I had one of the most piercing questions on my Facebook page this past week when one of my black listeners asked me, “Would you rather be black or white in 2016?”
The truth of the matter is I can’t answer that question because I only know what it's like to be white. What I will say, no matter the circumstances or realities, is that I would make the best out of my situation regardless. We seem to be a country that is becoming more focused on our weaknesses than our strengths.
I have no doubt there is an undercurrent of racism in our country. I'm in Cleveland, Ohio for the GOP convention and I took what amounted to a very long Uber ride on Friday night (streets blocked - trying to get back to my hotel). The driver was a very pleasant middle-aged black man who had just retired and was driving with Uber for ‘play money.’ He and I began to discuss the recent protests and police shootings. I asked him his thoughts. He told me that the protests in Cleveland had been overwhelmingly peaceful but some of the ones throughout the country were ‘sad and ridiculous.’ He seemed fair, sensible and grounded in his opinions.
I asked him to share with me examples of how he has felt racism, personally, in the past year. He told me that many times he will be confirmed for an Uber ride and people will cancel because he is black. Regretfully, I believe him. Now you may be thinking, “How does he know that?” Perhaps he doesn’t. But to be fair, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say that is likely why he has a higher cancelation rate (his ratings are nearly five stars). After all, it's not that common that people request a ride and then cancel it as soon as the driver is assigned. It’s not a stretch for him to make such a deduction. He didn’t seem to be that deterred by it and I think that is what’s important.
In our conversation, I pointed out that it is my belief that the continued display of hatred by black activist groups further contributes to a racial divide. It creates fear and prevents us from having the real conversation about what's being felt in both the white and black communities in America.
I recently had a conversation with a close black friend of mine who runs a ‘service’ company. The lifeblood of his company is recruiting top salespeople to sell their services. One of his biggest challenges (in his belief) is that some people won't join his team because he's black. I've known him for 13 years and have worked with him before becoming friends. He is upbeat positive, clean-cut, well-spoken, professional and successful. I promised him a business coaching session when I return from Cleveland.
Here's what I'm going to tell him: First, I want to hear your recruiting pitch and make certain it's on par with his industry. If not, we’ll make corrections. Then we'll take a look at the number of interviews he's conducted along with the number of recruits he's hired and compare it to industry standards. Once I have these percentages, I’ll have an anecdotal idea of the number of people who are afraid to work for my black friend because of his race. Instead of staying focused on that number (and trying to convince the world how racist it is) I will help him design a plan to attract more recruitment interviews so that he can overwhelm the undercurrent of racism that appears to be limiting his potential. In doing this, we’ll either learn that we are successful in our plan or that there was, in fact, something else that he needs to adjust in his ‘pitch.’
Instead of trying to repair what seems to be an undercurrent of racism, I will help him work smarter, not harder so that he can reach the same goals as any other American for his business. There are also minority certifications in his business-sector that attract certain government and social contracts that can be quite lucrative.
If a person or society stays collectively focused on the problem (and not the solution) then the problem will expand.
We're not going to quickly heal this racial divide. While most black citizens will admit racial relations have improved greatly over the last several decades they are still scarred by the memories. However, as new generations emerge, it is incumbent on black parents to share with them their challenging history while proactively teaching them how to overcome present challenges. Challenges and disadvantages have the potential to make you stronger but should never define you.
What we have seen in the recent protests, police shootings and riots is that many black leaders are allowing these issues to define their community of people as one of anger, resentment and outrage - even if that is not true.
I agree with Townhall contributor John Hawkins, there is no ‘white privilege.’ Such assertions oversimplify an optimism that exists in the white population verses a more pessimistic viewpoint of human potential in the black population. Regretfully, attitudes are degrading in both. The phrase ‘white privilege’ diminishes the fact that both cultures have unique advantages and disadvantages and it does nothing but harm to those who believe such nonsense.
One of my favorite phrases is that “you have two ears and one mouth. Use it in that proportion.” We could all benefit from that statement while equally listening to each other more.