Paul R. Lehman, Communication is a process, not just some comments

March 27, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, criminal justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 4 Comments
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After leaving security in the airport I began walking through the concourse towards my terminal gate. Walking next to me was a young man, probably in his mid-thirties, who suddenly began talking. He asked a number of questions, like “How are you?”And “How are things going with you?” to which I promptly responded. We continued walking towards our respective gates and he continued talking. Naturally, I continued to respond. This activity went on for about thirty seconds when the young man turned and headed in another direction, I assumed towards his gate. What puzzled me was his quick turn without any word of warning to me. I watched as he walked away and suddenly realized that the man was still talking, but not to me or anyone else in sight. I continued to look after him for a while when I realized that he had a device attached to his ear. That is when reality slapped me in the face—this young man was never talking to or with me; he was on his cell phone. A new lesson learned about communication that can be applied to our everyday experiences. Communication is a process that involves someone sending a message, another one receiving the message and responding to the message sent. The lesson is to know with whom one is speaking to so all parties will understand the message and its intent.

That lesson could easily be applied to the many discussions in society today involving relationships among African Americans, people of color, and European Americans. The distance that exists between people of color and European Americans communicating with each other cannot be easily bridged without each side knowing first that a language and knowledge gap exists. Too often people representing African Americans and European Americans agree to get together to discuss issues such as race, injustice, criminal justice, and a host of other topics assuming they share the same or similar perspectives and understanding of the topics. Unfortunately, conversations might extend for hours with both sides thinking that they are making progress in gaining a better understanding of one another when, in fact, they have not made any progress at all. The reason for the lack of progress comes from the fact that they do not know the mindset each side brought to the conversation. Each side speaks thinking their point of view or perspective is fully understood and appreciated when the opposite is true. Let us look at an example of this conundrum focusing on race.

When Americans talk about race the meaning and significance of the term are not the same with all people. The reason for this conflict has to do with the social conditioning each side received living in American society. As a matter of fact, many Americans do not realize the fact of their social conditioning since it is hardly ever discussed. For example, many Americans do not realize that bigotry is viewed as a natural part of American society. Some European Americans do not realize that they belong to the human race because they have been led to believe that they are representative of the human race. In other words, all the other people in American belong to a race, but not them; they are the model.

When Americans look around society they see markers and symbols that reflect European American life and history. When we look at the names of the streets, buildings, parks, and even some communities, we realize that these usually underscore aspects of European American life and history.  Everything in society appears natural to the European American, even slavery at one time. Although legal slavery ended with the Civil War, the legacy of the institution of European American (white) supremacy still manifest itself today in the way some people talk, think and act.

For many European Americans, the mere mention of the word race brings to mind African Americans because race is viewed as restricted to African Americans. History has traditionally placed the African Americans in a position of inferiority compared to European Americans, so viewing African Americans as inferior is not viewed as unusual but natural. The topic of race to many European Americans is anathema because it brings up many things in today’s society that they must refuse to recognize or simply plead ignorance to knowing like social injustice, social inequality, discrimination in the criminal justice system, voting rights, and other equally important concerns. That being the case, problems involving race cannot be resolved by people who view race from different perspectives regardless of how long they talk about it. Each side believes the other side understands their perception of the issue when they actually only see their own view.

When an American citizen identifies himself or herself as black or white, they are in fact saying that they believe in a race by color and by extension believe in European American (white) superiority. What this situation means is that an acceptance of the false concept of race makes it impossible to resolve any problems involving race fairly unless the concept of race is debunked at the very start of the conversation. Unfortunately, for many European Americans taking the action of debunking the false concept of race is extremely difficult because they do not realize that the perspective they hold is biased towards African Americans and other people of color and was acquired from their social conditioning in everyday life. They do not realize that they live in a society where to accept the concept of race by color is the very essence of ethnic bias, so anytime they refer to or think of themselves as white, they are talking about race.

Unfortunately, many Americans believe they already know everything there is to know about race and proceed to talk about it without caution. Fortunately, my lesson in the airport taught me to make certain that what I hear someone saying is meant for me and that they are speaking to me. The onus falls on me to recognize what is communication and what is just talk.

 

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4 Comments »

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  1. That story about the airport conversation is a good analogy.

  2. With this blog you have again pinpointed vital, but unrecognized, issues in our efforts to effect change regarding historically established patterns of ethnic relations.
    I especially appreciate this blog in several ways: The opening anecdote is personal and relatable to most of us; it leads well into your important point about communication; the lesson learned is invaluable to our attempted dialogues about race (bigotry); and the title is quite instructive.
    I enjoyed this blog very much.

    • Tom,

      Thank you for your comments; they are always greatly appreciated.

      Paul

      > WordPress.com


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