Tag Archives: black white relations

An In-Depth Look At The 2013 National Race Amity Conference

14 Nov

Waking Up White by Debby Irving

My first foray into attending a conference that focused on diversity, inclusion and race relations was on November 1st and 2nd, 2013, at the National Race Amity Conference sponsored by the National Center for Race Amity (NCRA) based at Wheelock College in Boston, MA.

I wouldn’t have known about the conference if it weren’t for Debby Kittredge Irving sending me an email notice a few weeks earlier. I met Debby several years ago at the Grub Street Writers’ Conference in Boston. In one of the workshop sessions, Debby had mentioned a book she was working on about race and her awakening to her own white privilege–the first time I had heard the term used, and I just knew I had to connect with her. By then I had been doing my own writing about what seemed to be my obsession with race relations.

As I thought about attending the conference, I recall wondering, and at times worrying about what the experience would be like. […]

7, 8, 9, and 10—Rounding Out Wendy Jane’s Primer On Race Conversations

2 Aug

Last week I posted If You’re White Get It Right: Wendy Jane’s Primer For White People On How To Have Conversations On Race.  It was met with a lot of support and sharing on Facebook and my newly crossed frontier:  twitter.  I am always so touched by the connections I make here, and was especially glad to find new like-minded friends who desire to create space for inclusion and the betterment of race relations.

If you read the post, you might remember my list included six points, bits of advice for us white people when it comes to having conversations on race.  I said I wanted your advice and tips to add to the list, so here it goes, Tips 7 – 10 from you, WJSS readers.  Thanks for taking the time to respond.

7.   From Kels:  Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend that just because race doesn’t matter to YOU that it doesn’t matter.

8. From KLH:  My suggestion is for white folks to stop saying they’re color blind. I say we should all embrace colour not ignore it.

9.  From Kathy H: I’d like to suggest that the biggest contribution any of us can make to better relations between the races, is to quit thinking in stereotypes. That is true for people of any race for we all have a tendency to do it. It may be a simple way of thinking, but life isn’t simple.

Black people think, do, say, or have (fill in stereotype). White people think, do, say, or have (fill in stereotype). Odds are that, once in awhile, you’ll be correct. But you’ll also get it wrong much of the time. People really aren’t that different when it comes right down to it. We’re all influenced by our environments. …Don’t think in stereotypes. Not for yourself and not for anyone else. We’re all in this together.

10.  Wait….I still need number 10!  Please help us get to 10 and beyond, by leaving a piece of advice below, and then we can all feel complete, or at least like we have a full set of tools for that next talk we have about race that I just know we all are going to do, right?


Photo credit:  http://www.jacksonfreepress.com/news/2013/jun/26/putting-toe-water-race-conversation/

Brian Huff And My Break-Dancing Butterflies

28 May

I can’t remember how my older sister Sarah and I got on the subject of Brian Huff the other day–a gorgeous black kid that moved into town and became Sarah’s classmate in 7th grade.  I think we were talking about her old friend Audrey who had finally joined Facebook.  Audrey and Brian were “an item” back then, and I was jealous because, well, even though I was two years younger than him, whenever I looked at Brian, […]

Is Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake “White and Fluffy?”

6 Jul

It all started innocently enough. April is an old friend from high school who I’ve become reacquainted with through Facebook. She and I chat from time to time there, she’s visited my blog, and we’ve talked briefly about us both being into black culture.

The other week, I got this FB message from April:

What’s up Wendy…you should try to find a name for white chicks that hang on the fringes of black culture. They call straight chicks that hang on the fringes of gay culture, FAG HAGS.

I liked her question, since I love thinking up titles for my blog posts and memoir pieces, and I thought, yes, what’s in a name? What should we be called?

So, yesterday I messaged April on Facebook to try and brainstorm a name for “white chicks that hang on the fringes of black culture.” And, here begins our Q & A session. Please remember this is Facebook chat, and so our answers may seem clipped:


Wendy Jane: I do want to write a blog post about your mentioning we should come up with a name for us white people that hang on fringes of black culture.

April: they call us wiggers

it’s offensive

I asked my daughter

I don’t think I personally hang around the fringes of black culture

I think you definitely do though

I’m all enmeshed into it

 I’m black

 by proxy

WJ: Can you explain?

A: At my Thanksgiving table…I’m the only white person

 on the outside

WJ: I forget–were you married to a man that was black

A: no, I just had a black child who also has two black children.

and none of my family members…speak slang or need to have “ghetto status symbols” to be black

wigger is offensive

I like BLOXY…

which is Black by Proxy


it’s the best I can come up with

but we are not GHETTO BLACKS

we don’t speak slang

we don’t wear weird clothes

we are not judging each other by what label is on our jeans or sneakers or car

we are helping each other grow into good people

WJ: All right but all that gets into stereotyping too–to say someone is ghetto black, but I know what you are saying–like remember that girl Susan something from Wilby who was white but talked like she was trying to sound like she was black–yeah I am not that.

A: We have rebelled against black culture actually

WJ: there is much more to black culture than the hip hop culture

A: WENDY…I find blacks very racist

WJ: all groups of people have individuals who are racist

A: when it comes down to it though….a black woman will vote for a black before she will vote for a woman

WJ: but, yeah, there can be black people who don’t like whites or Hispanics….

A: Hillary should have been our president

black women forgot they were women

but they will never forget they are black

WJ: that can be true-there has been so little representation for black people in politics.

A:Hillary was a hundred times more politically qualified for the job

she lost it to a color


that says a lot about what is really going on in black peoples heads

so you can THINK they are not racist

WJ: Anyway, what do you like about being enmeshed in black culture, the black community?

A: I like that I have been BLOXY so long that it’s not a topic of conversations

 it just is

 it’s not news

like being gay…it never comes up

I just am

WJ: cool-how old is your daughter?

A: 28 🙂


WJ: wow–I’m sure she’s a great young woman with you as her mother


We chit chat a little more about her daughter and my daughters.


A: I know you don’t like to hear my perspective at times on the inner workings of black culture…but I make a very valid point when I mention the black women voters

the truth isn’t always white and fluffy

many black people have turned their back on black culture until they needed the support of the black community

OJ SIMPSON…being one also

black people stand for BLACK whether it’s right or wrong

be careful

type whatever you wish…your blog is white and fluffy

has no real meaning

you are too afraid to offend anyone


W: I’m sorry if I seem like I don’t want to hear it–that is not true. I will say that I don’t like to talk politics, and I sometimes have a different point of view which is my own, and which I get from talking to other black people or reading books by black authors.

A: It doesn’t really matter in the end what they say or write…the vote spoke louder

you judge people by their intentions, I judge them by their actions

actions speak louder than words

We could have a great talk show together

The phones would be blowing up and I would be taking all the heat


 I wish you the best

Enjoy the rest of the day

W: I am hurt by what you say, but you are entitled to your opinion. I just feel we all have to be careful about what we say because we end up stereotyping people.

There are many ways to be black.

A: I am not trying to hurt you…I was kinda hurt you didn’t know my daughter has black kids

 I only have two hundred pics of her up there

if I were black WENDY, maybe you would have looked!

W: and if we did have a talk show you would not be the only one taking the heat

I’m sorry about that- I have seen the pictures and they are beautiful grandkids–I was trying to be a good journalist and get the facts. They could have had a white father. I knew your daughter was bi-racial. I didn’t want to get the facts wrong

A: It’s no big deal

you’re wonderful..enjoy your journey

 one life to a customer

 I find you racially biased

but that’s your privilege…you have only been dipping your feet into the black stuff since your divorce right?

W: Thank you for opening this up into something deeper. I’m certain we all have biases. No one escapes that. And, I have been interested in black culture since I was a kid. And had serious relationships with black guys in my teens and twenties so used to be more enmeshed in it too.


I ended up getting bumped off-line on my computer, and we wrapped up a little later, with me thanking her, and her thanking me for being “a gracious interviewer.”

This was pretty much the first interview I’ve ever done. It was brief, and it was on Facebook, so the flow was rapid, we were typing and crossing over each other’s questions and answers.  I now realize in my transcription, that there are things I would have spent more time responding to, and a few places where I feel I put my foot in my mouth, and am not proud of what I said.

I am not proud of saying that bit about the white girl who tried to sound black. What does it mean to sound black? And, in that same segment I also say, …”I know what you are saying.”   That is not to say  I agree with what April is saying about “ghetto blacks.” I meant it to say, I understand what you are aiming to say, even though I felt strongly that she was making negative statements about what her perceptions of certain segments of the black community are. It’s like me saying, “I’m white, but I don’t act like white trash….”

I also made a comment about all races have individuals within the group that are racist, but remember from my readings and talks with others here that black people cannot be considered racist–that when a group of people have been oppressed and have experienced institutionalized racism from groups of individuals who considered themselves in a superior position, that the oppressed people cannot be called racist, but can be considered biased.

I also strongly disagreed with the statements April made about black voters, and what goes on in the heads of black people, but wanted to get back on track with the subject matter we had planned to talk about.

I do have to say, I love April’s line about me …”dipping my feet into the black stuff” and laugh at the way I get defensive by trying to prove my credibility with my dating history.

April, you, of course, need to have a turn to make your own follow up comments too here.

And, in all seriousness, I do have to thank April for her honesty, and for opening up a much deeper discussion than the one originally planned for. I did feel wounded when she said she thought my blog was “white and fluffy” and had no real meaning, and that I was too worried about offending people. Those statements gave me pause.

I do hate conflict. I don’t ever want to offend people. I want people to like me. I don’t like rocking the boat. Race is such a loaded topic, and I find myself always trying to be careful with what I say here and the way I say it. I met a white woman who is writing a book on white privilege who warned me about “stepping in my own s%#t” when I write or speak about race. She wasn’t kidding.

Yet, I know I am who I am, and what my intentions with this blog are. I’m also certain this journey will take many different, unplanned paths. I know that my approach is to write about race in a light, humorous way via my personal experiences, with the hope that these little stories will open up conversations about things that can be difficult to talk about. And, that’s exactly what happened with April and me when all we thought we were going to do was think up a funny name for “white chicks that hang around the fringes of black culture.”

Please let me know what you think. April says at the end…”that’s your privilege.” And, yes, I come from a place of white privilege. I cannot, and neither can she know what it is like to be black. I am only learning from my connections, and from my readings.

Is Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake white and fluffy? Does it have meaning; value? Please be honest. I especially need to hear from people of color on this one. Thank you.



Me and Black Providence: Where’s The Connection?

25 May

My friend Ellen asked me if it was hard to come up with material for the blog, and to write so frequently.  I responded that it’s not so hard most of the time, but there are definitely days I have no idea of what I’m going to write about.

Early on, I had a lot to say, a lot I had already written about my growing up, and the way I was able to connect across colorlines as a young girl, teen, and into my twenties.  But, now that I have written a good deal about my past, I feel I have to look to news and ideas that are current, that aren’t always looking backward, and more importantly, that show my present day-to-day striving to connect across colorlines here in Providence, Rhode Island, where I have lived for the past five years.

Only problem is, I haven’t done much connecting.  Providence is a very diverse city; it’s population represented with diverse groups of people from Portugal, Cape Verde, Dominican Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, the Azores and beyond. Yet, I don’t know exactly why, but connecting with diverse peoples on a more personal level has seemed out of reach for me.

It seemed easier for me in other places to gain a sense of where certain communities of people lived, shopped, and ate.  Perhaps I used to be more adventurous; more of an explorer.  Maybe being a mother of two pre-teen daughters means I’m spending more time being their chauffeur, and not enough time expanding my horizons.

Where does the black community live here?  Or, is the community spread out over many neighborhoods?  I know of the Mt. Hope neighborhood on the East Side of Providence, but I don’t really know of other neighborhoods.  And, who are the faces of black Providence?What are their stories?

What’s a white blogger with an obsession about race relations to do?

I have to become the explorer again.  I need to connect with people who are black that I do know here and have them teach me about Providence and black culture and local black history.  I need them to help me connect with others that I don’t yet know.  I need to start collecting and sharing stories.

I’m excited just thinking about all the good things that will come from making new connections.  Thanks for listening.  I hope to share some new Providence stories very soon!




Who Knew? Singapore’s Racial Harmony Day

24 Apr

While looking for songs on racial harmony on Youtube, I came across a song sung by a group of young girls from Singapore.  The song, All for One, (lyrics re-written from the High School Musical tune of the same name) is a squeaky clean, eternally hopeful ditty that makes a plea for racial harmony between all the races in Singapore.

In fact, it seems that July 21st is designated as National Racial Harmony Day.  Here is the information I gathered from the site, www.ne.edu.sg

Schools commemorate Racial Harmony Day on 21st July. On this day in 1964, Singapore saw racial riots. Racial Harmony Day serves to remind our pupils that social division costs us dearly and that race and religion are potential fault-lines in Singapore society. It is a day for schools to reflect on, and celebrate our success as a harmonious nation and society built on a rich diversity of cultures and heritages.

Here is an example of what elementary school students do to commemorate the day:

Learning Points for Primary Schools

Students should learn to make friends with people of other races and religions and not make fun of people who are different. Students should also learn that in Singapore, people are treated equally regardless of their race and religion and they should also do the same. Students should appreciate the different cultures that make up Singapore.


What would an American Racial Harmony Day look like?  Would one National Day Event really work to promote and sustain racial harmony?  I’m not sure, but the food looked really good at Singapore’s Racial  Harmony Day!  Tell me here, what would you be sure to include in an American version of Racial Harmony Day?

Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake Book Shelf: Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness by Toure

28 Feb

I just finished reading Touré’s recent book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness.

Touré 40,  is an author, correspondent for MSNBC, host of two shows on the Fuse Network, Hiphop Shop and On the Record, and contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine.

The book’s impetus seems to come from two places.  The first, is Touré’s feeling that with Barack Obama as our first black President, and as a black man unlike others we have seen before on the national scene, we now have a more complex and varied definition of what it means to be black. […]

Whose Ghetto Is It?

27 Feb


At the dinner table, my daughter Leni said that one of her classmates had said another lived in the ghetto. She then asked if we lived in the ghetto. And, then posed the same question with a variation. “Do we live in the “whetto?”

Hmmm. Whetto? White Ghetto? I like our neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. It feels cozy to me—its narrow streets of closely packed three-family houses, with a sprinkling of tiny cottages mixed in. A walkable neighborhood with boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops, and a park that fronts the Providence River. A former shipping port, the neighborhood was home to a largely Portuguese, Cape Verdean and Irish community, but it’s said that in the 1970’s, urban renewal, gentrification and the encroachment of nearby universities shifted demographics, and now there’s a mix of the old guard, college students, and families like ours.

Leni is twelve, and has grown quite conscious of status, especially with clothing. With her question about the ghetto, I saw she now also noticed the difference between affluent neighborhoods and more modest ones, and I was certain she felt our home sat in the latter category. I asked her if she knew the definition of ghetto. Then I looked it up in the dictionary.

ghetto: formerly the restricted quarter of many European cities in which Jews were required to live; “the Warsaw ghetto”

Our family being Jewish, before I reached for the dictionary, I had given Leni the example of Jews having to live in the Warsaw ghetto because I was getting the feeling she had a previously imprinted image in her head of ghettos being only where poor black people lived. After reading the definition, I felt ignorant too. While I had given the Jewish ghetto as an example of one kind of ghetto, I hadn’t known it started with us.


Another Tune: The Robert Glasper Experiment

26 Feb

Okay, I ‘ll admit it.  I just found out about this guy by reading an article on-line on NPR today.

Robert Glasper is a traditional jazz pianist from Houston who has teamed up with a variety of r & b, hip-hop, jazz and rock musicians to create The Robert Glasper Experiment.  His new album, Black Radio, that includes collaborations with Erykah Badu, Ledisi, Lupe Fiasco, and Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) is coming out on February 28th.

Here is a cut from the album, Afro Blue, which features Erykah Badu.