Editor’s note: We hesitated to run this column due to the shocking nature of the questions asked, but Ms. Samuel assured us she truly does want to open a dialogue, even if it starts with rough questions.

From time to time, I have lunch with some of my Caucasian friends with whom I can have an open dialogue. One day the subject dealt with “White Privilege.” This friend has always acknowledged that it exists, and that he has enjoyed the privilege of operating in it. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, I get so sick of you black people whining about the condition of the oppressed. My question to you is: What are black people doing for themselves? Now you answer me that!” He reared back in his chair as if he had scored the final winning point. I was set aback. I was discombobulated and so was my mouth — it just hung open for a while. I finally got my mouth closed and my mind back in one piece within my brain. The only thing my mouth could say was ‘Plenty!’…

So I decided to see if I could get some input from you in the community. Help me answer my privileged white friend’s question: “What are black people doing for themselves?

My privileged Caucasian friend went on to say “You black people are obsessed with us white people, and if it wasn’t so sad, I would laugh in your face now. I hear my white friends speaking about how infatuated you all are with white people all the time.” He went on to say “I bet you feel special sitting here with me today,” and he laughed to make me think that he was joking. I picked up the lunch ticket and walked away. He also jumped up to follow me, realizing that he had gone too far, and he nervously said that he was sorry and that he should not have gotten carried away. As we walked out, he said “For some reason I must have diarrhea at the mouth today, but I have always seen you and known you to be an individual who could face truth about yourself and about your race of people. Are you reacting this way because the raw truth hurts?”

There are times when one can get so angry that the ear stops hearing. After walking out of the restaurant, the air had a chill in it that cooled me off a little, and once again I could hear. By now he is in my face pleading with me to hear him out.

I have always been one to listen to painful truths about myself as well as my race, however that thing called anger was raging inside of me at this point. There is a time and place for everything, and I explained to him that I needed time to cool down so that his teeth would not be in any danger while he is talking. He said, “OK. I want to talk with you when you calm down, but I want to give you an assignment to ponder before we meet again.”

I waited a couple of weeks, and I called him for my assignment. He had it ready, and I am inclined to believe that he probably had it that day we met.

He said, “Most of my questions are calling for you or any of your people to answer ‘why?’ There are so many things that white people see you all do, and we just do not understand your/their reasoning. I realize that you may not be guilty of any of these acts, but I know you have seen or heard of your people doing them.

“I have seen and heard you all walking down the street singing “We Shall Overcome” and yet you do not vote? How are you going to overcome? Are you all waiting for some good-hearted born-again white person to vote for you?

“Yes, you work hard as a whole, but you spend every penny every week on designer bags, shoes and clothing that you cannot afford. Why do you not believe in saving for a rainy day? Is that because of the slave mentality that you have from the past when your forefathers knew that ‘good ole Master’ had you covered for rainy days?

“You say that you are ‘Black and Proud,’ but you are constantly trying to be light and blonde. Do you all believe that old commercial saying that blondes have more fun? Tell your people that that is not true. Tell them that that is just a commercial to sell a product.

“Why do you all come to our stores where we do not want you and refuse to support your own kind. Many times, you can tell that we do not want you in the place, but you — especially the Black men — rare back like they are proud to be in a place that they are not welcome. Take that pride and dignity and walk into a black-owned business and help them out … leave a tip that might help them with better service.

“When we meet for our next sit-down, I will have many more ‘whys.’ You now have time to check with some of your black people who are wishing to be white and get some feedback. I am sure most of them agree with me.”

Many of you may not believe that this was healthy, but I do, and am going to think about what he asked and try to come up with some honest answers. I am pleased that some of you believe in healthy dialogue. My youngest son who uses Twitter, Instagram and etc. says I am dated because I love reading emails and would love to get feedback from you. My email is aacpa06@att.net

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome. She is the founder and director of the African American Connection of the Performing Arts Inc.

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