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How an Old Blog Post Healed Old Wounds

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It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re writing for an online audience. As online writers, we usually focus more on what’s going on here and now, rather than the past or future.

But it’s still important to think about the future and write about lessons learned, even when you’re writing for online readers.

Image via BrainyQuote.com

I recently learned this lesson from a blog post that I first read more than a year ago.

My friend Laura recently shared on social media a blog post she read about racism and white privilege.

The blog post is What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege. Writer and former film/TV producer Lori Lakin Hutcherson wrote the post, responding to her friend’s questions about white privilege.

I was surprised after seeing Laura share this post. It brought understanding to a discussion we had more than 10 years ago.

The “A” Word

Laura and I worked together as reporters at a newspaper in North Carolina. She was hired a few months after I was hired, and we quickly became friends.

Once in while, Laura would say that I am very articulate. I knew Laura meant this as a compliment, but I did wonder if she was saying this because she didn’t expect me to be articulate.

Back then, the term white privilege was not as commonly used in every-day conversation, compared to now.

But it does apply to this situation. There are a lot of negative stereotypes about black people and one of them is that black people are inarticulate.

As a black person, I have had experiences as a child, a teenager and an adult when at least a few white people reacted with some level of surprise when I spoke clearly.

Most white people do not have this experience, because our society collectively assumes that most white people know how to speak clearly.

That’s why it hurt when Laura called me articulate. But I didn’t say anything to her at the time. Eventually I decided to try to just put my feelings away, so to speak. I know Laura’s a great, loving person, and that she just thought that she was giving me a compliment.

Lessons Learned

I was hopeful after seeing Laura’s recent social media post. She gave me permission to share her Facebook post.

Here are excerpts from Laura’s post about the blog article on white privilege:

“What we need to start talking about more openly are the invisible ways that racial and cultural bias subconsciously affects how we see the world. Racism is the macro. Bias is the micro. It’s much harder to examine from within the complex imprint that bias has stamped onto your experience of this world. It’s hard to change the things you cannot see.

“So, I did a little thought experiment and I tried to reflect on ten examples of how my perspective on a particular issue was influenced by racial bias…”

Here is one of her examples:

“I once told a black friend that she was very articulate. Later, I learned that she took offense to that comment and had asked someone if I had said that because she was black. Again, I took offense because in my mind, I had simply thought it was a compliment. In retrospect, I can’t think of a single time I had ever said the same thing to a white friend…

“Now, I can never take these things back and the point of this isn’t to be confessional. All I can do is move forward with a deeper understanding of why I might have thought these things and the corrosive quality those behaviors have when taken both in the big picture and the small picture. And as a wise person once told me, to know better is to do better.”

I learned two lessons after reading Laura’s post.

  • We can learn from our mistakes. I reached out to Laura via Facebook Messenger and thanked her for sharing this post. (We now live in different states.) Laura said she was sorry for telling me that I’m articulate. I told her I was hurt, but I knew she didn’t mean to hurt me and that I’m glad we remained friends during our time as coworkers and that we’re long-distance friends now.
  • A blog post can help people for months, and even years, afterward. I first read the blog post Laura shared, during the summer of 2016. Racism has always been an important issue, and it’s always been tough to talk about it. And more recent events in places like Charlottesville, VA have shown that we still have a lot of work to do to deal with racism.

Final Thoughts

Book authors have the advantage of thinking their stories, fiction or non-fiction, represent timeless ideas and lessons.

It’s a little harder to see the big picture when you’re writing for a blog or an online/print publication. We usually focus more on the latest trends, recent events and the latest social issues.

But a blog post or magazine article can offer hope for the future.

Lori Lakin Hutcherson, who wrote the previously mentioned blog post about white privilege, said she hoped her post would lead to more helpful discussions about race.

More than a year later, it has brought understanding and healing, between me and my friend Laura, and hopefully between many other people as well.

 

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