The Perfect Question To Ask Right Now

Over a year ago, I wrote a post about the verdict of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case.  I couldn't have imagined at the time what was coming down the pike for race relations in this country.  At the time that I wrote that post, I was actually concerned about the possible reactions I might get; which now in retrospect seem like minuscule concerns in the light of the chaos that is happening right now.  I also forget sometimes that my writing is not just about me, and I have to ask myself if my expressions will help to edify others, even in a small way, towards examining and healing hearts.

But I am not alone.  Amongst the endless posts and articles I've read over the past couple of months, there are so many far more analytical, empirical and critical than I in their analysis of our ongoing events.  One post in particular I truly appreciated came from C.G. Brown on Facebook who points out the recurring themes of societal attitudes (i.e., misguided attitudes) towards race...

I could fill this entire bingo card repeatedly for as many times as I've heard these various arguments; arguments that only serve to remind me that we are far from getting to the root of our race problems in America because we're still at the stage of deflection and denial; avoidance and indifference.

Discussions about race are a regular part of my life, which is why when I am having these discussions with someone for whom race is hardly ever an issue in their life, it can often be too hard to connect from a place of common ground.  But there is one question that I've found that seems to break through this barrier of racial insensitivity.  It has been asked of me at least a few times, and amidst the mostly racially tone-deaf conversations I've had, it was the one question that seemed to pierce through the blister of indifference....

This person gave me their opinion about the latest racial incident in the news and then in all earnestness he asked me...

"....but what do you think?"

This has been the question that has deeply touched my heart and brought me hope for our world.  I have treasured it more than any solidarity we might fall into about the current social climate, because in one simple question my humanity is at once acknowledged and taken into consideration.  That "but" is a conjunction that signifies the making of room for and then the connection of another idea....That "but" means you've shifted away from your own world view long enough to consider another's world view.  In one small question, I am shown that there is room for my perspective in someone else's conception of the world, and that my opinion is valued enough that you might be informed by it. 

That question, when asked in all sincerity and humility, is powerful and healing all at once - it is the gateway to a deeper empathy.  But here's the's only powerful when it is asked by those meek enough to push through the veil of their own experience in order to imagine the experience of someone unlike them.  To do this takes courage and a certain level of servility. 

But don't misunderstand.  This is not an equal opportunity kind of question because that would assume that all things have been equal all along.  No.  This is a question meant to bring balance to unbalanced relationships. It's the kind of question that most often needs to be asked by the empowered to the lesser empowered or unempowered.  It is a question that should be asked by those whose voices are always heard versus the people who are rarely ever heard.  It is a question that should be asked by the highly advantaged to the grossly disadvantaged, by the unburdened to the oppressed, by the privileged to the underprivileged.

That question is in many ways is at the heart of our humanity and holds the keys to true peace in our world.

Happy 2015. Here's to filling up less and less of that bingo card.

Michele ThomasComment