How to End a Conversation about Race in America
The situation in Florida where a guy who was of one particular race shot a teenager who was of another particular race is getting a lot of attention. It seems like maybe the police didn’t investigate this situation fully at the time, and now it’s become a national issue.
When there’s a national issue that involves two different races, there are certain politicians, celebrities, and media outlets that think it is time for a “conversation about race in America” (in quotes because that’s the phrase a certain news network uses).
The problem with a “conversation about race in America” is that a lot of people who claim to want this conversation don’t really want two-way communication; they want to lecture.
I know people don’t really want conversations when they cut me off in mid-sentence to refute my point when I haven’t finished making my point, and my point pretty much agreed with their point but they were too eager to make sure their point is heard so they miss my point.
That’s why I don’t like conversations about race (or politics, or abortion).
Writing about race (or politics, or abortion) is different because nobody can cut me off in mid-sentence to refute my point that I haven’t finished making yet. They might stop reading. They might leave nasty comments. They might try to get me fired from my own blog. But they can’t interrupt me.
I can’t stop talking heads on cable channels from having counterproductive conversations about race in America (you know, that freedom of speech thing), but I can choose to stop these counterproductive conversations from messing up my normally peaceful life.
So, if I choose not to participate in the “conversation about race in America”, that means I need a way out. If I say out loud, “I choose not to participate in the national conversation about race in America,” then people will wonder why I am defensive and what I’m hiding. So I need to not participate without appearing like I’m trying not to participate.
And I have a way.
I tried it once a couple days ago, and it seemed to work. A person was talking about race in America (and making others feel uncomfortable or angry) at a social gathering. I let the person finish his point. I smiled (hopefully it didn’t look fake). I maintained eye contact.
Then I said, “I understand what you mean.”
I took a quick dramatic breath (to show I was going to speak again).
Then I said really loudly to everybody, “Hey, what do you guys think about Peyton Manning going to the Broncos?”
Others leapt at the new topic, and the tension in the room dissipated almost immediately.
Talking about race in America can be uncomfortable, and most of the time nothing good comes from it. It’s a sensitive subject, better written about than spoken.
But if somebody is absolutely bound and determined to start a “conversation about race in America” with you, and bringing up Peyton Manning can’t divert the course, I’ve got a back-up topic for you.
“Hey, what the heck are the New York Jets going to do with Tim Tebow, anyway?”