A part of me wishes I recorded the hard conversation I had with a homeless older (50′s-to early 60′s) African American man while I was still in Detroit.
Because it could help others realize your privilege is what other people can hate you for, even when you don’t realize you are privileged.
But I remember it often and it is a dear experience to me, and helps to keep me grounded.
I was in downtown Detroit in the Main Amphitheater inside Hart Plaza after meeting with the volunteer coordinators and fellow volunteers the day before Detroit Electronic Music Fest.
I hung back and wanted to talk with the volunteer organizers a bit since I volunteered a few years in a row and wanted to see how I could best help with my broad range of skills.
As I was waiting for a few conversations to end, the man walks by and gives me a hell of a stink eye. Brow furrowed and kept his eyes locked on me while walking past.
A couple minutes later he walks by the opposite way, and again, stink eye for days.
He came back about a minute later and said, “You know the first time I saw you I hated you.”
I’m curious by nature, didn’t shy away from difficult conversations, and was a psych major. I genuinely wanted to know how people thought. I said with a calm voice, “Why?”
“Because you are white.”
Not something you hear every day, but not the first time I heard something like this while living in Detroit.
He sat down and we talked for over an hour about race, humanity, and how we can help lift each other up. I brought up that race is a lie. The color of anyone’s skin doesn’t matter, white/black, we were all part of the same race, the human race.
The majority of people had left by that time and there were maybe only 3 or 4 people around. The few straggling volunteers were heading out and only the organizer, A fantastic talented African American woman Rachel, was making sure I was alright.
I shook his hand and hoped I helped change a little.
Rachel said, “That was a pretty intense conversation you seemed to be having with him.”
I said, There’s always an opportunity to witness.
And we walked out together.
That Detroit Electronic Music Fest was my second to last before leaving Detroit.
I miss the city, the sounds, and people, the artwork and the vibe of Greektown. It was so alive even through the hardest times.
The sense of community was always there.
I hope the hard conversations continue to happen though this trying time.
I’m seeing such a community come together that I’m proud to be part of this human race in 2020. I can’t wait to see how this changes the next generation. And hoping for a better tomorrow for everyone.