My latest book signing at Pages Bookshop in northwest Detroit was, as expected, a blessing. A diverse audience of people who care listened to excerpts from the book and then, as at previous signings, just talked with me and each other about race and discrimination and expectations, or the lack of them.
I was so moved.
My friend, Fred Lauck, asked what to say to white people who spout disturbing language, including their belief that they shouldn’t care about black people because they take care of their families and their children.
That prompted an entire discussion about how the institution of slavery disintegrated black families, splitting them between plantations. And how the continuing pseudo-slavery that discriminated in job and housing made it harder for black families to work, literally and figuratively.
But I suggested to him that he tell them most black Americans in our country are middle and upper class. Period.
At least two people suggested a book, a distillation of what I’m learning on this tour with “The Burden.” That is a great thought.
One woman talked about sometimes being the only white woman in a group conversing and feeling afraid of stepping on toes by speaking too much.
I asked her if a crowded subway car pulled up and she had to get to work, would she get on anyway and risk stepping on a few toes?
“Do what you need to do and just apologize if you offend,” I told her. “But don’t skip the conversation.”
That is vital.
We have to keep talking.
I’m grateful to Susan Murphy and her husband, John, for her hospitality – and the tea.
I’m so excited that the next conversations will be with family and friends in North Carolina in Rocky Mount and in Durham. Then the next stops are Indianapolis and New York (in beloved Harlem). Visit this page for daily updates on signings in Michigan and across the country.