Tag Archives: race relations

Aw’ C’mon: Or How My Wanting to Cross Color Lines Wasn’t Always Taking Black People’s Concerns Into Consideration

10 Mar

white woman yelling black manAs I read Debby Irving’s Waking Up White, (review here) her account of “waking up” to how her own white privilege, and the greater societal systems created to give white people advantage over people of color, shaped her perceptions of race and the way she interacted across color lines, I couldn’t help but take a look at myself, and the actions and inactions I have made, or not made over the years. […]

National Center For Race Amity Conference 2014

12 Dec

I was procrastinating on writing this post on the National Race Amity Conference in Norwood, Massachusetts that I attended in mid-November.  Then, the Ferguson indictment decision for police officer Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case was televised, and I was overcome with sadness and anger, and immediately blogged about that the night of the decision.  I procrastinated some more, and then the heartbreaking decision to again, not indict.  This time it was the white policeman who caused Eric Garner’s death by placing him under a choke-hold.

I thought, how do I write about the conference […]

Repost from Humans Of New York: “Things Are Getting Better”

5 Mar

You probably know about Humans of New York–the photography project of street photographer Brandon Stanton who documents ordinary New Yorkers, and somehow manages them to share extraordinary stories.  If you don’t, you should check it out. Here’s one of Brandon’s subjects.

“The army stationed me down South when I was younger, and I couldn’t even use the same bathroom as white people. But things have changed so much. The younger generation isn’t nearly as racist. I’ve been sitting here for fifty years. So much has changed. This neighborhood used to be all black. A white person couldn’t even walk down this street. All the races kept to themselves. Now you’ve got Indians talking to Pakistanis, blacks talking to whites, everybody is here and learning from each other’s cultures. I’ve been sitting here for 50 years. Things are getting better.”

With so much going on in regards to race that is negative, I look to places where there is positivity, movement to make things better, to connect in positive ways.  This man gives me some hope.

Thanks, Brandon, for the amazing photos, and even more so for the stories that you get people from all walks of life to share with you, and in turn, with all of us.  They are little treasures, each one of them.

Visit Humans Of New York’s blog at www.humansofnewyork.com.  You can also “Like” HONY on Facebook, or follow on tumblr or twitter. And now, you can buy their New York Times Best Seller book of the same name.


SOURCE:  Blog re-post from Humans of New York, February 28, 2014

Photo Credit: Brandon Stanton


Book Event: Waking Up White with Author Debby Irving and Interviewer Shay Stewart-Bouley

10 Feb

Just last week I attended a book signing and author interview featuring Debby Irving and her newly published, Waking Up White.  The event took place at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Mass.

The evening was sponsored by local non-profit racial equity organization Community Change, Inc. Serving as interviewer was Community Change’s new Executive Director, Shay Stewart-Bouley.  Ms. Stewart-Bouley is also known for her blog, Black Girl in Maine, which is described as the musings of a black woman living in one of the whitest states.

Waking Up White was published this month and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but have been looking forward to it’s arrival ever since I met Debby at the Muse and the Marketplace Writers’ Conference in Boston several years ago.  […]

What’s In A Blog Tagline, Part Two: The Follow-up

17 Jan

I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read my prior post questioning whether my blog’s tagline conveyed what WJSS is all about.  The post also spoke of my decision to change part of the tagline after I received feedback that made me uncomfortable with the original version.  I was able to see how my words… “humorous obsession with race..” could be taken as offensive by people of color who don’t have the luxury of not having to worry about the implications of race on a day-to-day basis.

I truly appreciated all of your thoughtful comments here on the blog, and wanted to share some of the dialogue that came through on twitter, and my facebook page:

from Christopher Johnson, an amazing poet, spoken word-artist, and friend:

I get it now. I still think what you tagline presently reads is a soft opening, and everyone does not have to come from such an affirmative angle. You you change it to a specific like Black White relations, that may hit too hard for someone who may just be curious. You won’t be able to please everyone, so as long as you speak your truth for this moment, which is subject to change later, but for this moment, then you achieve what you need for this moment. You will attract who needs to hear your message. My opinion. Some people need baby steps.


from my fellow Waterburian friend, the lady of one love, Kelly Quinn

I believe that I read the comments regarding the current tag line. Wasn’t the woman suggesting that the word “race” encompasses more than black/white relations?   I like the word “curious.”  I agree with Christopher though– if you try to please everyone, you will have a different tag line every week!  My best advice is to say exactly what it is….and leave it at that.


From friend, Daniel Kamil, owner of the wonderful Cable Car Cinema and Cafe:

one woman’s travels into white privilege.


from my friend on fb and beyond, Karen Oldham-Kidd

Great article, Wendy. And, I don’t find your tagline offensive. I “get” It. With that said, I believe that ONLY you can decide what your tagline should be!

from my friend, Diana Fox, mentioned in the prior WJSS tagline post:

 I like the change, and obviously Karen’s right–it should be your own decision (and thx for sharing our convo in here btw–so nice to know you think so deeply about your friends’ views!). Your blog certainly inspires convos btwn Jomo and me! Here’s just food for thought but likely too academic–help I can’t escape!

One woman’s reflections on the dynamic constructions of race.


from friend, Kristin Charpentier, childcare educator extraordinaire (taught my Darla in pre-school)

your honesty and willingness to listen and reflect, to learn and change is admirable and inspirational, wendy. as always, another great article to give us all something to chew on.


from Rhody craftswoman & craft show-producer, Kim Turner Clark:

I agree that curious is far superior to humorous. Sadly, I have no pithy suggestions but I wanted to say how much I admire your willingness to reflect and reevaluate.


From my dear Tulsa friend, Cindy Reeves:

I really enjoyed your blog. I rarely take the time to read blogs and glad I did. I know what sincerity and empathy comes from your drive.


And here’s a few from twitter:


From @ravenngethers

This entry truly reflects why I enjoy reading your blog!  Very thought-provoking commentary.  Especially the part about the discussion regarding intent and perception.  Your willingness to take feedback & criticism is genuine.  I think that I agree with a few others who voted for the tag line ending with “in black and white.”  Best wishes in your blogging!

(okay, so that was sent in 3 consecutive tweets since it was over 140 characters:)


From @astephigher

I vote for “one white woman’s curious obsession with relationships in black and white.”  As always, I enjoy your posts.


From @jnotha

I was thinking of why you might have thought of your journey as “humorous.”  To the beneficiaries of privilege, challenging those privileges and the basis of them can be seen as a funny/dangerous thing.



You’re one step closer to membership.  I love your blog.


So, what did I decide after reading through all of your feedback?

I decided to sit tight and not make any further changes just yet.  All of your dialogue made me realize that keeping the tagline broad is fine, and will allow readers to enter the blog and see for themselves what it’s all about, and decide for themselves their take on it.  I am grateful that all of you have taken the time to read through the blog, and have in essence, put your trust in me.  I so love having you along for the ride during my search for my own truth, and for being the many voices I share my every day experiences on matters of race relations with, here on WJSS.

Thank you.


What’s In A Blog Tagline?…A Dose of White Privilege, Perhaps?

8 Jan

What’s in a blog tagline? That which we call race by any other name would smell as sweet.

Okay, yes, I’ve twisted Juliet’s words found in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

It feels apt though, as I, and Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake evolve during this journey of nearly two years of blogging.  Presently, my WJSS tagline description reads  “one white woman’s curious obsession with race.”  It didn’t always read that way. […]

Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake: 2013 Blog In Review

31 Dec

Xernona Clayton and me, 2013 National Conference Race Amity


It’s hard for me to believe that February 2014 will mark the two-year anniversary of Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake.   I still feel somewhat new to this journey of exploring my passion for all things race relations, yet when I reflect on what I strove to discover and connect with in 2013, I feel happy and full.  I can’t wait for all that 2014 will bring my way, and thank all of you for all of your comments, and dialogue here on the blog, and in “the real world.”  I truly cherish making these connections, and I hope that during the times I’ve offended, and have been enlightened, I have done so with humility.  I have also cherished  moving through these difficult “bumps” and  embracing the opportunity to learn and grow.

Read on for the WJSS 2013 Year-In-Review: […]

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/

If You’re White, Get It Right: Wendy Jane’s Primer For White People On How To Have Conversations About Race

25 Jul

With all the talk on race that is going on in this country after the Trayvon Martin verdict, I feel like I am peering into a looking glass, a looking glass that is revealing to me how we Americans handle the issue of race relations.

On Facebook and twitter,  I saw many people, black and white, who were hugely disappointed with the acquittal, and, many who were satisfied with it.   I also heard many black people proclaim their upset and anger over white people who had the point of view that Trayvon was responsible for his own death, that he could have run, or behaved differently to avoid confrontation with his stalker.  I saw black people upset over white people who bought into the character assassination of Trayvon as gangster because of a few typical teenage selfies on the internet.

I saw with my own eyes on twitter, conservative, and I can’t help but use the word ignorant, white people stating things like there are statistics that show black men are more dangerous than white men, that black people are perpetuating racism by always “playing the race card,” making everything about race and racism when it’s not.  And, why don’t black people just get over racism, that it’s not as bad as you make it out to be anymore, and why can’t we just be color blind, and on and on.

While President Obama called for us in his recent speech about the Trayvon Martin case to have conversations on race, that idea had been brewing in my mind for awhile now.  I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s with an innate desire, I am certain prodded by the civil rights era and the place I grew up in (Waterbury, Connecticut), to reach across color lines, to want to be around, include, and connect with black people.

In starting my blog, Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake a year-and-a-half ago, the question about how we have conversations on race has come into the forefront of my adult mind.  I started to have more conscious thoughts about how we talk about such a loaded subject without white people getting defensive or guilty?  How do we deal with the anger that could arise in such a conversation?  I wonder how black people can engage in a conversation on race, say what they truly feel without worrying about the repercussions of their words on a white person’s ears, who might judge them as just some angry black person with a chip on their shoulder?  How do black people say what they want to say and truly believe that white people will hear them, and not enter into the conversation thinking, “white people will never get it,” before the talk has even started?

I’ve been trying to listen and learn as I write and get comments and feedback on my blog.  Not considering myself an activist or academic, I still try to absorb and learn about the construct of race and its impact on all of us.  My most recent readings have included books like Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black, Tim Wise’s, White Like Me, and Harriet Jacob’s Diary of A Slave Girl. I spend time reading the blogs:   The Root, Racialicious, Colorlines and Changelab.  I seek out conversations and connections, not necessarily always on race, with people of color.

Yesterday, I had it on my calendar to write this post, but in the morning on twitter I stumbled upon and read writer, blogger on matters of race, politics and relationships, Jenee Desmond-Harris’s post on The RootHow Not to Derail the Dialogue on Race I just now realized her article stemmed from additional thoughts she had after giving  input to a blog post written by William Saletan on Slate , which I  just now read after writing my post.

My heart sank a little.  I thought, it’s been done.  Desmond-Harris just wrote about this so my post will be redundant.  Then I thought perhaps my post will be different enough because I am writing it from a white person’s perspective and Jenee Desmond-Harris wrote hers from the perspective of a bi-racial person.   Salatan is white, but no matter, when I tweeted to Jenee yesterday that I might write an article similar to hers this is what she so generously replied:

” Of course.  The more info out there the better, and I certainly don’t get the final word on this stuff. :)”


Being new to twitter and feeling sometimes like a wallflower at the school dance, it was like magic that she even responded.  Jenee’s encouragement gave me the impetus to carry on and post.

I still feel like a toddler getting her walking legs when it comes to having conversations about race, but, nevertheless I’m going to be as bold to put forth Wendy Jane’s Primer For White People On  How To Have Conversations on Race.    It’s as much for me, as it is for you.

1.  Listen.  Really, really listen to everything that someone who is black tells you about their experience of living with brown skin.  Don’t interject.  Don’t try to compare it to something you as a white person experienced.

2.  Don’t get defensive.  I have been guilty of this so many times, even as recently as the other week when I posted What I Learned from Laura K. Warrell and Racialicious.  My kind of defensiveness is the, ….”but I’m not like those other white people, who probably don’t get it..I grew up in Waterbury, a really diverse place….I’m down with you….”  This is just about as bad as trotting out your “but I have black friends” card.

3. Believe what a black person* tells you about their experiences about how race factors into the fabric of their day-to-day life.  Believe them when they tell you how the history of race and institution of racism has perpetuated stereotypes,internalized and externalized perceptions of inferiority, and continued barriers to equal opportunities for black people, even though this is probably mostly invisible to you, or surely not on your mind because if you’re white you don’t have to think about race.

*And, remember, one black person is not the spokesperson for the entire black race, just like when I answer a question about being Jewish, I don’t speak for all Jewish people.

4. Have many conversations with many black people.  (See #3’s note above regarding the black spokesperson.  Better yet, read Baratunde Thurston’s book, How To Be Black.  Pay attention to the chapter titled, How To Speak For All Black People.)  The conversations don’t always have to be about race.  It can just make for a good life to talk to people who you might not ordinarily connect with.  Be inclusive.  Don’t stay in your white circle your entire life.

5.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to stick your foot in your mouth, or worry about offending or making someone angry.  If we are afraid of all that, we won’t say what we want to say.  Our conversations might be polite, but they’ll also be guarded and superficial.  Also, having a sense of humor can have its place in such a conversation, especially if we white people can laugh at ourselves.  Just don’t try any Paula Deen humor or hipster racist jokes.  Both could be fatal to the dialogue you are trying to create.

6.  Come up with actions to move race relations forward to a better place.  In the last chapter of Baratunde’s book he says he’s tired of doing all the work himself to battle racism and race-based stereotypes.  He tells white people its our turn to do something about it.

We do need to have conversations about race so we can understand how racism has and continues to hurt black people.  We need to educate ourselves, and truly be able to hear what black people have to say, and understand the larger systems in society that do the same damage.  It is only then, when we understand things together, and not us on one side, them on the other, that we can begin to dismantle the harmful negative systems, perceptions and attitudes.  We become conscious, active human beings working toward making our world a more inclusive place where every person matters.

In my own little Wendy Jane world I’ve been working on some personal goals and making weekly action plans.  Perhaps, in every conversation that you have with someone about race, you together come up with an action plan–three things you will do that week to improve race relations.

Do it, and check in here and let me know how it’s going.  Also, as you can see, I’ve only listed six points here.  Most blog post have Top Ten tips.  Black folks, White folks, all folks, please give me some more that I can add here.  Thank you.








I Was Wrong: Some Black People Laughed At Django Hood Scene

13 Mar

I recently posted my reflections on a NY Times article regarding a number of notable 2012 films made by white directors with black lead characters, and subject matter related to race relations.  You can read that article here.

In my post, I made a statement about the scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained where a bunch of white men in burlap hoods, think pre-KKK, plan a night ride on horseback to the camp where Django and the white bounty hunter who freed him are holed up, in order to kill them.

Here’s what I said about the scene:

The scene was a Mel Brooks style farce, with the hooded men arguing they couldn’t see because the eye holes weren’t lined up right, and blaming one of the men’s wives for sewing them so poorly.  The audience laughed, and all I could think was, hmmm, that’s a little too flip to laugh at…and…hmmmm, if this mostly white audience was much more integrated with black film-goers, would the white people be laughing so freely….and, finally, would black people laugh at this, find it funny?

Well, you know what?  Some black people did laugh and think it was funny.  I was on Facebook the other night, and my friend Kelly, who is white, posted about Django Unchained.  She wasn’t sure she liked it.  A mix of friends responded with their opinions on the film.  Then, a friend of hers, who is black, posted his opinion.

He began with how he liked Samuel Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting, that maybe the movie was too long, and then he posted this:

“Best part for me, well funniest part was the eyes in the sheet part, lol…We were rolling….”

Another friend on the thread, also black, agreed with Les.

And, there you have it.  Lesson learned, again.

There I was using the term “black people”…”not so sure black people would laugh at this…”  I know this, and still I do this, I make a statement as if the entire race of black people have the same sense of humor.

Another realization of a misstep I’ve taken time and again on this blog, zinged me at the artist’s talk I went to recently by photo conceptual artist,  Hank Willis Thomas.    During his talk Thomas, who is black, mentioned a public installation of a photo mural he made depicting his cousin’s funeral.  The photograph looked like one of those “Priceless” Mastercard advertisements with phrases like:  Three-piece suit:  $250   9 mm pistol:  $79   Picking the perfect casket for your son’s funeral:  Priceless

Several people passing by the mural hanging outside an Alabama Art Museum were interviewed by a local news station since it seemed the mural was being deemed controversial for its subject matter.  One passer by, a young black woman, was bothered by it because she thought it stereotyped black people as people that wore gold chains and went around shooting people all the time.  This seemed to surprise Thomas.

A white woman was then asked if she thought the mural was offensive.  …”well, I’m white, but I think that maybe a black person might be offended by it…”

Thomas joked about her calling herself white, ..”in case we didn’t notice…” and then said, “she was calling foul for the other team.”

That is what I’ve done.  That is what I did in the post about the hood scene in Django.  I’m always thankful when I catch myself, and when others help me catch myself generalizing, and “calling foul for the other team.”

Now, everyone go out there and play ball!  For your own darn team.