I got an email from a white buddy of mine that said the next he saw me at Starbucks; he had a political scoop for me in our very conservative town. I am not at liberty to release any of that information yet. This friend is gay, and it was clear he wanted to get something else off of his chest.
Out of left field, he started.
"White people don't get," my friend said. "They don't get it because they have not lived through it."
First of all, I am not from the school of thought that one has to live it to empathize with it. While I would no longer attempt to mansplain anything to women after summarily schooled on the multitudes of reasons why it's wrong, I can "feel" their pain. Having gone through hardships of many kinds, they are not hard to comprehend. But I think concerning oneself with more than self, is a good starting point.
My friend has been with his partner, a black man, for over 36 years. He recounted the two of them shopping at department stores together. He always got service while his partner, now husband thanks to the change in the laws, got surveilled. He recounted jogging in Kansas and having cops stop just them requesting I.D.s. He told various driving-while-black stories while driving with his husband. And of course, my friend's husband has told him quite a few, one recently where he got stopped under the pretense of speeding.
After listening to several stories, it was time for my friend to leave. I commended him for the honest chat. I go above and beyond to create a personal comfort level where folks know I will not be judgmental.
"You know you are complicit, right?" I asked. "You should be doing short videos detailing your husband travails. The message is more effective someone who looks like you than like me."
My friend pointed out that before recently retiring, his company prohibited him from political speech. That frame of mind is still there. So even as some prominent corporations attempt to be more inclusive, they chain their employees to their proprietary platforms.
I suggested that my friend talks with his husband about playing a more active role in helping many white people see through his eyes. He said he would. It is hard to stand alone, and that is likely a reason otherwise good white people don't use their privilege in the opportune moments to defend the underprivileged. If one builds a network of active like-minded folks in the effort, that point becomes moot.
Also published on Medium.