I’LL LISTEN, BUT I’M NOT HAVING A DISCUSSION ABOUT RACE ON FACEBOOK


A recent Pew survey concluded that whites were much less likely to post and see comments about race on Facebook than blacks.  The implication was that I, white, am doing something wrong and am likely racist, no matter what I think.  There was a reference to an article about 5 take-aways on race; whites and blacks have differences in percentages, my responses agreed with the majority of blacks, going strongly against my skin color when it the question had to do with fairness in the workplace and skin color.  But I’m retired and not in the workplace much these days.

I’m one of those elderly white men that gets ads on FB for Republican candidates, because I’m white, male, well-off and old.  I’m supposed to vote Republican and support Trump. Well, I am far to the left of Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.  They aren’t even close to being liberal.  You want a liberal’s viewpoint, talk to me.  I am liberal even in Eugene, which is quite a statement.  I blasted the ad I got for the Republican candidate for Congress here, telling FB I never wanted to see that again. I didn’t.

But no, I am not going to have a conversation on race.  Not at all, and not only because such a concept bombed at Starbucks a while back.

I am not on FB to discuss race, and most of the time I don’t discuss politics, either. I sometimes lose my cool when one who believes manmade climate change does not exist starts posting, but I have four rules I follow before getting involved: no personal attacks, statistics with a confidence interval, p-value, and margin of error, verifiable local, national and global predictions (I won’t see a cooler than normal year for the rest of my life.  That’s verifiable), and consequences should one be wrong.  I have never had anybody get past the first, so I don’t argue. I’ve don’t discuss overpopulation. Nothing has changed.  Instead, I post pictures of places I’ve been, because I can control what and where I go, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen many beautiful places.

Specifically, I’d rather discuss things with people whom I can see and hear, because tone of voice and body language are important cues, and they usually aren’t present on social media.  I don’t like having someone a third my age using my first name without my permission.  First name basis has the sense of equality, and I am not equal to them in age, experience or education.  I don’t care if the young are on a first name basis with everybody.  I’m not. I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling the elders in my world by their first names. Age doesn’t per force make me wiser, but I have used my years to learn a great deal about the world.  I’ve published in 9 different fields, I have traveled all over the world, and I have a doctorate in medicine and a Master’s in statistics.

No, I don’t know what it is like being black, pregnant, a woman, have cancer or be a refugee. I do know what it is like to be seriously injured and to have lone atrial fibrillation, which is a stroke time bomb.  I respect the views of those who have experienced things I have not.  But I become annoyed when people who haven’t lived my life act as if they know how I should feel.  I’ve been around the Sun nearly 70 times; I don’t want a twenty something trying to tell me what I should think.  Hint: use “might,” not “should.”  It’s softer.

I don’t know the amount of emotion that written words contain, but if the grammar and spelling are bad, it not only bothers me; it colors my opinion of the point the individual is trying to make.  If one can’t be bothered with where to put an apostrophe, if one makes spelling errors, including my first name, it tells me there is a certain sloppiness in communicating that may spill over into their arguments.  People judge me by how I look. I do the same, and I judge people’s arguments by their language, spelling, and grammar.

Still, I am far more likely than most to change my mind in the face of compelling evidence.  I listen, I learn, and I change.  I will not, however, have a conversation with one who isn’t likely to listen, learn or change, no matter what I say.

Over time, I have argued less on social media.  I try to think very carefully before writing inflammatory statements, often deleting them. I’m not likely to change someone’s thoughts with my words.  I was a firebrand a decade ago; I am almost apolitical this election cycle.  I’m sure not about to get involved in race.  Heck, I have enough trouble meeting and talking to white people.

I try not to take the wrong turn at Jerk Junction. I try to do unto others.  I try to seek first to understand, but then I want to be understood, not blown off.  In short, I’m not the enemy.  Really.  But I don’t wish to have a discussion about race and how I don’t get it in social media.  I’ll read what I think I should, I’ll process it slowly, as I always do, and I will hopefully change what I think I should.  I may comment, but there’s a good chance I’ll delete it.

That’s good advice, really.  Get it off your chest, but then delete it and move on away from Jerk Junction to Suck it Up Road.  That’s my advice for people of all colors.

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