So for about five hours I was having a heated conversation with a Haitian friend of mine about race and just her utter discuss with the Black population in America. Prior to this intense conversation we have discussed a few issues raised by her loose comments concerning black men and her reservations to befriending black people. I personally took offense to her brash statements, but we talked it out like big kids, agreeing to disagree.
Well, last night I don't know how the conversation started, but her main claim was that she is disappointed with the Black people in America. She resents the fact that although she is here in America, trying to do something with her life, the majority of Black people, selling drugs, using welfare, not making proper use of advantages great or small to receive an education, are making it harder for her to excel and be taken seriously. She stated that no one respects President Barrack Obama because in its entirety the Black race makes a mockery of him and everyone else that is trying to do well. She said that in Haiti you either live or die and that Black Americans are weak and ungrateful and we don't have the drive to succeed although we have all the resources.
I expressed to her that the comments that she made and the reasons that she used to draw her conclusions are not new and they are not unfamiliar to me. Also, I had no intention to refute them, only to make her understand aspects that she may not have taken into consideration, and furthermore to apply those same criticisms that she has for Black people for herself. Also, I cannot account for her experiences in Haiti, but her time in America has been short and limited. People often don't talk about what they know about. She doesn't know what it is like to be Black in America. I wanted her to know first and foremost that the generalizations that she is making may be influenced by other generalizations made and overwhelmingly accepted. When she makes these generalizations she must consider that she has met me and other Black students on campus that don't fit her criteria for the average Black American.
She may not have had the privilege to meet other Black people who don't meet the stereotype, but I have. Furthermore, I said to her that if you see a problem then fix it; otherwise, you're just one more person with an opinion. I had to plainly express to her that whatever opinions about Black people she has she cannot just impose on every Black person that she meets. There are a very small percentage of Black people on this campus and she was extremely rude to most of them when she got here. She couldn't understand why I took offense to her statements and why I wasn't feeling the same anger and resentment she felt towards other Black people.
Especially since when she make reckless comments I take offense to that because she is imposing all her beliefs about Black people on me. I take it extremely personally because it bothers me when people have everyone else figured out, but they don't know themselves. Also, I am not at a place where I can disassociate myself from my people and not think she is attacking my father or my sister. It's like when I am in a classroom and student makes a comment like "I don't really like Black people because x, y, and z" and then they'll turn to me and say "Ooh, but no offense to you Chasity. I like you, just other people." She makes me feel that same discomfort that I feel when I am with other non blacks that criticize and judge.
Without completely pacifying the situation or the negative aspects of Black Culture as it is perceived and marketed, I am not going to abandoned or neglect a race, a people, a lifestyle, that has influenced me; for better or for worse. People are a product of their environment. You are going to do what you know. I was fortunate that for my whole life I wasn't accustomed to interacting with only Black people. I am fortunate that I have spend enough time around white people that I have tough skin and some remarks that they may make don't hurt me all the time. Because after a while you get used to the disclaimers "I didn't mean it like that," or "I'm not talking about you," or "no offense."
I know that God has blessed me to experience living in many different neighborhoods that varied in income, social stature, and race. Many neighborhoods are homogenous. There is one group of people, one mindset, one general income, and one standard of living. I was able to see different family structures and different ways that people manage money. I was able to see that people had old parents because their parents waited until they were financially stable before they had children. I was exposed to different standards of living. Like with religion, you can only be accountable for what you know.
One main thing that she was saying was that people have a choice in life and that Black people always choose the easy route, which is more than likely the wrong thing, like selling drugs, or having babies and dropping out of school. She completely discredited the hurdles faced by black American's in comparison to the hurdles faced by Haitians, saying "ooh well" and "so what." I reminded her that God won't put any more on you than you can bear and that it isn't her right to say that any person's trials or tribulations are insignificant.
I listened to her and I tried to remain very clear with these specific points. What she is saying isn't completely false or incorrect; however, it is not an opinion that she should be content with having about a group of people that she now has become apart of since she entered America. I know that we used to be Kings and Queens and d I see progression of our race, in myself and other people I know that are taking strides to be productive. Also, when God does bless me with a career I won't forget where I came from and to help my people.
She was upset with me because I was defending the Black people in America. So I wanted her to understand that she is Haitian. Clearly we could have another debate where I was attacking her people and I would expect for her to defend them tooth and nail. Therefore she cannot neglect the fact that she can make statements and honestly talk about her feelings without a complete disregard for my feelings. This is my thought process. I can say whatever I want about my sister and how crazy she is and how she gets on my nerves, but I would never give anyone the right to talk about her to me in a negative way. She is my sister and because I love her unconditionally I can recall times when I have disliked her, but that is my right.
Finally, I am a really pointed person, and I give advice upon request. It has been my experience that you shouldn't hold anyone to a standard that you don't have for yourself. You learn more when you listen so I have been trying to be a better listener. In the mist of our extremely long conversation I noticed that my Haitian friend had not met a standard that she was imposing on Black Americans.
When she mentioned black people being ungrateful I agreed. I said you are correct. My father always mentions to me that foreigners come to America and take full advantage of our educational systems while Black students are less than motivated. I recalled my experience as a freshman and acknowledged that I took for granted my opportunity to excel in college.
I brought to her attention that she had the same experience as a Black American because she was ungrateful herself and despite her hardships and how great they are in comparison to a Black American she fell victim to the same mistakes. I reminded her that she made choices that didn't have school as her first priority and did not do as well as she expect her first semester. She had plans and goals that she didn't achieve because she became distracted. In that light she should see how easy it is for people to make mistakes, but she was stubborn and saw no resemblance in her experience and my experience.
It is hard to have conversations with people because no one wants to believe that there are alternative ways of thinking. No one wants to admit defeat. No one wants to feel real emotion or discover real logic that surfaces from a passionate debate. I couldn't imagine texting the conversation that we had or having it over the phone. I don't know at what point who would have hung up on who. Talking about race is so hard because people don't know where to place or accept accountability. It is such a sensitive topic. This conversation was hardest for me because I was debating with some one who was supposed to be on my team. It made it more real the issues that were extremely undeniable, that I may overlook with love.