Hello, White People! I hope you have been practicing diligently! Today we finally get around to something you’ve been wanting to do for so long, I know: TALKING.
White people love to talk at people–but they are definitely at a disadvantage when they are attempting to sustain meaningful conversation with People of Color, due to not being able to shut up; this is in addition to their congenital disability concerning listening, which we touched on in the last exercise. This three-step exercise should help you as a WP to oil the wheels of conversations with POC in a spectacular and surprising way; you may even really communicate with each other.
1. Wait for an answer. Stop after you ask any question, and count to ten as you wait. This is especially good if you find that a) you frequently ask rhetorical questions, not real questions, and/or b) you get half-hearted or no responses when you talk. This is because waiting till you count to ten will elicit a real response from your interlocutor, often in less time than it takes for you to finish counting to ten.
2. Don’t correct your interlocutor! Listen to the answer you get and allow it to hang there unrefuted and unchallenged for a while. Think about it. Squelch that impulse inside you that says, “They misunderstood my point!” or “They just said something that makes no sense!” Remind yourself that the problem could be your understanding, not theirs. It’s literally amazing how many times this does turn out to be the case for WP talking with POC (not to mention men talking with women, but that’s a different blog).
3. When you are telling your story, be aware that it’s only your story. This part of the exercise is hard for WP because we all think we can speak for everybody we know. Don’t non-apologize: “Hey, I know I’m just one person, but I really think everybody in their right minds agrees that…” Just don’t do that! Stay literally, painfully open to the possibility that your interlocutor may disagree even with what you think is basic human instinct, or sheer logic.
Post-script: When your story is over, stop talking. This is actually probably the hardest thing to do ever, so practice in the mirror first.
Have fun, and write back about how your conversations are going when you use these practice steps! We all want to hear! Ciao for now.