by Jeremy Hunt
Where I grew up, hating white people wasn’t an option. I had to interact with them every day. From a middle-class neighborhood in the suburbs of Atlanta, most of my friends didn’t look like me. In fact, when you hear white people say, “I’m not racist. One of my closest friends is black,” I’m probably the black friend who they’re referring to. Whenever we talked about slavery or the civil rights movement in school, I was the guy who received the collective gaze from the classroom. I’ve been told that I look like almost every famous black person that you could imagine (and apparently, all articulate black people sound like Obama).
But I didn’t have the luxury of just ignoring my white peers. If I wanted any chance at enjoying my classroom experience, I had to channel my frustration into productive conversations with them. So, we talked candidly and asked each other tough questions. We discussed the implications of some of their comments and how they might see things differently from my point of view. Just calling them a racist would’ve been pointless. Fortunately, our conversations opened the door to meaningful friendships built on understanding and mutual respect. Now, looking back, I couldn’t be more thankful for my upbringing. And that’s also why my heart is heavy with the state of race relations in our country.
As the Pew Research Center noted, “the public’s views of race relations are more negative now than they have been for much of the 2000s.” In their poll, about 61 percent of blacks said race relations were generally bad and nearly half of the white respondents agreed. Why don’t our nation’s cultural and political leaders set a climate where more citizens learn the lessons that my classmates and I figured out in middle school?
1. End the witch hunt for racism.
If my Twitter feed is any indication, it seems that the so-called social justice warriors of my generation have developed a standard pattern. First, they find a short clip of some public figure making a statement that could be misconstrued as racist. They post the clip on social media (often taken out of its original context) with a witty hashtag hoping it attracts national attention. If they meet their desired intent, the statement animates their base and makes their followers think that our country is racist beyond repair. While their model effectively produces rage, I doubt it’s doing much to unify our country.
As our culture obsesses over individual mistakes, our leaders—as well as average Americans—become more hesitant to discuss delicate topics. No one feels comfortable discussing race relations if they feel at risk for public humiliation at the slightest gaffe. But, as I learned growing up, it’s those uncomfortable talks that lead to the most understanding.
SOURCE: Fox News
Jeremy C. Hunt is an active duty U.S. Army officer and Leadership Strategist for the Douglass Leadership Institute. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the Hill, and Fox News. Follow him on Facebook @OfficialJeremyHunt. The views expressed in this article are those of Jeremy C. Hunt only and not those of the Department of Defense.