Questions of Color - Straight Talk about Race
On Monday, March 6, I attended "Questions of Color" at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. This video project was created by The Dallas Morning News and was designed as a eye-opening conversation about race and diversity.
I had only heard about the project through a friend who sent me the invitation, so I didn't know what to expect. I watched the video series the day of the event, and was very intrigued by the conversations.
When I arrived, I did not think I was in the right place, because there were older white people standing in line outside. For some reason, I assumed that this event would attract a younger, more diverse crowd (as if race conversations only pertains to younger people of color). I double checked the sign, asked the valet, and the greeter at the door if I was in the right place. I was.....and I walked in and quickly scanned the room, as I normally do, looking for other people who looked like me because I believe that helps me to determine how the event will turn out or how much I will interact within the event space. Noticing the room was getting crowded quickly, I found a seat up front next to a beautiful silver haired black lady that reminded me of my grandmother. We made eye contact and smiled at one another, and I instantly felt welcomed to take that particular seat. She introduced herself as Ada Simmons (circled in the photo) and stated she was one of the people who participated in the video project. She was very well spoken and very well dressed, and we started talking about her participation in the project. One of the things she mentioned that she felt was missing from this conversation, was the bias that happens within the physical color spectrum of a particular race. She was from Louisiana and her experience as being "light skinned" black, was very different from her sister's experience as a "dark skinned" black girl. I listened, to her story and even though I had experienced racism and bias, my experience was vastly different from her's because our perspectives were different due to our generational gap.
The program started, and the discussion began about how this project came to light. The event included a panel of very culturally and age diverse participants who candidly answered tough questions about their experiences as being a minority. By this time, the room was packed with people of all races and ages, all were eager to listen. I loved the fact that the video project included a white pastor, Rev. Diana Holbert, who experienced bias when speaking in front of an all black congregation. After the panel, my conversation with Mrs. Ada Simmons continued. We talked about bi-racial children, the difference in our perspectives in racism, the generational gap, and shared stories of our experiences. I learned so much from this event; even about my own personal bias. As I stated at the beginning of this article, I had somehow convinced myself that older white people were not as interested in having race conversations as much as younger people of color. This topic affects everyone and no matter your age, color, sexual orientation.... you have a stake in initiating the conversations.
This brings to mind a recent experience I had in Dallas with a friend a couple months ago. I wrote a post "Admitting to your Stereotypical Ways" to share the details of my Sunday brunch, being one of very few people of color in the restaurant, and being asked if I was there because I know the cook, who happened to be a black lady. Read the post to see the outcome of the conversation I had with an older white man admitting his judgement based on the color of my skin.
You can learn so much about yourself and others just by asking questions about race, cultural differences, and opening up to talk about your beliefs. When people seek to understand others, that's when the magic happens and the race barriers crumble!