*Are white people capable of understanding the plight of the African-American community? This question usually revolves around in the mind of well-meaning white people, but they never know what to do next. Naturally, this is a difficult stance given the 200 years of oppression the African-American community had to endure.
Well, any black person will advise white people to form an authentic connection or an understanding with them first. This could also mean empathizing with them to the extent that white people can see the world through the eyes of a black person.
That being said, it is also important to understand why so many among the white community are completely oblivious to the black experience. Imagine yourself in the place of a white person who has a black friend, coworker, or neighbor. These people will find no problem in sitting together and kicking back a few beers, but bringing out the piñata of multiculturism can be really awkward. They will never talk about how they can’t find a dermatologist who advertises his/her expertise in terms of brown skin. Nor will they ever mention their last experience of discrimination.
Talking about race issues makes everyone uncomfortable – not just well-meaning white people. Most will launch into political rants, some will bristle and some may simply nod along, while others will be stunned into silence or just change the subject. This is exactly why almost every individual in the black community has learned not to bring up race issues in a social circle. The typical message they receive upon doing so is that they should never do so again.
So we’re back to our very first point. How can a white person really understand what a black person goes through? Naturally, social distance isn’t an option as it clearly perpetuates withdrawal, suspicion, and a broken system of pain. The good news, however, is that white and black people can always learn to understand one another. It will take an amount of care, effort, and patience on both ends. It won’t be easy, but it will definitely be worth it.
What should a white person expect from such a relationship? What do black people really want? We want you to understand all the harm that is caused by discrimination. We want you to embrace all the cultural differences and simply tolerate them. We want you to celebrate our strengths and beauty. We want you to cry with us whenever hatred and racism wins.
We want to be able to connect with you as both – different and the same.