*When a white man called into C-SPAN to speak with Heather McGhee, an African American woman who was a guest on the show, and is president at Demos Action, a progressive public policy organization advocating for equality, he asked a question that I don’t believe he realized was profound. He asked, how can I get over being prejudiced? First of all, note that he said “prejudiced” not “racist.” We all know that the two words are different, as a racist is backed by a systematic power structure; whereas anyone can be prejudiced.
Even Black folks.
“I am a white man and I am prejudiced. The reason is it wasn’t something that I was taught, it was something I learned. I have these different fears and I don’t want my fears to come true.”
This is how the caller from North Carolina opened up the conversation.
He concluded with, “What can I do to be a better American?”
I was glad that McGhee, who was visibly moved by the callers words, opened her response to this man, thoughtfully, by acknowledging his honesty (and thanking him for it) in posing the question. And further, reminding him that it is precisely this question, or topic, that we in this country need to address.
Thank you so much for being honest, and for opening up this conversation because it’s simply one of the most important ones we have to have in this country. We are the most multiracial, multiethnic, wealthy democracy in the world. And so asking the question you asked, how do I get over my fears and my prejudices? is the question that all of us, and I would say of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds hold these fears and prejudices; most of them are actually unconscious.
The video is below, and you can watch and come to your own conclusions but some of the things McGhee suggested in her response to the gentleman’s question was that he should get to know Black families. She had suggested he stop watching the nightly news (and actually chuckled as she apologized to the host of the show where she was guest, but they said “technically” they are not a news show).
She told the man that by meeting Black people he would see that not all of them — nor even most of them — are involved in any kind of crime. She reiterated how the news shows over represents crimes in the Black community; while they under-represent crimes that happen by white people.
McGhee told the caller that he should “join a church if he is a religious person” (no doubt, and I hate to say it, you too will have a flash back about the last white person who gained a level of fame from an incident in a Black church).
The beautifully poised and effortlessly articulate sister continued her response by suggesting the caller read about the history of African Americans in this country; and to really work to foster conversation — both in his own family and his neighborhood, “where you are asking those same kinds of questions.
McGhee mentioned how this is still a racially polarized country. And how many white people live in communities where there are no people of color, so the fear they may have is based on what comes from “the worst possible news” — the media, “is tearing us apart.”
McGhee concluded saying how surprised we all are when we actually do develop cross-cultural relationships. This is so very true. In my own environment, where I have several businesses and great opportunities to engage with people of every race, ethnicity and social status, I often witness effect we have on each other following a conversation.
And that effect is usually quite profound.
Watch the video, viewed more than 1 million times on Demos Facebook page, below.