Sun-Times blog: Why I talk about race

Mary Mitchell, columnist for the Sun-Times, recently joined the blogosphere with brave honesty: her first post, “Why I talk about race,” opened a dialogue between herself and her readers (including me, now that I’ve found her blog) that explores racism from all sides. An excerpt from her post, describing a panel discussion at DePaul University that followed a viewing of the movie Crash:

Everyone seemed passionate about the racial themes depicted in the movie. But at the end of 1-1/2 hours of talking, we didn’t hear from one white person.

Not one white person asked a question. Or made a comment. Or shared a story about race relations. For all practical purposes, we were a roomful of black and Latinos talking to ourselves.

So what I want to know is this: Why is it so hard for white people to talk about race?

Black people aren’t shy about telling white people what irks them. White people shouldn’t be shy either. Besides, getting this weighty issue out in the open would not only clear the air, but may just help improve race relations in this city.

Take some time reading her more recent posts, and don’t miss the comments, which include a wide range of opinions and perspectives.

Both post-show discussions so far for Spinning into Butter have included a conversation about the fact that we are, for the most part, a group of white artists and audience members trying to have a conversation about race. Does that mean that we can’t or shouldn’t have these conversations? I certainly don’t think so. And from reading Mary Mitchell’s new blog, I think she and many of her readers would agree.

She’s right, though – it is hard (for me at least, I’m not sure if I can really speak for white people in general) to talk about race, and I think that’s partly why this play resonates so strongly for so many people. Watching Sarah Daniels’s brutally honest process of self-examination forces all of us as audience members to at least consider doing the same, and I think that’s an important step in having a genuine conversation. 

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