The Power Of Change Through Conversation

Are we having a REAL conversation about race yet?

Before this year, I would’ve told you something like conversations don’t change things, actual change changes things. Real live action!

People can say anything, and often do. I let people talk, and even entertain their bullshit if I have time. Strictly watching people’s actions tells me everything I need to know.

So the idea of real change through a conversation never sounded realistic to me. But when it comes to making America a place for Black Americans to live free from becoming a permanent underclass, since this is our country too and all, I’ve realized that actual change begins through having conversation.

Even in this midst of this pandemic known as racism, I don’t see us, in America, having a real conversation about about race.

I see one side yelling ‘Black Lives Matter’ at the other side screaming ‘All Lives Matter’, which really means ‘White Lives Matter’. I see mainstream news with an agenda. I see ‘politricks’ and voter suppression heavy in my own city. I see politicians using black death as an opportunity.

Apparently Fox News is still a thing, and they ran a segment showing how the stock market rises when black people die. Give me a f*cking break!

Yet, I haven’t heard a real conversation about race being had.

We don’t all agree that racism white supremacy exists. Or some people just refuse to see it. We don’t agree on what racism even is. How can we solve a problem that we have not clearly defined?

If we are ever to have a real conversation about race in this country, we’re going to have to talk about how Black Americans became America’s underclass in first place. We’re going to have to talk about how racism is in America’s DNA.

We’re going to have to talk about how racism was used to justify slavery, which was all about using black labor to create white wealth which you can read all about in Claud Anderson’s books. And that could quite possibly be why white people have 10 times the wealth of black people in this country.

Or wait, maybe that’s because my people are lazy and don’t work hard. Which would be pretty damn ironic, because if that was the case why were white people hell-bent on enslaving Africans out of all people? It surely wasn’t because we were lazy.

Having a real conversation looks like addressing how racism, slavery, and all the laws and policies to keep Black Americans from getting ahead at every turn was about conserving wealth.

Racism is deeper than not liking someone because of their skin color. Racism is a whole system that America was built off of that most of us don’t even understand. Racism is embedded in our economic system, politics, and even the very constitution that we live by today.

When that document was written, Blacks were slaves. As in slavery was a legal thing. Yet we still operate from that same document.

All these things are going to have to be address if we are ever to have a real conversation about race.

The conversation may not be real yet, but it is happening

When I talk about having a conversation, I’m not talking about “political pundits” on mainstream news networks. I see their debates, hear people just yelling at each other, and I proceed to throw up in my mouth a little bit every time I hear them.

I’m talking about the conversations that are happening in real places with real people outside of the TV screen.

I never in my life would’ve thought that my white friends would call me wanting to know my thoughts on racism in efforts to understand racism as a social construct. They want to know what they can do to help push the causes of Black Americans forward. And that keeps me optimistic.

Knowing that my white friends are at the very least, willing to have the conversation, creates room in my heart for hope for humanity.

A conversation may not change someone’s heart, but it can change perspective.

Even if the goal is to get legislation passed on behalf of Black Americans, that doesn’t happen until a conversation is had.

The conversation on race right now may not be as deep as how the psychological effects of slavery are present in today’s Black America. Or about how the words in the Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson are still ringing true today in many respects.

But nonetheless, the conversation of the unique plight of Black Americans is taking place, even if we’ve only scratched the surface.

Real change through real conversations

Though the power of conversation is transformative, expecting a conversation to change someone’s mind, completely ripping the lid off of everything they’ve believed is unrealistic. Sometimes a conversation is just planting the seed, until experiences in a person’s life shape their world view in a way that allows that seed to grow one day.

Change can be a slow process, but slow motion is better than no motion.

Conversations regarding race aren’t just taking place between Black and White Americans, but within the Black community as well.

For the first time in my life, the conversations with my black friends are dominated by the question, ‘what do we have to do to further change things?’ Black people not only want change, but want to use whatever skills and resources that they have in order to be part of the change.

For the first time, I’m truly seeing people being the change that they want to see.

In order to correct any injustices going on in America, we can never stop talking about them. Real conversations can lead to real solutions, if it is in fact solutions that we are looking for.

The Jewish community has not and will not let the world forget about the the holocaust (rightfully so), and they have demanded and received tangible retribution for their pain and suffering.

Indian Americans have not let the world forget about how their entire society was decimated (rightfully so), and they demanded and received retribution for their pain and suffering.

While Black Americans, have been protesting and marching, the LGBTQ community has not let the world forget about the injustices they encounter on a daily basis, so much so that they have gotten legislation passed specifically to protect and empower their community.

When it comes to Black America, we are told that we should let go of the 400+ years of legal enslavement that our ancestors endured. We are told that we should not talk about it because it was so long ago, and racism no longer exists now, so we should be quiet and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

But if we are to create change, we can never stop talking the lasting economic and psychological effects that Black people have endured since being forced to this country. The Black American experience is unique, and should be dealt with in a unique manner.

Until Black Americans, like other groups, are recognized as ‘five-fifths’ human beings in this country, we should never stop having conversations about how the past is connected to our present state, in order to create a better future.

Change is possible. Change is inevitable. Changes in the state of Black America is happening, and is long overdue.

Change begins with respectful, open, and honest dialogue. And until we have that, in the words of the great American philosopher, Tupac Shakur,

“And still I see no changes…”

With Love,

Justin Patton

Spoken word artist and writer. Living my life and writing about it along the way, it just might inspire somebody. IG: @iamjustinpatton

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