Tough Questions. Honest Answers.

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Several months ago, Dawn Turner Trice, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, started a new blog, called Exploring Race. She wants it to be an open forum, where readers write frank comments, where they can pose any question.

"We have a moment in history to have a national discussion about race," she writes. "We should seize it and try to mine it for what it's worth. I want this to be a safe place where people of all races can explore their views and biases, openly and honestly."

Do you agree with her? Is this the time for a real, honest dialogue about race?

In the first hour of our show today, we'll talk with Trice about her blog. Does she think that Exploring Race is working? What has she learned? We'll also hear from Gregory Rodriguez, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and Kathy Cramer Walsh, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin. Her most-recent book is called Talking about Race: Community Dialogues and the Politics of Difference. (You can read the first chapter from it here.)

When do you and your friends talk about race? What exactly do you talk about? How honest are the conversations? Do you hold back, why? What makes it such a hard subject for you? Do forums like Exploring Race make it easier?



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I am a biracial (black/white) 42 year old man from Phildelphia.

I've lived in Philly, DC, South Africa and now Oakland CA.

My comment is that it seems that many white folks are intimidated by the intensity of the feelings that you find in the black community. It's almost as if they hear the anger, but then don't listen to the words. Glenn Beck (from CNN) even said it explicitly when he said, about Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons, that he didn't need to hear the whole thing to know that it was hateful. If we don't actually listen to the words, how can we ever have a conversation?

Sent by Brian Jeffries | 2:15 PM | 5-8-2008

I am married to a man outside my race. I am white, and he is Latino, specifically a Mayan from Guatemala. Prior to my marriage, I dated a couple of men who were Latino immigrants as well as African-American men. It has opened my eyes and changed my world. I have dealt with racism on both sides. I also have to say, coming from a small town in South Georgia, I grew up in a very open minded area (though that may surprise you). We were about 50% white, 50% African-American. When I came back to New England to live, it shocked me how intolerant people are here, at times, about the fact that I am in an interracial relationship. I have had harsh, hurtful and ignorant comments, and we always get stares when we go out.
I think we need to have more dialogue about this. If I had not grown up in an open-minded community, I may not have had the background to explore dating other races, and I would have never met my husband.
It has absolutely enriched my life, as we speak openly about race, how it affects our lives, and how we can overcome the way we are treated by people in the outside world.

Sent by Christina Blanchard-Marroquin | 2:17 PM | 5-8-2008

Yes, Im angry, on a inexpressible, almost"cellular"level, that whites just dont get my anger and why its there. That we as people havent been compensated for the horrors and indignities of being enslaved by this country. That being discriminated against and seen, even today, as less of a human, is an outrage and a constant reminder. If Asian Americans can benefit from reparations, why not us? Yes, I an a successful integration in larger society, but this cannot stand and be allowed. Get this, white America@!

Sent by Meridien Afarensis | 2:20 PM | 5-8-2008

The rather horrid neologism "post-racial" always makes me think of a play I stage managed at Hampshire College in the late 1980s. It was a production of the South American play "Born in the R.S.A." One of the white actresses, a young Smith College student, said she couldn't be racist, because she was doing this play. I didn't say anything in response, but I had a strng feeling that she was deluding herself appallingly. How could she NOT be racist, growing up in America?

My second obeservation is that the new euphemisms we employ are obfuscatory and, rather than clarifying the issue of hateful speech, merely add to the problem. If we must say "The N-Word" or (for homophobes) "The F-Word," if we cannot speak openly about these slurs, how can have a free and open and honest discussion about the power of language?

Sent by Scott Ross | 2:21 PM | 5-8-2008

Wonderful topic!
1-our daughter is adopted from China. When her cauasion brother was wanted to know why she could never run for president. He wrote a letter to Congressman Dennis Moore to ask the same question. We recieved a stock reply...but we were pleased to recieve a reply and to find out that thre is discussion on this question out there.

2-This year we watched the Matin luther King special on that Holiday and our daughter (7) asked "I f I lived back then, would I be black or white?" of course she was asking how she would have been treated in the sixties, and we told her the truth-that she would have faced alot of predujice, but that we live in a smarter time now. We were quite surprised that she is thinking about these questions now.

She has very many friends of all races at school , but like your guest pointed out-what will happen when she invites a baoy of another race to the prom and the parents say "We're not really comfortable with you asking her out." We hope that day never comes.
Debbie Hanson,
Western Kansas

Sent by Debbie Hanson | 2:21 PM | 5-8-2008

I think the term racism needs to be defined here. There is a big difference in pre-judging someone or having feelings of xenophobia and actually thinking that whole "races" of people from disparate parts of the globe are inferior .

Sent by chris Devlin | 2:21 PM | 5-8-2008

I am middle-age, upper middle class Mom in Raleigh NC. I list in a mixed-race neighborhood and I found myself appalled at myself one day last year when I heard myself describe a new neighbor who had just moved in as the new "black" family that just moved in to our area...What...? Why did I feel compelled to say "black" family. Why did it matter? When I brought this up to my friends at my dinner party (all white), my friends could not "get" my point at why I was so appalled at myself. I'm ashamed. I don't want my two little (adopted Chinese 2 year old twins) growing up hearing Mommy feel like she she needs to describe in terms of race....ironic, isn't it?

Sent by Cindy W | 2:25 PM | 5-8-2008

We should all be allowed to coach our children to reproduce with others of our own race without being ostracized about this. Allowing race mixing is the reason for the downfall of public schools, sprawl, the increase of private schools and homeschooling, and many other costly issues today. This desire will never die. It is natural to want to reproduce with our own people, race mixing is forced and unnatural. Allowing this is the core of problems relating to race in the US. Friends is one thing, but if race mixing is accepted, we are forced to remove ourselves entirely from the company of other races.

Sent by bob | 2:25 PM | 5-8-2008

really recommend going to dawn turner trice's blog mentioned, and given too short a time, in the first third of the hour. at the end of her segment, a man called in who had been mistaken as a landscaper when mowing his own yard, whereas his white neighbor wasn't. people just amaze me. i hope he pointed out the hurtful nature of the question to the person who asked him how much he charges. i am an old non-druggie hippie who corrects people who think because i wear beads and velvet, that i do drugs; but then i am white, and know that i can point that out with getting beaten up...

Sent by hannah | 2:26 PM | 5-8-2008

There is so much racism WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY. Until black people are honest about their racism towards white people and recognize that it's the same thing, they won't move on.

Sent by Jameel Davis | 2:27 PM | 5-8-2008

There is a wide variation in attitudes across the country. When I moved with my daughter, who is mixed race, to Virginia, I was shocked at both the segregation around us and the incidents of racism we were subjected to personally. We moved to Oregon and have experienced none of those problems. I attribute this in part to the diversity of the west given massive immigration from Asia and Latin America, but also because the west does not share the same history of slavery and segregation. Now we take seriously the racial history and the diversity of the community where we live. I do not want that history to live on in my daughter.

Sent by Nicole | 2:30 PM | 5-8-2008

Although I am a white male, I was raised in a loving extended family full of Mexicans, Eastern Europeans, Filipinos and Malays. As such, I've been thinking about racism and prejudice for most of my life.

Examining history and a wide range of cultures, it seems like group prejudice is a constant feature.

Given that, I have often wondered to what degree suspicion of and differentiation from the "other" is built in to our brains. Obviously there are many built-in tendencies that, as civilized people, we have had to learn to channel or suppress. Nevertheless, if racism and discrimination have at their root a biological reality, it would seem efforts to moderate or unravel them would proceed differently than if they were simply a matter of miseducation or acculturation.

Sent by Lenadams Dorris | 2:30 PM | 5-8-2008

I think that many white people are not truly sincere in their interest in race relations. From what I've found as a white woman; actions speak louder than words, and most "race conversations" occur in a vacuum. People of color can tell when someone says that they are "open-minded" or that they "don't see color" yet segregate themselves in EVERY aspect of their lives.

Sent by Amy Brooks | 2:31 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a white blues musician and I have had the opportunity to be mentored by 85 year old black guitarist who thought I had sufficient talent to warrant his help. He and I (and my wife who is a middle school teacher) have had terrific, enlightening, and very frank discussions about his experiences with race. On a personal note I (and my mentor Floyd), have found musicians to generally be much more open with each other about race (and many other issues) than the public at large.

Sent by Bill Toll | 2:33 PM | 5-8-2008

I work with an organization called Everyday Democracy, formerly known as the Study Circles Resource Center. For nearly two decades, starting after the Rodney King verdicts, we've been helping people talk honestly about race - and in recent years, we've been working hard to help diverse people take action steps toward dismantling institutional racism, too.

You ask whether I've ever been able to talk honestly with people of another race. That's EXACTLY what we do - and we do it internally, as well as externally.

We invite NPR listeners to check out our tools for change at

Thanks for a great show!

Sent by Julie Fanselow | 2:35 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a person of color who had a very good white friend for three years who I lived with for a while too. I was so close to her that I thought we could talk about anything and our friendship ended after a very heated, honest discussion when I openly shared with her behaviors and comments that she had made that lead me to believe she had some racial prejudices and biases. She did not take this honest feedback well and ended our friendship even after I offered that we try to work it out. I was extremely hurt by this as a minority I have to learn how to live and work in the world of the majority and I asked her to look at the world through my eyes for a minute and she shut me out. Again driving home my point of privilege she can successfully shut out a minority but I can never do that I have to always compromise and work it out some how it is the world I live in. This experience left a very bad taste in my mouth as minorities always have to speak up and let race issues be know but the majority can pick and chose when they want to address or even listen to the issues.

Sent by Musonda | 2:36 PM | 5-8-2008

Good topic. I find it fascinating that we perceive huge distinctions where others from outside US don't see any difference. Examples: Black Americans who go to Africa on Roots journey - they are spotted as non-African in a heartbeat, and are often perceived as white.

Sent by Sharon Hoepker | 2:36 PM | 5-8-2008

I grew up in, what I believe to have been, an extraordinary time in an extremely unique place, Randolph, Massachusetts. While I was in high school, this solidly working class community was the most ethnically diverse and integrated community in the state and perhaps the country. The high school had over 30 languages spoken in it and students from dozens of countries in primarily Asia and the Caribbean.
Obviously the racial composition of this community was not always like this and the transition was not smooth. Racial tensions were present and continue to grow. Nonetheless, within the high school, amazing dialogue would unfold. Aside from the daily conversations about race, I was also involved in organizing several events that were designed to facilitate discussion about race between races. These discussions were fascinating and open the eyes of everyone involved. Perhaps the most amazing realization that I took from these activities and my experiences was that a safe forum for discussion of race could truly bridge gaps between people. I believe that dialogue and interaction are the only ways to begin to break down some of these barriers between different groups. However, once I left Randolph, I found that it was extremely difficult to talk about race, especially while I was in college where there was a major need for this discussion. A couple of years out of college, and transplanted to the East Bay, I still see a huge need for such dialogue and for forums to facilitate it.

Sent by John | 2:38 PM | 5-8-2008

I was facinated to hear Dawn describe my hometown of Evanston IL as one of the few integrated communitities in the Chicago area. My experiece of Evanston some 50 years ago was of a very homogenous WASP community- Catholics Jews and Latinos were rare and until I went to high school I never met a Black person. I currently live in Cambridge MA in a mixed race mixed class neighbor hood near Central Square - it couldn't be more different than the Evanston I knew. When I first moved there 30 years ago I loved my home but was uncomfortable in the way I imagine a non-protestant non-white non-middle class person would have been in my Evanston. It has been through my experience as a parent that I have been able to have conversations about race with people of all races I have learned importanly the lessons in my 30 years as a community organizer. But my greatest lessons have come from my family and friends. I find it easier to talk frankly with my children (biological son 22 and bi-racial daughter 14) and with their friends and families.

Sent by Martha Robb | 2:39 PM | 5-8-2008

Why is the label African-American used?
I don't call myself German-American.
If I'm white, why is there need to differentiate blackness?

Sent by Jack Hauser | 2:39 PM | 5-8-2008

When will we be able to truly treat people equally without regard for race?

My husband is in higher education and he has always looked at people as just people and recently he was told by his peers that he needs to treat specific people differently.

He is not American and came to me for help. I told him take equally is only a word not a reality. Do what your peers ask or you will be considered a racist.

Is is not racist to believe that say a black person needs more academic help then say a white?

Sent by Shannon Brooks | 2:40 PM | 5-8-2008

Race mixing is also called genocide in some circles today. It isn't hate, but love that wants to keep a race alive. Specifically, it took a lot of painful editing and sacrifice in our past for white people to come into existence. It would be a shame to loose that all the effort in couple of centuries unplanned breeding and lack of proper editing practices.

Sent by todd | 2:40 PM | 5-8-2008

I am 50 yr old white woman, went through the angry turmoil of forced busing in Wichita during the late 60's, and worked very hard to teach my children to treat ALL people with respect, as individuals and not judge based on superficial appearance. One daughter dated several black or mixed race young men, very few of which treated her as more than a sex object. One supposed black "friend" set her up to be date-raped by another man whom she did not want anything to do with. Ultimately she developed a long-term relationship that had progressed to marriage discussion with a young black man she met at college. When she became pregnant (because he refused to wear a condom,) suddenly marriage was off the table because his mother refused to attend! I was lectured by another female relative of his, that marriage shouldn't be rushed into, and his mere presence in my daughter's life was quite enough and nothing more should be required. This has caused a great deal of hurt, besides issues with her religious observance, but everything must revolve around whatever his mother desires, rather than taking appropriate responsibility for the child they now have. My question, is what is wrong with the expectation that a man who loves our daughter and their son, would marry her? I still believe that individuals be treated as worthy of respect, valuable to society, etc., but the experiences of our daughter have been full of the usual stereotypes laid on black men in our society. Why can respect not go both ways?

Sent by Brenda S. | 2:42 PM | 5-8-2008

I think people need to develop some thicker skin. It is not always about your race. But, hey, I am of Greek origin. It is not an insult if people assume I own (or my parents own) a restaurant. Neither is true but it is the heritage of my people! There is no shame in that nor bias if someone asks that question. On the other hand, I cannot waste my time nursing wounds about injustices my ancestors suffered at the hands of others. It impedes my progress. Bad things (slavery, imprisonment, genocide, you name it) to every group of people on earth. Slavery is not a black/white thing - there is a history of slavery between tribes of the same race in Africa and slavery among nonblack peoples as well. People who persist in revisiting the offense suffered by their ancestors are destined never to move into the future. For myself, I do not choose to continue (for example) to continue to be angry at Croats because they were awful to Orthodox Christian Serbs years ago. Neither do blacks who did not suffer slavery themselves help themselves by nursing that grudge.

Sent by Maia | 2:42 PM | 5-8-2008

I would like to recommend the book,"Discovering the Real America: Toward a More Perfect Union, by Lewis Diuguid (pronounced "do-good"),a columnist and Vice-President with the Kansas City Star newspaper. Mr. Diuguid's book, in part, reflects very vividly about the day-to-day encounters with racism, diversity and "white priviledge," and the discourse that racism envokes. The book is enlightening, disturbing, and revealing about America's struggle with issues of race.

The surprise is that we all can learn to deal respectfully with racism

Sent by Sharon | 2:43 PM | 5-8-2008

As a 63 year old white woman born and raised and now living in Cleveland, Ohio, surprising, my first honest discussion with a person of another race was in Vicenza, Italy, as part of a "consciousness raising" group required by the US Army. I was just shy of 30. In this group was a black man of my age who had also grown up in Cleveland but in the Hough neighborhood -- only a "stone's throw" from my east side neighborhood -- and had experienced things of which I had no clue. Since then I have availed myself of every opportunity to learn from those with different experiences from myself. The last instance being when I tried to counsel homeless men. In all of these instances I learned that all humans have more in common than their differences. Our small church in a "changing" neighborhood was hailed by our maintream denomination as an example of integration. We certainly tried; but I didn't feel we were successful. We were just so much better than our suburban counterparts.
we'll reach a "critical mass?"

Sent by Kathryn | 2:46 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a 42 yr old, white woman who started school the first year that our city was under a forced busing order for school assignment. I am also a southerner, and I talk about race with my friends frequently. Just yesterday I asked an African-American friend which she preferred- Black? or African-American? It was a great conversation, and I told her that for me, someone who has grown up in racially integrated schools (before "African American" was the PC term) it is MORE racially charged for me to have to stop and think ,"Do I say Black? African American?" It's the same as someone calling me 'caucasian'. It sounds over- thought and tentative. We ALL tiptoe too much, and don't give each other credit for being what we are---humans in various shades of the pigmentation scale.

I will also say, that everyone in my family of origin used the 'n' word, and I do not, and never have that I can recall. I believe that we owe it to each other to think and evolve. I never hear that word any more within my own family, or my circle of friends.

Sent by Phyllis Fulton | 2:46 PM | 5-8-2008

I was fortunate to be raised in Hawaii just after statehood and to live in Japan in a year in the early 60's. In each case I, a white female, was a definite minority. I learned a great deal about others when at lunch and talking with my friends. I learned about discrimination in Japan when I was repeatedly shoved into walls and had people to refuse to speak to me because I was an American and the wounds of WW2 were still raw. I think because of these experiences I understand more about Rev. Wright's comments. I now live in Idaho and miss the racial mix and the energy this provides a society.

Sent by Judith Lombardi | 2:47 PM | 5-8-2008

Thank you to Mr. Rodriguez for finally saying it: "They may have been mean to you because they are a jackass!" Why does everything have to be defined by the group? Especially with this latest election: Millions are voting for a woman regardless of her qualification just because she is a woman. How many people actually HEAR what Barak Obama is SAYING -- most people are stopping (either for him or against him) at his skin. I've met some white people I REALLY hope I'm not judged to be alongside, and that goes for any "group" I'm a "part" of. There are good and bad people in any group. Thanks, Mr. Rodriguez!

Sent by Lynn | 2:48 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a young U.S born Latina and sadly enough continue to lose count of the amount of negative experiences encountered on a daily basis due to the color of my skin, hair & eyes. As put by someone I look "too Hispanic" therefore automatically get stripped of the American way of life. (whatever that means?) I'm viewed as the typical 'illegal' as forever portrayed by the media. I have had the opportunity to have deep discussions with only a handful of people regarding race. It was therapeutic however a very hurtful experience. We've been taught to hold back discussing race issues in our homes, schools & jobs. It's very taboo...Some of us are just born with it(inherent discrimination)and some will not.

Sent by Sarita | 2:48 PM | 5-8-2008

Creating guidelines for discussion are important, but often the guidelines just reinforce the "culture of niceness" that we have around the topic of race. Sometimes the guidelines perpetuate not really talking about it.

Sent by Ann Schulte | 2:49 PM | 5-8-2008

Senator Obama has inspired me, a 25 year old white suburban woman, do go to the poorest areas in cities in Indiana and Wisconsin. I put aside the notion of an imaginary boundary between our two worlds and started knocking on doors. I went to the forgotten areas of cities with boarded up windows, areas that the snow plows don't go. The dialogue I have had with poor black (and poor white) people about our differences and the worries and dreams we share has left a permanent impact on who I am and will be. Senator Obama speaks of reconciling our differences and getting to know those people that history has long separated from us, and because of him many of us already have.

Sent by Kelly in Illinois | 2:49 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a white woman living in white America. I was listening to Talk of the Nation and wanted to join in this discussion, especially the question, have you ever talked to a person of another race about race and if so, what did you learn?

This came up for me most recently about five years ago at a diversity conference. I was in the minority for a change, and found myself surrounded by hundreds of brown faces. I heard their voices.

I was astonished to learn that people of color are often discriminated against on the basis of a cultural-sounding-name--that studies have shown that if a business gets a resume with a name that sounds African-American, they are less likely to interview that candidate.

I was also astonished to find out that a person of color can be more qualified for a job than a white person, and the white person will get the job. Worse yet, studies have shown that a white person with a criminal record will be hired before a black person with impeccable qualifications and a perfect background check.

I didn't know this was happening.

The other thing I wanted to address was my own personal prejudices. I wish I didn't have them, but like one of the callers said, they are there. They are subtle. They aren't surface, they're somewhere deep down.

For example, at the same diversity conference, one of the speakers was talking about how children of color are more likely to get disciplined in school. I was a substitute teacher at the time and I fist thought, "No. I don't do that," but as I considered the issue, I realized that yeah, I do. What happens is, as a substitute teacher, I try to learn a few names quickly--then it is easier to remind the rest of the class not to wiggle or speak out of turn if I have a name to call. Without any intention of harm to these children, I was choosing their names to remember because they are easy to distinguish in the mostly white classrooms I teach in.

Over the next several years I made a conscious effort to remember other children's names and not go for the obvious, that is, work so that skin color is not the first thing I see.

I am pleased to report that last year when I was subbing for kindergarten I was helping a group of children assemble a construction paper project and realized as I sent a little boy to his chair that I had succeeded--I had not noticed his skin color while I was helping. I saw him as an individual first.

That took a lot of work on my part, and a recognition that I DO have prejudices, and the people of color aren't making up the discrimination that they feel.

Another thing that happened to me many years ago that I shared at the diversity conference and that I am still ashamed of is that I was babysitting a beautiful little brown-skinned infant. He nose got a little snotty and needed a wipe, and there was a part of me that went, "Eeewww, I don't want to touch it." I would not have felt that with a white-skinned baby. I did not and still do not know where that sense of revulsion came from. As I said earlier, I am so ashamed. I do apologize to the people of color for these underneath-the-surface prejudices that I am not always aware of, and I pledge my commitment to recognize and overcome them.

I really appreciate this type of forum for open discussion and hope that we can continue as a nation to appreciate and understand one another.

Sent by Sylvia | 2:49 PM | 5-8-2008

I believe that we have confused the term "accommodation" and "assimilation". As a woman of African descent (I refuse the term "black" because America is the only country that describes its people as a color) I have experienced overt racism. I do carry the anger of generations of ostracisation and racism and brutality that have crippled my people.

BUT...I also have an extended Caucasian family. And so, my anger must be tempered. It does not mean that I assimilate- give up my cultural identity and adopt that of the majority. But maybe we must learn to accomadate-accept others for who they are, not what cultural group they belong to.

The emotional chains are harder to break. And the hurt runs deep on both sides.

Sent by Lynn Hatter | 2:52 PM | 5-8-2008

The problem is that most white people don't understand how racism from the 60's and 70's affects several generations of blacks educational, economically, etc. Black people on the other hand can not let go of pass racism and look at the white population as a whole and not individually.

Sent by Cedric | 2:52 PM | 5-8-2008

In 1972 I landed in the Chicano Theme house at Stanford University. I was white, protestant, blonde, and naive. Through painful dialogue with Mexican American students from all over the United States, I learned that people with non-white racial appearance and alternative ethnic backgrounds--not to mention different class backgrounds--experience the world differently. I married a dark-complected Mexican American man and have continued to learn about racism watching him negotiate with the world over the past thirty years.

Sent by Tamis Renteria | 2:55 PM | 5-8-2008

I'd like to encourage white Americans to take more responsibility for examining the concept of race and the machinations of racism. Part of this is trying to get at and understand what it means to be white in America, rather than merely focusing on defining the characteristics of OTHER "races." The mainstream media coverage of Rev. Jeremiah Wright unfairly put the responsibility for explaining racism and reactions to it on Wright and Obama. As historical beneficiaries of the many legal and social privileges of being white, white people (of which I am one)should fully participate in listening and learning about other cultures and experiences.

Sent by C. Bond | 2:55 PM | 5-8-2008

I am 47 years old and grew up an "Army brat", exposed to different races and cultures my whole life. I joined the Army myself in my 30's. During a training school, there was a young man in my class from Compton, CA. One day during a "bull session" he stated that he never knew any white people until he joined the Army. It amazed me that I never thought about the fact that there would be black people who never knew white people, although it was never surprising to me to meet white people who never knew a black person. How self-centered we can be!

Sent by Erika Pracht | 2:56 PM | 5-8-2008

My background is Chinese-Canadian. Two days after Obama's race speech, I blasted a white friend who asked why I was ok with Obama referring to "typical white", when I'd excoriate anyone who referred to "typical black/Asian". I explained that "typical white" doesn't have centuries of put-downs and dehumanization behind it, and that if he'd ever read up on racism's history or sociology or psychology, he'd know that, but the fact that he'd never bothered was a symptom of his white privilege itself. Dealing with other people's misconceptions based on his skin color wasn't a regular occurrence in his life. And by never educating himself about racism's history or ongoing impact, he was making me have to educate him, and that was also a symptom of his white privilege.

What'd he do? He listened. He agreed that he was comparatively ignorant about all those things. He asked me to recommend reading material to get him started. Our friendship is much stronger because we both put ourselves out there.

I've recommended two things to him:

1. Kate Harding's recent essay at
(money quote: "As a white person, I haven't been sensitized to covert racism by a lifetime of experiences. Unlike a person of color who has no choice but to see and feel it every day, I actually do have to "go looking for it"; my privilege could otherwise allow me to go through life believing it doesn't exist. Because I care about being anti-racist, I do go looking, do make an effort to educate myself about patterns of racism I wouldn't automatically recognize--and to question myself when my kneejerk reaction is, "Oh, come on--I'm supposed to believe that's racist?"

But because I'm white, I also have the option of not looking any time I don't feel like it. That's what privilege is. It's the option to ignore nasty shit that doesn't directly affect my own life, my career, my relationships, my bank account, my social standing, my housing situation, etc.")

2. Witnessing Whiteness, by Shelly Tochluk

Sent by Siri Louie | 2:58 PM | 5-8-2008

I am an angry African-American male over 60 years of age; a product and (activist)survivor of the Civil Rights era when there were candid conversations about race.
We African-American people need to get off the race/identity bus, reconcile ourselves with the reality that we cannot hold today's European-Americans responsible for the past. We should not disrespect ourselves and impede our progress while we wait for reconciliation or (god forbid) reparations. Wake up! Beware the race/identity pimps! Barack Obama, thankfully, represents our future where we do not have to limit our cultural discourse and conversations to race. The last time I checked, I think our planet is in immediate peril; people everywhere suffer from trans-"racial" poverty, disease, and ignorance. Thank you.


Sent by Rodney Williams | 2:59 PM | 5-8-2008

Phillipe Copeland is a researcher on culture and race in Boston who writes at I've appreciated recently his point of view on what he terms "psychologizing racism". It's not what we think that's important. It's what we do. The important thing is how power is distributed.

All the talking about talking can't do much more than distract.

Sent by Jeff | 2:59 PM | 5-8-2008

I am sad to say that each ethnic group is it's own worst enemy. Blacks (who keep changing what the wish to be called), Jews, Hispanics - until we all clean up our own, and stop labeling, we will never get along. In Charlotte NC, blacks are destroying our formerly great city with crime, habitual criminals. We have a black individual who has been bankrupt, sued, arrested, and I could go on. He just won a house race in the primary. How many of blacks did he arrange to have driven to the polls. Even my black friends said it was a travesty! Everyone take responsibility for yourselves and clean up your life, and get on with it. In my lifetime, there will always be racial tension. Has not changed at all since I was born in the '50's. I grew up with LEGAL immigrants as parents to love and respect all. Get over it, stop labeling, and get on. I have given up. I just don't care anymore. I will certainly not vote for Obama, not because he is black or whatever ethnicity. He is not qualified!

Sent by Dee | 3:01 PM | 5-8-2008

I worked for 10 years in a multi-race, multi-ethnic environment. Because of the long hours and demanding workload an overwhelming majority of us became as close as family over a period of time - notwithstanding numerous language, cultural and race barriers. We all openly acknowledged our differences and no one was oversensitive about it - these things simply did not have any effect on our respect for one another. I cannot believe that we cannot achieve the same thing as a society.

Sent by Joe Wilford | 3:02 PM | 5-8-2008

I ran a study's circle at my college during my Jr. and Sr. years. I believe that these discussions opened up a new world to all participants. Many students are guarded to the discussion of race during everyday events in life. I believe that many people feel that they can lose social capitol (much like currency for gaining and maintaining friends and networks) when speaking about race. That program was one of the few places where we could have people feel comfortable speaking to one another to without fear of losing social capitol. It is just much harder to get people who is not keen on the idea of having a dialogue which they may not be able to control or shape the dialogue to their own terms. One thing I did learn is that this program is not "preaching to the choir" because I did see many people butt heads during the discussion. Although there are still problems with the program itself we still need more of these types programs to help create honest discussion about race without the fear of reprisal.

Sent by Darrell B | 3:05 PM | 5-8-2008

It seems to me that it may be possible that all this continuous talk and obsession with race is only perpetuating the divide between races. Everyone gets offended or accidentally offends others, it doesn't make you a racist just because you offend someone. It may, in fact, not offend someone else of the same race. We can't spend our lives trying not to offend people, it isn't possible. This discussion sounds to me to be perpetuating the concept of white guilt.

Sent by Linda | 3:07 PM | 5-8-2008

White people love to think that only others are racist. We have a tendency to think that you are only racist if you are the member of the Klan or some other self-reflectively racist group.

We forget that racism is a systemic problem. When we are less likely to hire someone because they are Black or direct people of different races to different neighborhoods or when we do not want a child of ours to go out with someone of another race we are racist.

The problem has never been just a few White people who are hostile and belligerent. The problem is White people who have power because we are White and expect that we deserve that power. Yes, realizing that we are sinners is painful, but it is the first step towards reform.

Sent by Joseph Tolton | 3:11 PM | 5-8-2008

I'm angrier. Why must other ethnic groups experience prejudice from native born blacks (and whites) and then we are also expected to support their civil rights fight? Black people are very capable of racism too. My ancestors have absolutely no connection to the slave trade, they were in a separate part of the world, but I am expected to pay some debt the white people did a couple hundred years ago. Granted slavery and racism is human cruelty but I'm really sick and tired of the race dialogue being a black and white issue. When are we going to talk about reverse racism too? As far as I'm concern, this dialogue will not be ameliorated if we can't talk about blacks being racists as well.

Sent by Tomo L. | 3:16 PM | 5-8-2008

"She did not take this honest feedback well and ended our friendship even after I offered that we try to work it out."

Your opinion may have been honestly expressed, but that does not mean your opinion was correct, or that it wasn't profoundly insulting.

Under the same circumstances I'd walk. Life's too short to hang out with people who look for minor excuses to correct my world view.

Sent by Mike | 3:28 PM | 5-8-2008

I worked in a predominately Asian business while living in Hawaii.
Whether it was racism or cultural issues I was told I could not be invited to social events after work because their Japanese or Chinese father or grandfather did not want a caucasion at the dinner table.
Now I am the only caucasion working in a Chicago based office. The rest of the staff are African American. I am harrassed as well as the staff are just mean to me.
I am curious why is is acceptable for other ethic or culural groups to be racists but not Caucasions.
I can understand why someone who has faced racisms is angry.
But why is it ok for Caucasions to be expected to tolerate racisms and abuse?

Sent by Jannette | 3:34 PM | 5-8-2008

there is no productive dialogue possible between adults. it immediately degenerates into latent and not so latent prejudices and even open racism. Dialogue and education will only help those who are young and still impressionable. Racism and prejudice start at a very young age.

Sent by John F. | 3:34 PM | 5-8-2008

I've often wondered about the need for our nation to come to grips with the race issue by making an official apology for slavery and or to have some reparations for what we did as a nation in our past.

Sent by fred brace | 3:35 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a math teacher at Ansonia High School, an urbanized school system, in CT. The students of the Human Relations Club, have taken on many diverse issues and will be hosting a community prejudice conference on May 21, 2008. If you would like more information about the conference visit

Sent by Fred Borne | 3:40 PM | 5-8-2008

The reason people might often speak collectively about minorities is because they are minorities of the population. This happens with every group that is not the "majority." It is not some nefarious slight by white people.

Sent by Scott Millar | 3:53 PM | 5-8-2008

I have attempted to have an open dialogue about race with white Americans whom have asked to discuss it. As an African American male, I often find the dialogue trite and reactive. The conversation is often spawned after a news story or local social crisis - i.e. Barack's situation. Moreover, they're intrigued by the climate of the situation and use their position almost as a therapeutic/counseling session. It never leads to change because most are not in a position to do anything. It is often assumed that whatever the situation is, I have taken time to focus energy

I agree with the commentator that one cannot speak for the entire community. I am 34 years old and have obtained higher degrees. I do not speak for anyone but myself. For my generation, the Rodney King incident marred my perceptions about white and black relations. In addition, my family moved to the Georgia from a mixed, Suburban community in Illinois during my most influential years (11yo -- 25 yo). Southern whites have also affected my beliefs about racial relations. I have experienced real, deep-rooted discrimination and racial hatred.

Instead, of reacting negatively, I sought to find answers about racism. During my undergrad, I was involved in research that explored racial topics, particularly social interactions and authoritative personality traits. First, prejudice is not necessary a bad attribute. Prejudice is often about learned experiences, protective in nature. I now pre-judge my interactions with whites because of my learned experiences and react accordingly. Second, political correctness is not a good thing. Political correctness equates to social desirability -- meaning people give you a response they believe you want to hear. Dr. Eric Vanman, Georgia State University, does amazing research on this topic area. Dr. Vanman's research has found that what people often say does not always reflect how they may feel. That isn't healing, that is hiding. Third, those who have often been neglected and discriminated against are rarely the one's spearheading the discussions. Even in our Civil Rights efforts for integration, it was never about awarding equal authority or power. It seems racial issues become sidebar topics when the majority population feels the need to discuss it further. Even Barack's speech is sitting in a "parking lot", waiting for main stream American to decide if they're ready to discuss the issues. Lastly, everyone acknowledges that racism is real and hurtful, but no one wants to take the blame. Whites seeking to dialogue with me about racial issues often place situations into a distant timeline and separate themselves from the actions of other whites. I, also, believe that this same behavior is starting to seep into our mass media (i.e. The Patriot -- somehow, Mel Gibson was a "good" slave owner), and weed itself out of our history (i.e. banning books such as Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Uncle Tom's Cabin for the use of the N word). Just my rationale, but it is as if the majority population is trying to make African Americans delusional and hysterical -- in its truest psychological form -- for ever attempting to attribute blame for their American experience and discriminating engagements. Even worse, African Americans are now being labeled the "dividers" and "racists". So, we're to blame now. Go figure?

Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, and, now, Middle Easterns should not have to have short attention spans when they've been mistreated. Nor should we be pitted against one another to be majority populations "special interest" groups. A true dialogue on Race in America cannot be held without examining a people's retained experiences.

Sent by Shaan Trotter | 3:54 PM | 5-8-2008

to all the white folks who think there is a double standard and that racism and prejudice against whites is acceptable. It is NOT. Racism should not be tolerated in any shape or form, regardless of the target population. Prejudice and racism comes from individuals, not a collective group. Unfortunately, we all blame groups and not individuals for how we are treated.

Sent by Frank Simms | 3:57 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a Swedish physician who adopted two children from Ecuador. My daughter looks Hispanic. My son is African-Indian, brown skin,but black straight hair. I married a Jewish physician 1991 and live in a suburb of Detroit. My son, 33 years old, cuts his straight hair short, so nobody can tell that he has straight hair. He identifies himself as African-American, because that is how he is treated in the American society. Six years ago he married an African-American woman, who had 4 children. My son considers the 3 youngest children, whos own father does not care about them, as his own.
In 1960 I worked as a camp counselor for children from Harlem.
I have worked 3 years in the inner city of Detroit as an HIV/STD outreach worker in shelters, drugtreatment programs, beauty salons and prisons and talked with 14.000 people, mostly African-American women. I walked the streets and was never threatened.
I am sad that whites do not realize the prejudice and the unfair treatment of African-Americans. I talk about the rasism with whites and with blacks.
Statistics speak: African-American young men are sentenced more often and get a harder sentence than whites for the same crime. 1 out of 4 African-American young men, 20 - 24 years old, are in prison! 1 out of all African-American men will go to prison during their life-time.
My son has been pulled over by police many times. Once he was pulled over for no reason in a white suburb. He was hand-cuffed and thrown to the ground. His 5 year old son asked:"Why do you throw out my carseat and my toys?" The car was searched for drugs. There were no drugs. No wonder that my grandson now has prejudice against white policemen! And Whites.
There is also a reverse rasism with mistrust from African-Americans.
Read the history of this country and you will see that African-Americans have reason to mistrust Whites. I do not only mean slavery and lynching. The Tusgegee medical study went on from the 1940ies to the 1970ies, a study where African-American men with syphilis were followed without treatment. They were told that they had "bad blood." Unethical! Rasism!
African-Americans have reason to mistrust whites.
Whites have very little to fear from African-Americans. Crimes in the African-American society is mostly crime and violence against outher African-Americans and has its roots in poverty, discrimination, poor education, unemployment in a society where the only income for a black young man may be dealing drugs.
We need to talk about the rasism that is present everywhere in the society. If we do not recognize the problem, we will not be able to find solutions. The most important issues are higher minimal wage, organized childcare, safe and good schools and health care for all.

Sent by Lisbeth Nordstrom-Lerner, M.D. | 4:01 PM | 5-8-2008

I agree with Tomo. Reverse racism is as prevalent if not more so then white racism. I am as un-racist as possible, but quite frankly I am beginning to resent white people being labeled "racist" by half-baked, illogical conspiracy theorists every minute on every issue and I don't have time to weed out the real racism. Besides this, it is never addressed that minorities are equally "racist" if not more so then whites. At this point in history I argue that whites are the least racist group in the USA.

Sent by Scott Millar | 4:02 PM | 5-8-2008

Tomo L. You are right. Racism has solely been about White and Black relations. I, personally, think the dialogue you're suggesting caught some momentum, briefly, after "9-11".

Sent by Shaan Trotter | 4:11 PM | 5-8-2008

Too little time is devoted to discussing and resolving race. Thank you for hosting the topic.

Barack's speech broached race for 10 seconds, but Reverend Wright is overwhelmingly disparaged in the white-controlled media for weeks. What is that disparity about? Race? Hatred? Fear? Ignorance? Anger? Frustration?

Whites fail to ask or care how Wright came to his point of view. Nobody acknowledges Wright's anger at a country that has been unfair, unjust and disrespectful to blacks and other minorities for hundreds of years.

Whites took the U.S.A. from native Americans. Whites brought black slaves to the U.S.A. against their will. These are difficult topics for whites to own. Why do whites sweep these atrocities under the rug? I'm not going to forget and neither are you.

I'm biracial, 47, and people have told me that my size and presence intimidates them. I've been asked far too many times whether I played football. I now say I'm a retired ballerina when I'm asked that question.

On the other hand my sister's eight-pound dog isn't intimidated by me so why are full-grown adult humans?

White friends have told me that blacks need to get over their racism. Whites of current generations claim they are not racist and they are not responsible for the past transgressions of whites against blacks. A little defensive aren't we?

I've never had a good discussion with whites about race. It's a topic whites prefer to avoid in my experience. My white father did not talk to me about race and what race meant to him. He referred me to Gandhi, King, Buddha, Gibran, etc.

I attended a black university and the experience is not easily translatable into an experience whites will appreciate, understand, or care about. But attending black university has been a pivotal part of my life. I identify with that experience more than anything else because I came to understand that while I walk in the white and black worlds, I belong to neither. In a way I've been freed from having to label myself as one thing or another. Hmmm.

Please read and think about Ralph Ellison's *Invisible Man*.

Race is always in play. I've been expected to be a team player when I've worked in white corporations. Things worked well when I played by the rules, smiled, and stayed within the undrawn lines that define employment versus being fired. We must all work together harmoniously. Pshaw! That's not even really possible. Even in a so-called homogeneous group of humans there is dissent.

When I've worked with whites I've had to suppress my nature to avoid being labeled a trouble maker. That has been burdensome and unpleasant. I express myself uniquely and it's no fun being penalized by those who strive for political correctness at the expense of being real in a largely incorrect world.

I dislike when I bind myself with self-made chains of race such that I fear to let down my guard and forget where I am. It takes significant effort not to be racially conscious all the time now that it's an ingrained habit.

Most of all I strive to avoid being as ignorant, arrogant and stupid as some of the people I've encountered, regardless of their race. Everybody teaches me to be more than I am presently.

Sent by bob | 4:27 PM | 5-8-2008

Racism is the US's great shame. For a country that was founded by immigrants, it now blames immigrants for its problems. Let's not forget the war on "terror" is largely based on xenophobia and completely fueled by racism and fear. Our government and Bush administration are the biggest perpetrators of hate, fear and racism.

Sent by Francis G. | 4:58 PM | 5-8-2008

Whole lotta craziness here today!

All this 'race' talk is such a luxury. Look at the people of Myanmar! They wish they could have a discussion about racism.

Sent by Mo | 5:02 PM | 5-8-2008

Sorry, but I want to correct the URL I gave above for the tools offered by Everyday Democracy (mentioned by Kathy Cramer Walsh), which helps people talk about race in their communities:

My link at 2:35 is mysteriously sending people to our website developer.


Sent by Julie Fanselow | 5:05 PM | 5-8-2008

To legally apply for a driver's license in Wisconsin, I have to lie about my race.

I just moved from Minnesota to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and state law (343.14 (2)(b)) requires those submitting a driver's license application to write in one race. The terms "biracial," "multiracial" and even "other" are "too vague," according to the department of transportation.

As a 24-year-old daughter of a black mother and white father, I've always identified as both. But, what am I supposed to do when my children, who will most likely have two biracial parents, have to fill out the application?

I feel alienated and am desperately trying to start a dialogue in my community, but I get the sense that people view multiracial issues as something to deal with after we've solved other more "definable" problems.

Growing up, race was something we talked about often. But, how do you have a discussion with a bureaucracy or, perhaps more colloquially, with "the man?"

Sent by Adrienne | 5:36 PM | 5-8-2008

I often feel like what is termed "race" in general, but especially in this country, is actually not race at all, but a continuation of the same "points" and "facts" that have perpetuated racism for years and years. Let me explain briefly:

What" race" implies is a distinct, biological difference between two individuals/ groups/ etc.- in other words, structural differences that distinguish between, say, a dog and a cat. What "race" would then be describing would be a different version of a human, in a significant, structural sense. Obviously, this is not the case. The only biological differences that are being described then are things like skin color, hair color, eye color, etc- all those dominant and recessive traits passed down through genetics. WIth this in mind, the use of "race" in this context is then describing something like the differences in breeds in, again just as an example, dogs- although they look different and have some physical variation (much more dramatic than in humans), they are undeniably still the same class.

That is symantics, I know, and ultimately not the main question being posed here, but it is an interesting and important point to consider, I feel.

Moreover, what I think is truly meant by the term "race" and the differences that are attributed to it is actually speaking to culture. Most stereotypes, when really examined, address a social tendency or practice or an overall precieved perspective of a certain group. It seems that often, "race" is used to describe practical attributes, not a true, biological difference which the term in of itself implies.

So then, we need to be aware of the assumptions and implications that come with this term. When "race" is thought of as an unchangable, biological fact, it is very difficult to even begin to truly address the problem. Once the situation is seen as actually describing cultural differences, it is maliable, flexible, and more importantly, not defining those that might fall under it, but describing a history, a set of values, maybe even an outlook on life.

I am a white male, 25, and do not intend to demean minority groups' calls on these issues, as they are obviously important and I largely agree with the criticisms put forth by such participants. And yes, it is much easier for me to say that race doesn't actually exist in the way it is used at large because I do reap the benefits of white privledge every day, without even knowing it. What seems clear to me is that we must not only begin to move beyond race as Senator Obama has said, but call it what it really is: a division along cultural/ economic/ social/ class differences that has been attributed to a perceived biological difference- really, as a carryover of, at least, hundreds of years of European- based slave trade. The daily gauntlet for minorities in our country can and should not be ignored, but let's address it as people, not many different groups, struggling to define ourselves in difference

We are all so similar, we somehow must find a way to separate ourselves... this is what we must begin to truly get over.

Sent by Lee | 6:01 PM | 5-8-2008

I am a white woman who grew up in a predominantly white community. In college I became close to several black women who had the generosity of spirit to talk deeply and frankly with me about race and other social justice issues. I began to see the need to expose myself to other people's experiences.

I think white people need to begin to assume the responsibility of exposing themselves and familiarizing themselves with other's experiences. Many people of color in this country, by necessity, are aware of the opportunities and limitations depending on where you come from and your racial and socio-economic makeup. However, just as many Americans in general seem to feel an international arrogance and isolation, and therefore don't see the importance of being aware of the world at large; many white folks really have no idea the institutionalized and latent racism extant in our society.

There is definitely a huge issue of access as well. While I am able to enter many communities of color, many people of color would not be able to walk the streets where I grew up without being harassed by the police.

I want to thank NPR for fostering this conversation. And, as a white woman who feels it is crucial that all people work against racism and all injustice, I want to take this opportunity to speak directly to other white people. I think it is important for us to not only study this country's race history and it's legacy, but to also take a clear look at racial inequality today. Rather than constantly asking people of color to "prove" their concerns or experiences, I think it is more respectful and humbling to make it our business to listen and acknowledge the gulf of experiences, based on race, in this country.

I hear white people continually complain about people of color being "angry" and lamenting "reverse racism." Firstly, when speaking of "reverse racism" think institutionally. I think that automatically exposes the lie of this concept. Secondly, please don't let any perceived "anger" stop you from listening. Regardless if you feel it is justified or not, stop and listen. Even if you are not the direct perpetrator of the abuse described, it can be an incredibly eye opening experience to stop taking things so personally and allow a person of color to feel safe in speaking openly to you about their experience. There is no need for white people to become scapegoats for past injustices, or injustices today that they did not directly cause. Conversely, to foster honest relationships it's important to be respectful, especially of experiences that you might have never encountered. I hope other white people will feel it as important as I do to seriously take on this responsibility. My god-daughter is African American and indigenous. Her mother and I have a really close relationship built on honesty and compassion. I hope my god-daughter can grow up building relationships with people of all racial and class backgrounds and creating communities that recognize the assets brought by each individual.

Sent by Maiga Milbourne, Philadelphia, PA | 6:04 PM | 5-8-2008

I am black from the islands ,i never knew what racism was until i came here .I never knew skin color made such a difference .Although i am black yes i am angry that people are treated differently because of color .I am not as angry as some of the older native blacks who was subject to slavery and such harsh treatment
I do understand they anger but i do believe we as people need to forgive and move on .In order to do this white people have to try to accept how blacks feel and try to be understanding.Blacks have to embrace they culture but move forward in a more positive way .We as people are all guilty in some way of racism ,we are also guilty as being bias when it comes to our own kind .So i have a plan to move forward ,we can get pass this if we work together .Mr Wright and Mr Obama is proof that we as people will disagree even with our own .So lets agree to disagree together .
This is for anyone who truly wants to get pass this email me if interested in my idea please all races .Thank you .

Sent by gloria lewis | 6:30 PM | 5-8-2008

It is great that we can have a open dialog about race, but as usual the Asian American Pacific Islander Comities are left out of the conversation.. Perhaps next time around we can have a fuller, deeper, boarder conversation on RACE

Sent by the other American.? | 7:13 PM | 5-8-2008

I personally (and I think I speak for many in the "white" community) am experiencing fatigue with this whole topic. After years and years of suppression of any REAL dialogue on this topic, we are coming very close to a point of what I call "guilt fatigue" in the white community. I am more than happy to just let people be who they are, regardless of skin color. However, we must constantly be reminded of racial discourse, mostly by the very people who claim to want to eradicate it. What we end up with is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of allowing ourselves to move on and grow, we must re-enact the same tired dialogue. Whites are constantly told that it's a "black thing", and we just don't, won't, can't EVER understand. The implication is that whites aren't really entitled to an opinion. So they suppress their true feelings. Any psychologist will tell you that such suppression can never lead to a healthy outcome.
After years and years of such suppression, and blatant double standard, as displayed by those like Rev. Wright, I fear that it is only a matter of time before the pendulum begins to swing the other way. We need to not be afraid to have an open and free dialogue that is not dictated by the erroneous rules of political correctness.

Sent by Tom | 7:17 PM | 5-8-2008

I do understand how someone who faces prejudice can be angry and dislike and entire race.
After facing the discrimination and racism of Asians while living in Hawaii I am very angry and distrustful of Asians. However, I do have to remind myself that to look at every Asian as an individual and not dislike all based on the treatment I received from a few.

Sent by Jannette | 7:33 PM | 5-8-2008

I'm not guilty of any kind of racism. I'm a rural Yankee. "White" isn't a label that describes me in any important way. People using the term are just deploying an ethnic stereotype.

My N.European ancestors came off the boat in the 1890s. None of 'em ever owned another human being, and none of 'em ever supported Jim Crow type laws. None of them ever had enough money to hire someone, so they couldn't have discriminated against anyone even if they'd wanted to. My parents, a nurse and a public school teacher, worked for civil rights in upstate NY when I was an infant.

I was taught to respect the law, assume and offer equal treatment under the law, and judge people on merit.

I don't feel any direct or indirect responsibility for any injustices experienced by any ethnic, religious, or skin color group. It's never been part of my "programming" to treat people differently on account of that sort of thing. Moreover, while I not at all wealthy, my taxes go to support plenty of impoverished people, many of whom have suffered because of their ethnicity. So on the whole I think I've done my part in lending a hand.

I therefore expect people to not to try to make me feel accountable for past injustices for the politically incorrect crime of "being white." I don't own any of those injustices. I reject any claim that I ought to own them. If someone wants a scapegoat for their anger, look elsewhere.

Sent by Mike | 7:36 PM | 5-8-2008

It's my opinion that Obama is a white man who happens to have dark skin. There is nothing about him other then his skin color that makes him African American or classically a descendant of slaves--a cultural distinction native born, non-immigrant blacks want us to see them as. Apparently, the Obama effect is causing slave-descendants to call themselves blacks rather than African Americans now since the media and the world is classifying Obama as an AA. Obama's father is a Kenyan immigrant which makes Obama a second generation immigrant and not a descendant of African slaves. The Obama effect is creating a chasm in the AA's identity. Perhaps, we do need an Obama effect in order for us to have a wider discussion about race. For so long, this dialogue is about blacks and whites but Obama is deepening this discussion as an identity problem AA's have always had but has not been part of the dialogue.

Sent by Tom L | 10:59 PM | 5-8-2008

to American
To address the racism of Pacific Islanders this would perhaps be of interest to you.
I am a Caucasion and within the first 48 hours of moving to Hawaii my life was threatened by a pacific islander.
I was told I was not welcome to live in Hawaii and to leave the island.
Haoles face racism every single day in Hawaii whether as residents or tourists.
Our servicemen living in Hawaii were frequently targeted.

Sent by Jannette | 11:02 PM | 5-8-2008

I don't think anger over race is ever going to subside, not unless education and employment opportunities in this country change.
I live in an almost segregated community that is almost all white, I work in an industry that is almost all white. but that is not how I was raised.
I grew up and worked (when I was a teen) in an place that, while it wasn't a utopia, at least I had black and latino neighbors, a black boss, a Guatemalan supervisor, black white and haitian girlfriends, and we had fun. We picked on each other, fooled around, and made the same jokes about each others back ground that would be considered off limits today.
But now I walk around my work place and am physically upset at the lack of diversity.
I don't feel comfortable bringing this up at work, fearing for my job, knowing I could easily be replaced, and I feel guilty about it.
I am not in a position to change the situation.
All any one has to do is drive down any MLK Jr. Blvd. in any city in the US, or go to any MLK Jr. High School, and you can see that we have so far to go, I can see where the anger comes from.
I do get it.
I just don't get how to make it right.
But I try, just by being aware of it., by doing the hundred little things in my personal life that might help make it better, but I am just one person.
Im just one white guy, 46, living in East LA and working at a film studio.

Sent by J. C. | 1:09 AM | 5-9-2008

I am a 48 year-old white woman, and I feel pain on a daily level that our country can still be so caught up in racial tensions and be so easily manipulated into knee-jerk reactions. When I first heard the statements of Jeremiah Wright, my first thought was what's the big deal? Nothing he said seemed that radical to me, and a great deal of it was factually accurate or at least suspected of being accurate by many people of all races in this country. The ensuing flap said one thing to me -- it made it painfully obvious that huge numbers of white people in this country had never been close enough and comfortable enough to any black people for the polite to come down so they could hear that stuff directly to their face. It was as if what he was expressing was news to them -- that they were shocked that people feel that way. He was addressing ingrained patterns; I didn't feel hated or threatened by his statements, and nothing he said was unfamiliar to me.
I grew up in a very white suburb of St Louis, a city with a high black population. For whatever reason, I was an outcast in school, as where the handful of black students in the largely white suburban school. They honestly seemed to get along better than I did, at least as far as having direct hostility directed towards them was concerned, nevertheless, we shared an outcast status, and I soon discovered that I generally had an easier time getting along with the black students than many of the white, (I had many attempts at physical violence directed at me by my white peers, virtually none from the black) and consequently I developed a different understanding of their day to day realities and perceptions than did my white peers. I had black friends from junior high onwards, in the 1970s, and part of that experience was dealing with the prejudices of my family and with theirs. I've had the experience of my father treating my friends with an icy silence, and I experienced the same treatment in their homes with their parents, and sometimes it wasn't so silent. At an early age though, I learned to accept it primarily because I had become aware that it was the same sort of treatment my black friends were used to experiencing on a daily level; we basically learned to shine it on -- I'll ignore your mom's remarks if you ignore my dad's silence.
This being said, it was not possible to grow up in that environment without prejudices, and I won't deny their existence. As a white female I was taught in a million different subtle and not so subtle ways to fear black males. I was taught that I was taking my life into my own hands to go into a part of town like north St Louis. I despised those fears that I had not chosen and had no rationale or basis in personal experience. In my early 20's I was involved with a white man who was a student in a black martial arts school in north St Louis. He was very close to his kung fu brothers, and soon I began attending classes as well. I wasn't conscious of the fact at the time, but I was undertaking to purge my fear of black men by going to north St Louis and doing hand to hand combat with them, and looking back it was an extremely beneficial experience. The brainwashed suburban white girl discovered that it was possible to go to north St Louis and not only be surrounded by the black men she had been conditioned to fear, but to look them in the eye and spar with them, punch, grapple and be thrown to the ground, and remain safe while learning to be even safer in the world.
I think it's safe to say that the majority of white people avoid being in situations where that are outnumbered racially -- being the only white person in a group is very uncomfortable for them, yet the experience of being the only black person in a group is a common experience for most black people from time to time. I do not fear that situation -- I've been the only white guest at the parties and family reunions of friends; I've been in the distinct minority in many situations. When the numerical balance changes, so does the conversation, and my experience is that it is very possible to be the recipient of racial prejudices, misconceptions and even a level of teasing -- someone trying to see if they can get a rise out of you - without being the recipient of hatred -- most people of whatever race have prejudices, but most people are not haters. Hatred is scary; prejudice is simply something that is unlearned with experience. It's possible to have frank discussions, and even the occasional heated arguments, because that is after all what happens in human interaction, isn't it? A weird form of racism, an indicator of a level of discomfort, is the unwillingness to confront or engage when it's called for. I think when we behave in that manner we're not treating the other person in a fully honest and human way.
I hope to live to see the day when the daily pangs of pain and embarrassment, the all too frequent manifestations of inequality, regressiveness, stupidity and human cruelty cease to be a part of our daily life. I don't think it's going away any time soon, but until then I'll do what I can to be open, honest and fearless in having those discussions, interactions and relationships in my day to day life that have formed such a valuable part of it.

Sent by Kimberley | 2:21 AM | 5-9-2008

Two thoughts, one from each of my children. My son resents having to identify as white (I am not a color he say.) My daughter who is bi-racial and her many friends proclaim themselves proudly as MIXT and does not like the 'other' category.. Our whole family would prefer to call ourselves MIXT because that is what we are.

Sent by martha | 7:11 AM | 5-9-2008

In considering the difficulty in discussing race in America, what is most telling are the points at which and in what manner the dialog forecloses. In my experience this usually happens at a point where someone says, "I wasn't there when slavery happened, so why should I feel guilty?"

I am a psychologist with a specific interest in trauma and its trans-generational transmission. I am also an Armenian-American, and the topic of trauma is personally meaningful to me. Members of my family who survived the 1915 Genocide perpetrated by the dysfunctional Ottoman regime arrived in Lebanon as refugees. In the 1970's my parents left Lebanon to escape the civil war and to create a better life in this land of opportunity. I am the first in my family to have attended college and graduate school. Now, four generations and nearly a century later, my family is just beginning to recover from the multiple traumas that were set in motion by the Genocide. There is nothing more hurtful and demeaning to me than to hear a Turkish contemporary say, "Well, I wasn't there. I didn't kill anyone. Why should I feel guilty?"

But there's more to my story. America, the land of opportunity that my parents came to, exists as such because of the enslavement of Africans and the genocide and uprooting Native Americans. And if I have benefited from these opportunities, it is in no minor part because my family has European features and mannerisms. No one would mistake any of us for the landscaper.

Just as trauma is transmitted from generation to generation, so is guilt. But guilt is a complicated phenomenon and makes people uncomfortable, as it should. If I am the beneficiary of the opportunity that was built upon slavery and genocide, the least I can do is to grapple with the possibility that I am also, inevitably, a carrier of guilt.

Sent by Patricia Constantinian, Psy.D. | 11:40 AM | 5-9-2008

I would like to first comment to Meridien Afarensis ~
There have been grave injustices to every race throughout history and trying to learn from it is what people should do. Reparations are not fair and should never be allowed. My family immigrated from Germany in the late 1950's so why should we have our tax dollars contribute to reparations? All my ancestors hail from Germany and England. The Hoffmann's (my mothers side of the family) suffered injustices during World War 2 but they have never asked for a penny of compensation for being imprisoned or losing their homes.

It is hard to have an honest discussion about 'race relations' when white people are constantly being blamed for our past. As I stated before, my family wasn't even living in America. There is racism on both sides but there is a double standard. If a white person expresses their feelings and views they are viewed as racist, however, if a black person does the same they are 'opening the dialogue between blacks and whites'(for example, Rev. White). It's ridiculous. Also, the term 'African-American' is not entirely accurate for every black person. Not every one of them came from Africa. I would like to be called German-American since my family is from Europe. The political correctness has to stop.

We need to get back to personal responsibility. We cannot continue to blame others for our situation based on history.

Sent by Kristine | 11:54 AM | 5-9-2008

AS a 50 year old born and raised on the West Coast, I have had the strange experience of moving from a much more integrated place to the a much less integrated place. I moved from Oakland California to Louisville Kentucky and felt like I had been kidnapped and dropped into the 1960s. I lived in an integrated neighborhood, my kid went to integrated schools and my social network was a racial, religious, social, educational mix that no-one really gave much thought to. To find my self in a place where people segregate themselves not only by race but by religion, too. They are aware of it and comfortable with it!!!

I feel marooned.

Sent by Teresa | 12:09 PM | 5-9-2008

I am a woman who is 29 and white, should I say Caucasian? I grew up in a home that did not discriminate against any race or religion- Black, Jewish, Latino, Asian, and so forth. I lived in a small southern California community that was predominantly Latino. Growing up I felt fortunate that I had never been taught that negativity towards others, a blessing that I grew up believing we all are the same- equal- all deserving of love. My family simply never spoke of race as a discriminatory judgment, no jokes or prejudices. I in fact did not understand the realm of which racism affected our society or existed in our society, until I learned about it in school. And at that point, I had such a strong foundation that I took that information as a school study, rather then a learned judgment.

As I aged I became angry with others for their judgments. I could not comprehend the idea of not feeling equal to others based on a skin tone or religious belief. As an adult, I still feel those feelings however, I feel as if this has made me naive. Naive to the struggles of others this due especially to conversations with my friends of other races and religions; in their opinions I was also brought up in way that did not allow me to be aware of what meant to be on either spectrum of racism- the victim or the victimizer. That I was not able to really connect emotionally with that hatred because I never felt it; that I in fact was just blissfully unaware of what was indeed around me.

Now I still am thankful for my upbringing, but I am more conscience. Unfortunately, I have found that I do have small racial tendencies of which I try to correct daily. I believe that these are impacted by society, taught habits. As an example- a laugh at a joke told by another or a friend stepping in closer as we walk. Each day I try to become more aware and I also try to remember what it felt like at 10 years old. Open.

Sent by Shannan | 1:05 PM | 5-9-2008

My mother taught me that by the grace of God go you. I don't like everybody and I don't feel like I have too. But I do feel obliged to be considerate and thoughtful to all. It astounds me of those who really belive they are "due" anything because of who they are, where they're from, or what kind of family they have.

That comes in all colors.

Sent by Rob L. | 4:18 PM | 5-9-2008

I sometimes "forget" I am Hispanic, this doesn't mean that I think I am white or any other ethnicity. It means that I am treated as an individual by my co-workers and family. I am married to a white person and many of my friends are white this is a result of the city I live in and the places I visit now at this time in my life. When I lived in other cities I had more ethnic friends that I still talk to on a regular basis. I am Hispanic but I am also more than just the color of my skin, I am a contributing member of society and a kind, caring person. I deserve to be seen as a person not a color. And perhaps it is because of this attitude that I "forget" that I am Hispanic.

Sent by gmalo | 4:46 PM | 5-9-2008

In response to many white people contributing to this discussion: why wouldn't people of color continue to bring up race? I think it is very short-sighted of whites to become "tired" of "beating the dead horse of race." It may *feel* dead to some whites because in most arenas of the US you do not feel "white" as a race. Of course it is an on-going issue for people of color who daily are reminded of their skin color.

(I purposely use the term "people of color" in an attempt to be more inclusive of all peoples. Where I am in Philly, the most visible tension is white/black. Traveling in Colorado the tensions seemed to be between Mexican and white communities. Depending on the locale, the communities learning to interact with one another, and often experiencing disenfranchisement, do vary.

The issue many people of color take with white people is that many whites do not even *try* to understand their experience, and do not feel that it is important. The white attitude is "get over it." How can you get over difference in access to housing, education, health care, safety, etc.?! These are current realities for many.

As a white person, I am really desperate to see more white people release their apathy and indifference. Rather than blaming an uncomfortable discussion on "the race card," LISTEN. The discussion may or may not be valid. But these terms to prematurely invalidate someone else's concern are key parts of many people of color's grievances with a dominant culture that continues to disenfranchise them.

Sent by Maiga Milbourne | 9:35 PM | 5-9-2008

To Lenadams Dorris, who posted comments beginning "Although I am a white male, I was raised in a loving extended family full of Mexicans, Eastern Europeans, Filipinos and Malays.": You are lucky to have had a diverse upbringing and your fair-minded views are to be commended. You mention Eastern Europeans in your family. I was wondering if you feel that persons of Eastern European descent may experience being treated in ways that reflect a less publicized kind of prejudice and, if so, whether that prejudice extends beyond national and cultural bias.

To Dr. Patricia Constantinian: I very much appreciated your insightful and nuanced comments and I would be particularly interested in your views on this topic as well.

Sent by Alice | 12:36 AM | 5-10-2008

RACISM WILL NEVER END,The white race has taught and indoctrinated the non-white race very well.History of the white race has and will prove with out a doubt that this demonic influence will prevail.

Sent by terry johnson | 8:49 AM | 5-10-2008

Is a forum on race relevant? In one sense yes, it allows us to say exactly what's on our minds, but as noted it is for the most part expressed anonymously. This in itself negates the meaning of open dialog there for I believe we are not listening, but rather debating like-minded phantoms. Blog forums, however coined, is much like who's sand box can I play in, where will I feel the most comfortable and empowered without fear of retribution? We are socially biased to the highest order and some will no doubt question our species position. But for now it's the best we've got, it's wired in all of us to seek safety in numbers.

Tough questions indeed and it's something I wonder about every time I hit the keyboard. Yes I massaged my mind, but in the end I always leave the table hungry. With regards to open dialog I must admit my best days take place at the local post office (they still deliver physical mail in Maine and we have fire too) when neighbors hold impromptu face-to-face confrontations. Yes, disagreement on race might rear its ugly head and so will every other universal issue imaginable. Agreement is fleeting, but hearing and expressing differing viewpoints is respected, even tolerated. With the exception of Sundays (everyone needs a break) we return to our "round" table forum. Leave hungry...not a chance.

Sent by George Gekas | 12:52 PM | 5-10-2008

It's very unfortunate that the topic of race has been accentuated by an exceedingly acrimonious primary. Quite simply, the level of conflict, in part fueled by numerous comments by Team Clinton as well as by Reverend Wright, does, at times, reflect genuine discord existing in America. It's true. But much of it has been manipulated for the purpose of political expediency and desperation. In this way, racial relations are worse than the cross-racial support given to Obama signifies and better than the divided America ("hard working whites") the Clintons routinely emphasize.

The first consideration about racial discrimination should be, How natural is it? Many breeds of animals, for instance, look for distinct markings, not only for the sake of Darwinian advantages but for the sake of clannish similarities. Extolling the virtues of one's own kind, the way the Aryan Brotherhood does about pure white blood or the manner in which Miles Davis claimed that black musicians have an innate superiority, stems from a natural insitinct. Namely, the instinct for self-esteem, or, quite frequently, the I'm-happy-being-who-I-am-because-I-can't-be-anyone-else syndrome.

When this instinct expands into forms of self-righteousness, clearly illustrated in Hitler's "Mein Kampf" or in the writings of the Islamic extremist, Sayyid Qutb, then there is a dire threat to the collective welfare. So the challenge is to be thrilled with one's own kind without polarizing and condemning those who aren't in that circle.

That sensibility customarily requires a minimal amount of education and worldliness that clearly demonstrates that, yes, a Chinese chef can master French cuisine, Germans can laugh as much as, but perhaps not as frequently, as Italians, and that uptight whites can dance with the same kind of fluidity that seems to be more natural for individuals with African backgrounds.

The brilliance in the Obama candidacy is that it's clear to see that tens of millions of Americans don't object to voting outside of racial sympathies. And that accomplishment - a cultural watershed - represents the great strength of Americans who have, over the centuries, been informed about the grace and dignities of all peoples around the world. Indeed, for that Americans deserve a pat on the back.

Sent by arty kraft | 2:53 PM | 5-10-2008

I am a young white woman and I sympathize with Kimberely who grew up in St. Louis. I grew up in MO, too, and my parents raised me to value egalitarianism, to treat everyone with courtesy and compassion, and to treat everyone as an individual regardless of his or her appearance. However, it took me a long time to acknowledge how systemic racism had affected me.

I, too, found Reverend Wright's comments to be truthful -- my first reaction to the clips played over and over was, "He's right!" And I had a similar reaction to the mainstream media's immediate repressive reaction to his comments -- this means that we, as a country, are not yet ready to talk honestly about race.

I grew up in a small rural town with very little diversity. Since I learned about racism in school before I had any opportunities to confront it consciously -- as an aware adult -- I have always been extremely sensitive to giving insult to minorities. My fear of giving offense, I think, has prevented me from taking risks that would open me up to new experiences.

I have discussed race openly with friends, and it has always been productive. I try to understand; but one of the consequences of hegemonic ideas is that they are very difficult to perceive to the persons of privilege. I am certain that I experience white privilege on a nearly daily basis, but I cannot possibly be aware of it at every moment. I would rather speak openly and honestly about race with people of good intention than police my own experience, making myself crazy by examining every inequality.

What I wish is that people found me more approachable, and that I had more courage to cross the line and ask these frank questions. I think that people would find that we agree on many issues, social justices issues as well as other issues.

Sent by Rachel N H | 4:10 PM | 5-12-2008

To Alice: If I understand your inquiry correctly, you are interested in knowing if I -- an Armenian-American who, for a number of reasons, blends in well with the dominant European White culture -- experience prejudice that is less public, and whether that prejudice extends beyond national and cultural bias.

In my understanding, an experience of prejudice, racism, or "otherness" in whatever form it manifests has both external and internal components. In other words, the external experience activates something internally, and vice-versa.

My family and I currently live in a relatively affluent, predominantly European White suburb of Philadelphia. The place where I experience my "otherness" most is at the playground where my kids interact with other kids and I observe and interact with other moms. Although my kids and I do not stand out in any particular way, there are things about us, however subtle, that give away our otherness. It might be something as minute as that one word in a hundred where I still exhibit a slight accent, but it is apparent enough so that it registers. And almost instantly, a line seems to be drawn between "Us" and "Them", a line that is as much my doing as the other moms'.

What do I mean when I say "the line between Us and Them"?: Growing up, blending in and achievement (particularly in fields valued by the dominant culture) were always tempered by the message that "We are different from Them." In other words, I was "One of Us" and not "One of Them". And when I went into "Their" world, I was burdened with representing my people. But, paradoxically, the main thing I was being called on to represent was how well "We" are able to integrate with "Them".

How does all of this come together at the playground? I usually find myself and my kids in suspended animation somewhere between fitting in and not fitting in, but also, and more importantly, between wanting to fit in and not wanting to fit in.

Sent by Patricia Constantinian, Psy. D. | 10:23 PM | 5-12-2008