The Letter from Rhoda to the Editor
From The Times Picayune
Wednesday, June 30, 1993
We Need to Broaden Interracial Communication
Thank you for tackling head-on such an important issue as race relations in New Orleans, despite the fact that the subject is so painful and therefore so unpopular with some of your readers. Your series "Together Apart" and the large space you are providing for responses is valuable in helping to solve a problem that is grounded in lack of communication.
Some of the responses have come straight from the heart, and reading them has given me the feeling that I now know some of these people’s feelings, and therefore them, a little better. As a white person, I have been particularly interested in what your black respondents have to say because there are only a few black people whom I am very close to and talk intimately with.
While there have been a few ugly, hateful, ignorant, unforgiving, only-looking-for-the-bad-in-white-people responses from black people, mostly I have been encouraged. Most of your black respondents don’t seem to have gone into complete despair.
And even though it’s a little perverse, I was glad to read that some blacks practice skin-color discrimination against other blacks. This additional proof that there are black villains as well as white villains in the skin-color discrimination department means that it’s not just a problem white people have to solve all by themselves.
Speaking of ugly, hateful, and ignorant, I really cringed at some of the white people responses. The one that took the cake for the most stupid was from "White Woman, Metairie" who ended by saying: "What about my poor white mother who raised seven children by herself, who didn’t have any help and we all turned out OK? But everyone is saying ‘poor black people’. I’m sorry; give us all a break. Get out and get a job."
Please let me take this opportunity to tell her that she did not turn out OK. She is a small-minded, hate-poisoned unfortunate who desperately needs an injection of the milk of human kindness, and until she gets it, she should give us all a break – stay in her house in Metairie and shut up.
What will help black and white people come together? It comes back to language for me. Since most of us don’t have many close friends of the other race and therefore don’t have an ideal opportunity to easily and openly, we must find a way to let it be known that we’re trying to be colorblind.
Even if we can’t start having whole conversations right away, we can start getting messages to each other that show good will, friendliness, willingness to give the benefit of the doubt and basic love. All us can think of situations that happen every day that might give us the opportunity to say a little something to let a person of the other race know we’re on the same side.
Let’s think of ways to let each other know that we love and respect one another as God’s fellow creatures. We each have to do our best to reassure the other race of that fact. Once that message gets through, we can go from there.
Rhoda K. Faust