• author
    • Debra DeAngelo

      Columnist
    • August 21, 2015 in Columnists

    Without real communication, our biracial marriage is doomed

    I must always remember that when I say “A,” some people will hear “B.” Such was the case last week, when I asserted that white Americans yearn to have a conversation about racial tension with black Americans, but the recent explosion of pain, anger and frustration from the Black Lives Matter movement intimidates little old average garden-variety liberal middle class white folks. Our heart says, “I want to help…” but our brain overrides it, goes straight to the mouth and says, “Zip it!”

    Why? Well, sometimes when we try to chime in, we’re shut down with “White privilege!” enough times that we think twice before making further attempts. Also, we do really stupid stuff like ask to touch black people’s hair. (Just don’t. It’s super lame.)

    However, if we don’t feel our fear and speak up anyway, judging by the trajectory of our racial unrest, we’re driving ourselves further apart. What is the goal: catharsis or solutions? And as I mentioned last week, whites must be on board with changing racial discrimination because, like it or not, we’re still the voting majority and also because U.S. history confirms that most white folks with an IQ higher than room temperature will support equal rights for one and all. We aren’t all racist jerks. To believe so is also prejudice.

    That’s where I was heading last week, and I hear it sparked quite a kerfuffle on the Davis Enterprise’s comments section (aka the tenth circle of Hell), including one intrepid detractor who confronted me on Twitter, and declared my position invalid because it didn’t match his (well, DUH, we aren’t the same people) and then waged a counterpoint with a column of his own.

    Oh, silly rabbit. Be careful which sandbox you climb into. Some of us don’t play nice.

    He began his column by noting that he read my column, which is something he shouldn’t do.

    Really? You’re going to open a conversation with a slap?

    Tsk-tsk.

    Here’s the difference between me and him: He shouldn’t read my columns. I don’t read his columns.

    Boom.

    Yes, that’s the sound of a mic dropping.

    Anyway: His final salvo was to ask, rhetorically of course, if I had been to the three — THREE! — meetings on racial issues that were held in Davis.

    Davis!

    And that is the sound of my head banging, slowly, on my desk.

    Davis? Really? How about we just hold the meetings at Disneyland? Besides the fact that I didn’t even know about those meetings because (and I know this is going to come as a huge shock) what happens in Davis isn’t the center of the fucking universe, I wouldn’t have attended anyway, because middle-upper class white folks talking with other middle-upper class white folks about how to improve the lives of black people is simply preposterous. It’s one notch above “liking” the Black Lives Matter Facebook page, reposting a meme or two, and calling it a day.

    Whew. Civil activism. Damn hard work.

    Have your meetings in beautiful, downtown Oakland, and then they might mean something.

    White people talking with other white people about black issues is not what I meant by “joining the conversation.” I mean a real, come to Jesus, down and dirty, lance the wound and drain the pus conversation. Feel the hurt and say it anyway. Until everyone can speak what’s on their minds and in their hearts, there’s little hope of improvement, let alone change.

    Imagine, if you will, that black and white Americans are a couple coming in for marriage counseling. White will play Husband and black will play Wife because, historically, white/male has enjoyed the bulk of the power and perks in this country and, until very recently, saw nothing wrong with this.

    In our scenario, Husband is one cheatin’, lyin’, abusive S.O.B. He sleeps around, comes home drunk, and should Wife object, a swift pop across the mouth takes care of that.

    Well, Wife has had enough. She’s not putting up with this abuse anymore. She’s worked up her courage, she’s been to seventy dozen self-esteem support group meetings and she deserves some respect. And, if Husband doesn’t shape up, she’s gone.

    Except: a plot ripple. In our scenario, divorce is not an option. They must work it out. Marriage counseling begins with Wife communicating all her pent-up pain — a complete cathartic inventory of all the ways Husband has mistreated her, and Husband, you must to sit there and listen to every word. really listen, not just slump in the chair, pout, nod, and think about baseball. There will be a test: You must be able to repeat what Wife said about how she felt. You must demonstrate a true understanding, without argument or judgment.

    If you do this, Husband, and you still have a soul, as your brain hears the words coming out of your own mouth and the magnitude of your bad behavior sinks in, you’re going to crumble in shame and regret. You’ll likely have real tears of remorse. You’ve been monstrous, and you finally get it. So, you apologize. Deeply. Sincerely. And then (and this is key) you change your behavior. You go forth and abuse no more.

    Wife may be skeptical at first, but that’s understandable. Just keep on changing until she can relax and learn to trust you.

    Now, Wife, before you wear yourself out whooping and cheering, you have some work to do too. Husband may have some things to say too, and you will also have to listen and repeat. But more important, if Husband is trying his best to change, you must stop shrieking “Cheater!” in his face or eventually he’ll just give up. Husband must change his behavior, and Wife must diffuse her resentment. If Husband is trying his best to waltz and Wife insists on continuing to do the cha-cha, it’s gonna be one ugly dance.

    So, here we are, in the counselor’s office. Husband and Wife. It’s time to decide: Do we want to learn to love and appreciate each other, and have our happily ever after, or do we want to remain locked in perpetual misery? It’s our choice.


      • Madgew

      • August 21, 2015 at 1:41 pm
      • Reply

      Great column. Also have to give up wanting to be right. . Do you want to be happy or right?


      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • August 21, 2015 at 8:12 pm
      • Reply

      Gorgeously put and absolutely true! Whites must absolutely own what we as a group have done (while giving ourselves a break if at least we’ve tried) but at the same time, being reviled even after we’ve woken up and tried — and I mean really, really tried — to make things better truly does make us slink, slump-shouldered, away in defeat. Further divisiveness gets us nowhere and crushing people in revenge doesn’t make any progress at all…



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