An Earnest Conversation About Race

The first thing I heard about the Michael Brown shooting was this: A white St. Louis County police officer shot an unarmed black kid with his hands up. And the first thing I thought was: I knew this would happen eventually. 

And the fact I thought that – regardless of your faith in the grand jury decision, it does seem to have been more complex than this – troubles me to the core. 

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I am a middle-class, middle-aged white man who lives in the St. Louis suburbs. I do not pretend to understand what it is like to be black in America; that would be ridiculous. I have never been a victim of discrimination. I was never given the evil-eye at Famous-Barr, or suffered a hundred other far worse acts of pettiness and violence. 

But insofar as racism I n St. Louis is between blacks and whites, I’m at least half of the problem. So please hear me out. I will be sincere, I will be candid, and I will be respectful. 

Because as a white man who pays attention, I see the tension between blacks and whites all the time. I have heard enough stories of racism involving county police officers to know it happens, and is probably pervasive. 

But I must also point out that a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by blacks, and that this is certainly part of the problem. And when I do, many of you will stop reading. Hell, this may not even be TRUE. But I can tell you that every white person I know believes it is. 

And herein lies the thing about racism: It doesn’t matter if YOU think it’s true. It only matters if THE OTHER GUY thinks you think it’s true. 

It doesn’t matter that I think as highly of the black people I interact with every day as I do of the white people I interact with, or that I think black people who are jerks are any worse than white people who are jerks. Because the black people I interact with may very well think I have a problem with them because of the color of their skin, and that sours our relationship. 

So this is what I will be writing about, for as long as it’s productive or fun. Hopefully it will be both. 

An Earnest Conversation About Race