Friendship comes first, last and always. We put our friendship at the center of this project from the beginning. I remember that when tempted to say something disagreeable or when I am hurt or angry.
Separate the “one” from the “many.” African Americans are judged by mainstream society as a collective. We are not allowed to have individual identities unless we are celebrities known by our first name. Whites are afforded the luxury of individualism. This is why we tend to talk about “white people” and whites are quick to say “not all white people.” Through these conversations, I evaluate Andrew by his individual actions. His willingness to keep trying, even when it gets hard, has helped me to redirect my anger from “white people” to institutionalized racism.
Pause before I speak. I had no filter at the beginning of these conversations, especially in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections. I made accusations – some of by which I still stand. Now, I pause and ask the three questions: “is it true, is it necessary and is it kind?” I’m willing to give way on the kindness part because some truths are harsh. Now, I will try to deliver a hard truth with compassion.
We enter these conversations at different points. I entered these conversations from a very visceral place. I want police to stop killing black people. Andrew, as a scholar and a writer, seeks, through these conversations, to understand an experience that is not his own and wants to become a better citizen, novelist, husband and father because of them.I wanted Andrew to come at the conversations at the same place and with the same sense of urgency as I. He comes in where he does, bringing the full force of his intelligence and compassion. I have learned to trust that even though we come at these conversations from different points, eventually we will meet at a place that looks and feels like common ground.
It is work. “Work” isn’t the only four-letter we use during these conversations. These conversations are difficult and challenging. Just when we think we’ve resolved an issue, it reappears in another form or several months later. I wish I could say we were “done” after this one set of race conversations. But the work is continuous. We are constantly talking and learning and growing.And that brings up another four-letter word that has become essential in these race conversations – love. Without love for all people, despite our differences, we don’t evolve as a species. Our hearts were meant to evolve and expand. Mine has because of these conversations and our friendship.