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Race is uncomfortable for me to talk about, and I often have the impulse to, like, stay in my lane, to just amplify voices that are more credible than mine as a white man who knows nothing about racism except for the times when I discover my own bias.

But I have been encouraged by Black friends and Black Nerdfighters to talk more about this stuff because, like, I'm an American too. Watching the situation in Charlottesville unfold was a horror, and it's been terribly present in my mind ever since. America has a shameful history, but we also have a history of progress, and that continues now as we fight against a new wave of hate that has found new life.

I also want to be clear that having racist thoughts does not make you a Nazi. We all have bias, we all have fear, and sometimes we even have hate. It's what we do with those things that matters. Do we give in to irrational bias...or do we work hard to keep the hate from creeping in.

Here are some other great and important things I've read this week:
Rhett McLaughlin - Thoughts on Confederate Statues from a Southern White Male: https://medium.com/@rhettmc/thoughts-on-confederate-statues-from-a-southern-white-male-b81a2693113d

What white parents can do for black parents right now - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2017/08/17/what-white-parents-can-do-for-black-parents-right-now/

This thing about "white pride" https://twitter.com/AdrianXpression/status/897978833151852544

White Americans Have to Make a Choice
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/08/white_americans_can_end_the_fight_over_confederate_monuments.html

Secret Project - email already went out, you can read it here: http://mailchi.mp/b89eabef63d4/build-a-turtle-cake-happy-birthday-john





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Good morning, John. A couple of months ago, Mom told me a story that I wanna tell you right now, but first, a little bit of context: she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, during segregation. Interracial marriage was illegal; there were different schools for black kids and white kids. Racism wasn't... called racism because it's just the way the world was.

And, of course, a lot changed for her in the seventies as the Civil Rights Movement happened, as she went to college--but, here's the story she told me.

After our family moved to Orlando, she was surprised to find that we would be taught in school by black teachers. Like, she got into a place where, of course, schools would be integrated, there would be black kids in school with us, but that the teachers would be black, she said, was a surprise, and she worried--and she wasn't the only person in her friend group that worried about this--that black teachers wouldn't be able to teach us as well as white teachers.

When I asked Mom if it was okay for me to share that... anecdote, I think it says a lot about her that she said it was okay because obviously this does not make her look good. And she didn't bring this up for, like, twenty-five years. It is hard to talk about race, and I think that we need to do it more.

So she wanted me to. She wanted to help me talk about it; she wanted to help us talk about it. And I feel uncomfortable talking about race. I worry that I'm gonna do something wrong, that I'm gonna hurt somebody. But I wanna do it because it's important, and I think it's in service of the world that I hope we're creating.

I think a lot of white people in America think it is rude or even racist to even notice race. Black people that I know, on the other hand, have a really hard time imagining a world in which race is not a normal topic of conversation.

Racism in America continues to be very real. There is overwhelming data that shows that it affects many facets of people's lives. And not needing to think about or talk about racism is an advantage that I have because I'm white. But the fact that I don't really need to think about racism is on the list of the many good reasons why I should be thinking about it.

Ultimately, unlike some of my classmates, my mom kept us in the classes that we were assigned to. And I don't wanna make it sound like that's some kind of heroic decision, but I also don't want it to sound like she was a monster for having those thoughts in the first place. The point for me is that she wasn't a hero, she wasn't a monster, but that I can still be proud of her.

When I was talking to her about all this, she said something that I thought was really important: she said, "Hate is so easy." That Nelson Mandela quote is true--no one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin. But I also think that tribalism is innate, that we find it much easier to be empathetic toward people who are like us, however we define that. And in America, we have a long, consistent history of not defining black people as like us, as oppressing black people, and that tradition runs right up to today.

The work to break down our innate tribalism, to live in productive diversity, to expand our sphere of empathy, is work. And that work that has been done in America is progress. There has been progress. But when people say, "This is not America"... no, it is America. But, that doesn't mean that I don't love this country, because the great story of human progress isn't just a story of science and technology. It's the story of increasing tolerance, increasing diversity, and human-to-human understanding, and that is not an event, it is a process.

(3:04) [Cue picture of a march or prayer vigil in Washington, D.C.] This is America...

(3:05) [Cue picture of white nationalists at Charlottesville, Virginia rally] ...and this is also America.

We are not done, and we will not finish in my lifetime. Like all great human endeavors, if it's gonna be done before you die, it's too small a goal. But in my life, I wanna get better at listening, I wanna get better at talking. I wanna get better at understanding the gifts that I've been given and using them wisely. I wanna read more diverse books, and I wanna learn from our mom, John. Learn that beliefs can change, that empathy can grow, and that we are never done with the hard, lifelong work of bringing about a world that is more compassionate, tolerant, and just. John, I'll see you on Tuesday.