Talking to Black People

So, I’ve been waiting a bit to share this to make sure I processed it right. I never let my anger of any emotion guide me to a conclusion on anything (to the chagrin of many).

Now that I’m calm, her are my thoughts:

So the other day, I was at a community meeting regarding housing. Once of the presenters was a young brother. I could tell he was a young brother. I could tell he was college educated, by his verbal flexing of political buzz words that he seemed to impress himself with. (I am not against college educated people. I just think in today’s times college students are not getting a balanced view of the world.) I mean he used every cliche in the book.

Since it was my first time at this series of meetings, I just closed my mouth and opened my ears. As he went on, he began talking about Black homeless people. It was right up my alley, so I was all ears. He was trying to explain based on what he was told in a book why there are so many African Americans on the homeless spectrum today. He covered the routine reasons of the day. Systematic this, systematic that, institutional this and that. I knew the answer was a simple one, based on what I saw in parts of my city growing up, and what I’ve seen for 20 years on the ground. Clearly he did not remember the 80’s when crack flooded our communities. In some some of these were people who were lower middle class to just above or below the poverty line. When crack hit, these folks did not have far to fall when it came into play. Which helped drive up the numbers of our people ending up in the street because they were disenfranchised addicts, when they lost everything faster than their more well to do counterparts. Then they committed crimes, many times of a violent nature to support their habits, which got them locked up and on an endless cycle.

I wanted to chime in, but he was feeling his presentation so much, I just couldn’t. As he continued he said to his fellow workers. “We need to train all of you non Black people on how to talk to Black people, when trying to reach them.”

It caught my attention and irked me a bit. But I kept my lips sealed. He then said (and I’m paraphrasing) “We must ensure that you speak to Black people in a certain way and we will provide training on this to keep you from unknowingly intimidating them with your privilege.” Or something to that effect. Now, my jaw becomes tight and my blood begins to boil as I pan the audience, which was diverse, but mostly white males and females. The most engaged and gripped by this were the White members. I continued to listen to be sure I wasn’t misunderstanding him. When he said it the third time, I almost stood up to say something. I did not want to be rude. In trying to build relationships, one must not come off as confrontational right off the bat. Even with the best of intentions.

The speaker after him stood up and began echoing the same. At that point I had my fill of identity politics. I stood up and walked away.

As a Black man, I want everyone to hear me on this no matter your race. This is how you deal, treat, reach out to or talk to a Black person, no matter where they are educationally, socioeconomically, or just in general.

Talk to me as you would want someone to talk to you.

Do not try to “relate.”

Do not patronize or talk to me like a child you feel sorry for

Be respectful

Don’t be fake

Do not be condescending

Be the best part of your authentic self as you would anyone you respect as a human. You don’t have to search yourself for bias or privilege before you respect as a human. You don’t have to search yourself for bias or privilege before you deal with me. Just follow the golden rules.

Just treat me, my wife, my kids, my brother, my nieces, nephews and friends as you would treat yours, unless I give you a reason not to.

I’ve been reaching out to Black people for 22 years and have helped many doing just that, by being the best part of me. I’ve seen people from other backgrounds do it as well, if not better, just by being decent.

Woossaa…Now I feel better