As I was reading an old article on Religion & Spirituality titled “Reconciling the Past: The Black Mormon Dilemma” on EbonyJet.com a statement stood out. Although the author of this article was speaking about Mormonism and Race, it was this quote that caused me to explore the concept of social sensibilities.
“Many blacks that convert to Mormonism tend to be fairly middle class and are use to being around white folks. These types of black Americans are what I would coin `socially white.’ They look like me but have many of the white sensibilities as their white counterparts. The sensibilities to which I refer would be notions of individualism, colorblindness, universalism, meritocracy and many of the tenets of Western culture.” Source: EbonyJet.com
Now separate yourself from the religious conversation and look at the racial conversation taking place within that statement.
After I considered what was being said I had to reference the statements, actions and reactions that are often overlooked, discounted or even misinterpreted.
Anytime I write or speak about issues or race with someone White I would often be greeted with comments such as, “I’m not racist” which implies just because you’re White you’re naturally racist. This isn’t true or fair to assume, even when the person assuming it is White.
I have also found myself responding to comments that reference how they did not think like that or their associations. Although not all Whites act or react this way, I’m sure you can recall someone who has. So the individualism, colorblindness, universalism and meritocracy argument has legs when you take the time to consider it.
The response of another person mentioned in this article offered a revealing statement. Now I ask you not to receive the religious conversation, but the racial one. Although this was an article about race and religion, I’m emphasizing the racial conversation.
Benjamin Stearns, a 20-year-old black Mormon who was canvassing a black neighborhood in Dallas says of his welcome. “People are generally nice. Sometimes they’d rather not talk, though.”
“I don’t trust them,” one mechanic said who was approached by Mr. Sterns and his partner, a white Mormon named Jeffrey Towns. “I’m not much of a churchgoer but if I do go, I ain’t going there.” Source: EbonyJet.com
Despite the legitimate or understandable apprehension and religious bias the mechanic had towards the Mormon Church, the point made was summarized with four words. “I Don’t Trust Them.”
The mistrust we have towards each other is routinely not based from our experiences, but from what we have been taught, instructed or told as true. From the vilification to vindication of ones aspirations and liberties we rarely take the opportunity to go beyond our own imaginations or realities into consideration and acceptance of others. The mistrust we have for and of each other is evidence of how much interaction, conversation and experiences we share with each other.
If we took the time to simply accept each other for who we are today, instead of what we want them to be. Perhaps we will be able to see who that person may become.
To achieve this you have to consider or seek to understand the social sensibilities of the person you’re conversing with. If not, nothing will change.
When you understand who you are, you can appreciate who I am.