Part of what it means to be a minority in America is that it never gets to be about you.
Even when something happens and you think that this time surely your experience will be heard and understood, the conversation will still be guided and shaped by the dominant culture because that’s what dominant means.
I wish we could gather up all the white people in a huddle and say, “Hey, y'all, how about this time, we let it be about them? About their feelings, their experiences, their fears? I know that many of us mean well but maybe this time, we could stop defending and stop explaining—God, the explaining—and just listen.”
Not all white people are well meaning; but for those of us who really think we are: Just this once we could stop saying, “Yes, but.”
Yes, but that doesn’t mean it was racism.
Yes, but we’re all God’s children.
Yes, but white people suffer too.
Yes, but you should focus on these facts, not those.
Yes, but what about the white people?
Yes, but don’t feel that way.
Yes, but don’t make me feel uncomfortable.
When we do that—whether it is on social media or in conversations—we essentially make the conversation about us.
You know how crummy that feels, right? When you really want someone to listen to you, but every time you bring things up, they hijack the conversation and make it about them? When everything you say just reminds them of something they want to say? And you just want to scream, “It’s. Not. About. YOU.”
That feeling? Yeah.
Later we can say what we want to say, if we still want to say it. The conversation about race can still be a dialogue with more than one side. There is still room for all of us. But for once, we can say to our black neighbors—whether they are friends and acquaintances or public figures—“You have the floor. We’re listening.”