As a Black Man, How do I Want to Treat White Men?

Written by Tod.

The example of touching a hot stove and getting burned has been used over and over again to share the impact of conditioning.   The idea is that if you get burned once or twice by a hot stove, the next time you are near a stove you won’t touch it for fear of getting burned yet again. I have had good experiences with White men in my life but I have also had that “getting burned” experience with far too many.  Consequently, both consciously and subconsciously, I’ve been leery and suspicious of White men upon first meeting them and would often bring resentments from past experience to that interaction.  I’ve been reticent to connect with them without first finding ways to fully “vet” them for racial prejudice. Even if I didn’t find prejudice initially, I felt certain that if our relationship continued it would rear its ugly head, sooner or later.  So I would simply remain in a sort of holding pattern, waiting for the shoe to drop.

 Over time, life experience and deeper reflection I began to ponder whether this approach to White men was really what I wanted and was it even fair?  Was I allowing my “stove” conditioning to impact my humanity?   Was I truly walking with dignity, honor and nobility on this planet or was I only doing so when it was easy?  I began to ponder statements I had heretofore glossed over but that potentially had profound implications for my life.  “Bless those that curse you.”  “Love your enemy.” “If they poison your life sweeten their souls.”  I thought more deeply about what would have to change in me to actually put those directives into practice!!  Then one day I was listening to the radio and I heard someone say something to the effect that “God does not treat you the way ‘He’ does because of who you are.  He treats you the way He does because of who He is!”  That hit me right between the eyes.  It became clear to me that I was allowing how someone else acted to determine how I was going to be as a human being.  I was allowing their actions, expected actions or perceived actions to rob me of what I held as most sacred - my humanity.  I realized the real issue was not whether this or that White man I meet was going to be prejudiced.  The question was how do I choose to treat people based on who I am, what I stand for, how I want to “represent! This was a quantum leap in consciousness for me. I literally went “cold turkey” as to continuing my past behavior. I told myself “no more, no more.”   

It has not always been an easy path to traverse. (I will share another time how I have attempted to translate my new-found consciousness into practical action with greater and lesser degrees of success.) But for now I will simply say the journey continues and that I feel a greater sense of dignity and inner peace and I feel mentally, emotionally and spiritually healthier. I also feel a deep kinship to the person I am becoming!