A letter writer made two key points in a recent letter titled “We need more diversity in viewpoints.”
She made reference to “our paper recently had two white male guest columnists writing to ‘educate’ us on racism.” That reference may have included me.
I don’t need to know what she looks like to read and consider her opinion. Perhaps The Herald-Zeitung could reassess adding contributor photos to guest columns so that only the words written are considered without the risk of introducing subliminal bias.
If she did include me, I would respectfully propose she revisit my last two columns.
In neither column did I assume the role of educator. That’s not my job. Opinion columns are introduced into the public arena of ideas for consideration and to encourage civil discourse.
I do not insist anyone agree with me. I respect your opinion as much as I hope you respect mine.
I agree with her 100% that the value of diverse opinions for addressing any problem, particularly racism, is incalculable. In a previous column provided a blueprint for my personal conduct and what I can do individually to support the fight against racism.
There is a bit of irony in the letter. I believe we can agree all people should be invested in addressing the injustice of racism. Referring to us as white men does not necessarily encourage the diverse communication of ideas or proposed solutions.
That sends the message that white men and white women should lower their expectations for success in their efforts to fight racism. This is not encouraging nor is it beneficial.
We cannot expand diversity if we “uninvite” a potential group of contributors with diverse ideas. That’s counterproductive to the cause.
Being white does not diminish my understanding of sympathies of the heart. As human beings none of us are the gatekeepers of certain emotions.
To believe so is to risk destroying the potential of what we can accomplish together. Most of us have experienced the forces of hate, unfairness, injustice, disrespect, rejection and emotional warfare. This is shared commonality no matter the color of our skin. We should not miss the opportunity to build on this mutual experience.
Her making the declaration that, “This is a conversation that cannot be dominated by white men if we hope to build any understanding about how racism is affecting our society and what roles we all need to play to work to eliminate it,” misses the mark.
I have never tried to dominate anyone in the free exchange of ideas. If I did, it would no longer be a discussion. It would become my personal manifesto written to kill any conflicting opinion or idea. That’s not what I do.
Being referred to as a white man in the above context has given me a taste of what it’s like to be judged by the color of my skin. I didn’t appreciate it. I am not equating that seemingly insignificant incident with the historical horror of slavery.
And I’m not being overly sensitive either, that’s just how I perceive it. No one wants to be judged like this and it is unfair for us to do it to one another.
I envision a time when we stop doing that and get down to the business of making life better for all of us, without exclusion. And regardless of the color of our skin.
I believe that anything is possible if we want it bad enough.