all colors. And I want each of you to know that love conquers hate. Always.
“Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.”—Judy Blume (via thelifeguardlibrarian)