I think our recent discussion about interracial friendship has struck a collective nerve because I’ve never received as many emails and comments as I have about this topic. So, while the topic is larger than hair and identity, I’ll keep blogging about it! The interesting thing is that many of the comments reflect discomfort about WHAT to say. Because of that, folks may not say anything. On the other hand, a lack of thoughtfulness can cause people to make hurtful comments. Below I’ve copied what I hope is an insightful exchange about how we can learn to talk about our differences. The conversation took place last night / this morning:
Blog reader: Thank you for sharing. You know I've struggled over the years of what questions to ask and how to ask questions. Your post about teaching children to ask questions reminds me of the many times my students are whispering among themselves. It turns out they are just afraid to ask me a question about me that is "racially" based. I think if we continue to remain afraid to ask questions about each other then we prevent moving forward and beyond race.
Tina: Agreed, thanks for your comment. There is a way to ask questions. All too often people ask very ignorant, hurtful questions and cause incredible damage. My point is not to never ask questions but to educate yourself and be sensitive when you do ask questions. Also, it would help to ask questions of people with whom you share a bond. It is inappropriate for a stranger to ask me, "Is that your real hair?" That is private and none of their business. Plus, if they got to know me they'd soon learn about my hair for one and many other things. See the difference? I think people just haul off and say / ask things without thinking through the repercussions.
After a few additional moments of reflection, I added this:
Tina: something else just struck me. When we value someone and want to ask questions, we prepare our questions beforehand. For example, if I want to ask Fred, my parents, my sisters, friends, my boss, a student something, I don't just let whatever comes to my mind come out (usually!). This is because I want my question to be thoughtful. I think part of what rubs me the wrong way is that many of the ignorant questions I've been asked reflect a lack of preparation and forethought. In such a situation am I being valued as a person or merely being viewed as a curiosity to be explored? I can tell you that it feels like the latter. I also don't see a need to move beyond race. Would we say move beyond gender? I don't think so. If what you mean is that we need to get to a point where people are judged based on their behavior, character, etc. I agree wholeheartedly. But, I am opposed to the notion of a post-racial society as I just don't think that will ever exist. Why might God have created different hues in the first place? They are beautiful we just have to learn how to value each other.
What do you think? I’d love to hear from people who have alternative points of view. I think sharing our unique opinions will help us develop a community of understanding. God knows we need that in this society where vitriol often rules the day.