This little article means a lot to me. It brought some things into focus. Beyond defusing what I perceive to be the invisibility of the “mulatto,” this race work is important to me because I recognize the truth in the statement “We don’t know how to know each other.” It pains me because I know how to know each other. I am each other. And I know that outside of the dogma of race, there ain’t much difference between anybody. Oh, and of course, I’ve gotta get this book.
Author takes on difficult race issues
By Bradley Schlegel
WHITPAIN — Growing up in a home with racial preconceptions, Lauren Deslonde said she lacked the knowledge to mount a credible challenge.
“We never talked about race,” said Deslonde, a Lansdale resident and psychology major at Montgomery County Community College.
She said Bruce Jacobs’ book can provide the proper tools to help her 5-year-old biracial daughter learn to improve the nation’s racial pains.
Jacobs, the author of “Race Manners for the 21st Century: Navigating the Minefield Between Black and White Americans in an Age of Fear,” explained Tuesday to an audience of students, faculty and staff that issues between races will improve once people begin to relate on a more personal level.
“It’s a big problem,” he said. “We don’t know how to know each other. In this country, that idea is lost. Or we’ve never had the ability to get that gift.”
The book provides strategies to help people better understand each other, according to Jacobs, who appeared during a Presidential Symposium held in the Science Center auditorium.
“Bruce Jacobs tells it like it is,” said Karen A. Stout, the college’s president, in her introduction. “And he helps all us do the same thing with clarity.”
Discussions over race — which evoke feelings of shame, rage and fear in African-American and self-identified white people — are often unproductive, according to Jacobs.
“This is a hard issue,” he said. “We’re working against a headwind.”
Two of the many impediments include our nation’s history and the media’s role in coarsening the discussion to maximize profits, according to Jacobs.
He said many citizens are still in denial about a culture founded on human slavery and genocide of the Native Americans.
“This gets in our way every day,” said Jacobs, a self-described writer, poet and musician. “All I want to know is, ‘Are you down with repairing the damage or not?'”
On the media, he said companies have replaced journalists and commentators with “rage talk radio” that “scares the pants off of anyone” wishing to have a thoughtful discussion over race and politics.
“That has nothing to do with democratic discourse,” Jacobs said. “It’s a false standard.”
He presented five strategies to make conversations more survivable and rewarding: embrace a person’s goodness while challenging bad ideas; be prepared to occasionally speak inappropriately; talk to people as they show themselves to be; don’t wait for a major issue to communicate with people of another race; and don’t shy away from discussing difficult issues.
The symposium helps students learn to relate to people of other races, according to Sam Wallace, a cultural geography professor at the school.
“Many of my students have not had much contact with the outside world,” he said. “Some have never been to Philadelphia.