I am a white, Southern, Appalachian, male — born in the 50s, coming of age in the 60s, proud to be a Christian, a liberal, a Democrat. I cast my first presidential vote for George McGovern — and don’t regret it. I went to ACLU meetings in college. I’ve walked a picket line. I’ve been a union member. I’ve marched to combat hunger. I’ve faced down anti-abortion protesters. I’ve advocated for inclusion my whole life.
OK, got the picture?
Suffice it to say I am the exact audience that should read (and heed) But I don’t see you as Asian.
Bruce Reyes-Chow (maybe I should say the ubiquitous Bruce Reyes-Chow since he seems to be just about everywhere) constructs this helpful addition to the conversation about race around phrases or thoughts most folks like me have said or thought at one time in their life.
I can easily recall times when such phrases/thoughts as “but I don’t see you as (fill in the blank),” or “but you never show up,” or (forgive me) “why do you always sit together?” came out of my mouth or floated through my brain.
Here’s an example of the insight Bruce offers, this one from the chapter entitled “Why do you always sit together?”:
Yes, there are always exceptions, but in general, people— especially people of color— do not gather in the name of excluding White folks, but because there is familiarity and comfort in that space. In fact, when White friends point out that some group is always gathering together, I ask them how often they are in a room or gathering entirely consisting of White folks. The “oh yeah” that ensues is a good reminder that the lives and gatherings of people of color do not revolve around or base themselves upon the needs and comfort of White people, but their own.
Bruce provides a gentle, often humorous primer and reminder for us white folks of how our perceptions, no matter how well-intentioned or sincere, will always, ALWAYS, come from a perspective of being part of the dominant, majority culture.
I was alternately angered, chagrined, amused, reinforced and informed by this easily accessible work.
(A side note: perhaps Paula Deen should read the chapter entitled: “If they can say it, why can’t I?”)
I feel fortunate to be able to call Bruce a friend, both virtually and IRL. He is a gentle, understanding soul, who recognizes his own foibles which makes it easier to cope with those in the rest of us, which enables him to help us see them in ourselves.
Thanks, Bruce, for listening to the voices that led you to produce this.
Now, everybody else, read this book!