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Two Friends — One Black, One White — Talk About Ferguson

We break from our regularly scheduled “Camp” theme for this special piece.

Given the recent, horrific, bizarre and revealing events in Ferguson Missouri, we asked two of our regular TueNight contributors, both close friends — Heather Barmore and Stacy Morrison — to have a brief online chat. We asked them to talk about Ferguson from their own perspectives, black and white respectively. Here’s what transpired:

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Stacy (l) and Heather (r) having a chat. (Photo: Margit Detweiler/ TueNight)

heather_bw

Let’s do this thing.

stacy_bw

So, Ferguson.

heather_bw

 Yes.

stacy_bw

As I typed that my stomach turned over. It’s so upsetting.

heather_bw

It is, and yet it’s good to see this community finally feel empowered to do something.

stacy_bw

I agree on that. And to see that complicated and complex conversations starting to happen.

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People who I don’t normally discuss race are outraged and saying something.

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But conversations also don’t even feel like enough. I really wanted to get on a plane on Monday. I emailed churches. I reached out to community organizers. I wanted to see A THOUSAND WHITE PEOPLE down there in a line facing the (white) police. I still do.

heather_bw

On the one hand I can understand the need to get there now, but on a practical level I wonder how much more people can do without contributing to the chaos. That said, I am still happy that people are finally feeling the need to discuss and willing to be educated about race/educate themselves instead of relying on their black friends

stacy_bw

Right, asking our black friends to school us on all things race, as if it belongs to you exclusively.

heather_bw

Exactly. Also? We are not a monolithic group.

stacy_bw

It’s so strange that we white folk convinced ourselves that because there are educated, successful, brilliant, visible black people in every part of American life that that somehow meant racism was behind us. The persistent urge I have seen for us to just brush it away and say, “Oh, no, that doesn’t happen in MY community” has been amazing to witness. AND even better, it’s been amazing to see that start to come down, just a bit, with Ferguson.

heather_bw

Meanwhile, I have had heinous stuff said about me (mostly on Yahoo) which is nothing compared to people like Feminista Jones, Elon James White and THE PRESIDENT.

But yeah, totally post-racial.

stacy_bw

Feminista is my hero. She has been my hero for a long time, for everything she is, but man…..But all the free-flowing HATE. I don’t understand why HATE is the expression of FEAR and that which we choose not to understand.

heather_bw

And there are people out there who refuse to understand or simply cannot understand that black people are human. That is another thing I have found disturbing: The number of signs during the National Moment of Silence that professed the humanity of blacks. It’s devastating that it needs to be said.

stacy_bw

Yes, a belief based in some deep-seated sense that black people will TAKE SOMETHING from them. What else could it possibly be? It is devastating that it needs to be said. BLACK LIVES MATTER

heather_bw

I still have to tell people that I matter.

stacy_bw

Which blows me away. You’ve been a friend for so long and you have so much to offer…..But I would never have said, “Oh, I don’t even think about the fact that she’s black.”

heather_bw

Well, I am definitely black. Though I was told plenty of times in middle school that I wasn’t “really” black but that’s another story…

stacy_bw

I see you as Black. And I try not to talk too much about your hair.

heather_bw

HA!

stacy_bw

Because, well…

heather_bw

I like to say that it’s mine in that I paid for it

stacy_bw

But Kelly Wickham’s piece “Calling Out My Sisters” really created a radical mind shift for me. I realized I was not being the ally I could be. I realized that I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. Me. AFRAID OF SAYING THE WRONG THING???? That is bizarre to me. That I silenced myself that way.

heather_bw

And you are very outspoken which is shocking to me as well. I know several women who heard that piece during the Mom 2.0 Summit and took it upon themselves to get educated.

stacy_bw

I just had never realized that I was more worried about saying the wrong thing, about looking as if I thought black people needed HELP or were less than….

heather_bw

I get that.

stacy_bw

Instead of seeing it from the perspective I have now: SEE RACISM, NAME RACISM, CALL OUT RACISM, MAKE IT UNCOMFORTABLE TO SAY RACIST THINGS.

heather_bw

I want people to realize that discussing racism isn’t a bad thing, but don’t expect the black people in your life to do all the work for you.

stacy_bw

 Exactly.

heather_bw

Also, call out your racist uncle!

stacy_bw

That’s why Ferguson has helped. So many good perspectives coming out on how to be a #WhiteAlly. I don’t have a racist uncle (thank god), but I have long been able to bat racist comments back at those who would say them around me.

heather_bw

 I just wonder if these conversations will continue when this is all said and done…

stacy_bw

It’s simple. You pause. You take a breath, you look the person in the eye and say, “I find that comment offensive.” And then you shut up.

heather_bw

EXACTLY and thank you.

stacy_bw

And let the uncomfortable that they made me pass back to them. I think of it like handing the pile of shit they just spoke right back to them. I once had a new boyfriend of a dear friend say “Wow, that Stacy has an edge,” because the night he met me one of his friends said a few completely offensive things and I couldn’t let it stand.

heather_bw

It’s all about speaking up. Speaking up and shutting that crap down is one of the first steps.

stacy_bw

The second step is what? Broadcasting injustices like Ferguson?

heather_bw

Yes. Broadcasting injustices.

stacy_bw

I have had the strangest empathic reaction to Ferguson. Every time I pass a Black person in a store, or on the street or whatever, I want to look at them and say “I’m sorry” like some CRAZEE WHITE LAYDEE.

heather_bw

 HA! Don’t do that.

stacy_bw

I know, right? But I *am* sorry. My heart hurts.

heather_bw

Well, I will pass that message along but really, you are doing the right thing by not ignoring things that happen.

stacy_bw

I’ve been borderline sick since Ferguson started because I literally have not been able to believe my eyes and ears.

heather_bw

It’s hard not to read the news coming from there and not be completely burdened by it.

stacy_bw

 The horror that so many Americans feel comfortable focusing on the few “good cops” or who are donating money to the police officer…. which is essentially rewarding him [the officer] for shooting a teenaged black boy in broad daylight six times in anger. Unarmed, I forgot to add.

heather_bw

I discovered the ‘We Support Darren Wilson’ Facebook group this morning.

stacy_bw

Yes, and the fundraising site. Which I saw yesterday. But SO MANY GOOD THINGS have been said.

heather_bw

I mean, he will have legal fees but perhaps not shooting someone SIX TIMES would have prevented that. The good things are what I am focusing on.

stacy_bw

 Like people talking about their own moment that they discovered how deep their white privilege actually runs.

heather_bw

 I have disengaged from many a conversation because it isn’t healthy.

stacy_bw

Or people talking about when they realized they contained racist opinions, even though they thought they were enlightened or whatever.

heather_bw

Which has been an eye opener for me, to see so many realize their privilege

stacy_bw

Being able to acknowledge that it is a human tendency to see differently has been critical too.Because, ironically, I think if we can see that that trigger reaction is within us all naturally, not because we’re shitty people or haters, and that it is something we have to actively work against, then we can start to have a real conversation.

heather_bw

What is so imperative here is that it’s not about changing human behavior but to acknowledge that people are human beings.

stacy_bw

The pretending, the pretending that the Civil Rights Movement fixed anything, that attitude set us back DECADES.

heather_bw

Which is sad.

stacy_bw

We have this bizarre national belief that if you have been successful in life that means you are GOOD. WTF?? And if you have not succeeded, it must be your fault. And therefore, you deserve no help. That attitude exists for: single moms (you should be married), rape victims (you did it to yourself, you brought it on), black people (we won’t even start that list)….Life’s left turns appear out of nowhere, and we can expect to feel dizzy and disoriented when the path isn’t clear. But then, we have the rare opportunity to listen to ourselves and think: Who am I meant to be? And then redirect toward that. THAT is success. Not money. Not career. Not resume.

heather_bw

I’m trying to think of something equally as profound as that. So, I’m just going to say YES.

stacy_bw

And actually, if America were better at not constantly rewarding those who are already rewarded, more of us might believe that. And therefore, be more accepting of those who aren’t like us. But I’m in an idealist. I own that about myself. Not a head-in-the-sky idealist; a feet-on-the-ground, dirt-under-my-nails idealist.

heather_bw

I am not an idealist. I should work on that.

stacy_bw

I will never stop believing that I can make a difference in how people see themselves and each other.

heather_bw

And I will never stop believing that people can be empowered to make change in their communities. On that note, I must depart because I have an angry mother and house guests on the way.

stacy_bw

Nothing scarier than an angry mother!! Though the things we have witnessed this week have been pretty ugly. And also, beautiful.

heather_bw

 I am a little more hopeful. Really.

stacy_bw

We can make a difference. We can. Let’s just keep reminding people that. And I, for one, and going to do all I can to show the way.

heather_bw

And people need to be reminded that they are affected and can participate in any way even if it’s just speaking out.

stacy_bw

“Just” speaking out is VERY POWERFUL, because in America, white people like me unintentionally got QUIET about race. We need to STAY LOUD. You’re good at loud. I am, too. We’re ready for this.

heather_bw

My favorite phrase is “stay woke.”

stacy_bw

🙂

heather_bw

🙂

stacy_bw

 Love you! Fight the power! Or, uh, something like that. xo

heather_bw

HA. Talk soon!

Filed under: She Said She Said

by

Heather and Stacy

Heather Barmore, @heatherbarmore, has been blogging about her life at No Pasa Nada and politics at Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue for the past nine years. She has also been a contributor to BlogHer.com, Babble.com and a host of other sites. Stacy Morrison, @bklynstacy, is a writer, author ("Falling Apart In One Piece"), mother, blogger and editor in chief at BlogHer, the largest women's online publisher.

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