What's Racist is Not Talking about Race

Last month I had the chance to snoop on Aaron as he was hanging out with some friends.  One was black and two were white.  At one point, Aaron asked one of his friends, "hey, can you pass me that black folder?"  Immediately, the two white friends hollered, "Ooh, that's racist!"  Several minutes later, it happened again as a result of a black pencil that Aaron needed.

When he and I were walking home, we talked about the incident.  He was confused but not thrown.  I told him that we talk pretty openly about race in our family, because there are many occasions to and because it is an important topic, and I wondered aloud about how often and how freely such conversations took place in his friends' homes.

Race is, of course, both an important topic and a delicate one.  Sometimes we can decide that because of that, we will walk on eggshells when it comes up, treat it in hushed tones, or avoid it altogether.  To be sure, we have to display some tact and sensitivity when talking about race.  But, at least within the confines of our home, I'd prefer that our kids raise issues and work it out with us than feel they can't inquire.  To be silent is to insinuate that it doesn't matter (which it does) or that all is well (which it isn't). 

I can't speak for other households, but I have to think it's bad when the mere mention of the color black is cause for accusations of racism, let alone talking about issues related to people of color.  What's racist is not using the word black, or talking about race, but rather not talking about race at all. 

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