A Note from Hawaii: We Whites Don't Understand

The following note responds to articles that were published at CounterPunch

Dear Mr. Moses,
Thank you for

informing me about what’s going on in Texas. I do think at the heart of it is that white people do

not respect or understand black people. I’m white myself, and I see this kind of ignorance as willful

and damaging, both to whites and to blacks.
So many times colleagues of mine at the minimum

security prison where I teach refuse to open their ears to the nuances of African American

speech.
They don’t seem to understand that the experience of a black man or woman is so different

from theirs. They can accept Oprah…but to realize that a black man who has been subjected to violence

since the day he’s been born and yet can still stand in front of you and say, “I’m a man,” that

this is greatness.

Yesterday a man told me about the visions he had the two times he was

shot in the head. I tried to talk to my fellow workers about him, but they just cynically brushed off

his insights and laughed about his experiences.

We whites don’t understand the surreal

nature of American life for black people, the boundedness and lack of control that blacks are subjected

to. I learned first about all this in college, reading Richard Wright
and Toni Morrison, and then

saw their enactment when I started working in a prison. It’s not that we whites have no souls, but

sometimes I’m sure it must seem that way to blacks.

In sadness,

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