People who have experienced racism often tell me, “I was scared for my life and then I met people who were really nice to me.”
But I think many people still feel intimidated when meeting with someone who is not their own kind.
In my experience, people who have not experienced racism in their life don’t have much of a sense of how to approach white people.
How do I feel comfortable making friends with a white person who is unfamiliar with me?
Do I have to start by saying, “Oh, I’m white”?
Or do I say, “How are you?” or “I’m sorry, but you’re not?”
And how do I tell a white friend, “You are not welcome here?”
How do we all begin to feel comfortable meeting with others of a different race, ethnic group, or culture?
We have to take time to think about what is appropriate for us, and what is not.
People who do not experience racism usually don’t realize that they need to work with their own cultural expectations.
They may be surprised to learn that there are many ways to feel safe with white friends, and to learn how to use those experiences to cultivate new friendships.
How can we talk about race without making others uncomfortable?
When I first met a black person, I was nervous.
I wanted to know how they were feeling about meeting with me, and I wanted them to know that I was a good person.
When I started talking to them about race, I realized that they didn’t feel the need to tell me how they felt about meeting me.
That was a huge step in their relationship, and it opened up conversations.
I hope that this experience, along with others, can open up the conversation about race and racism in America.