Conversations About Race On MLK’s Birthday

Estimated read time 5 min read

I was already late when I sat in the van; it was 3:45 and the event invite said 4:00 pm in Cary, which is about half an hour from my house. I hadn’t previously check the address, so I had to search for it on the message my sister had sent me via private Facebook message. The invite was to watch a film called Racial Taboo and I didn’t want to miss it; I knew there will most likely be conversations about race or at least a movie critique afterwards. I had to be there.conversations-about-race-1

As I was about to pull out of my driveway, my sister’s friend was driving towards me and I got of the vehicle and asked her if she wanted to go with me or wait for my sister as I didn’t want to wait. She decided to go with me, so I pulled out and she parked her can on my driveway and off we went. We didn’t talk much about the event we were headed to and kept the conversation on other subjects, but the fact that we were going to an open forum to have conversations about race was still on the back of my head.

We got there at 4:30, feeling bad that the movie was probably already playing and thinking we had probably missed the beginning of it. As we walked towards the building, I quickly realized that it was actually Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, and thought about the event I’m attending today with my kids to celebrate the official MLK holiday.

As we walked into the building, a nice lady greeted us and asked me if I had previously registered, and if not, she instructed me to write my name down on a sheet. I asked her for the restroom and was relief to realized the movie hasn’t started yet and to see a good amount of people there, willing to have conversations about race that are often taboo, and too controversial for many people.

I came back from the restroom, wrote my information down on the paper and walked back to the room with my friend. We found a bench and sat, as the creator of the documentary was still saying introductory remarks. Right before the film started, one of the organizers asked us to say hi to someone close to us whose skin color was different than ours.

This simple exercise helped us feel at ease, at least that’s the way I felt.


Engaging in Conversations About Race After The Film

We watched the film and then were ask to form groups so we could talk about what we thought about the film and how it maybe taught us something we didn’t know or reinforce some of the things we’ve experienced. I quickly got up and walked towards where the groups were forming; we walked to get dinner and then went to our table.

Having conversations about race is as uncomfortable and uneasy as it is necessary if we want to make progress towards a society that is inclusive and united. Like the film’s name implies, we need to get rid of the taboos and learn the history, acknowledge it, and make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

At the table, I heard stories from people who lived through the segregation era and how that impacted their lives, and also those experiences we all have experienced in the present. It was at times emotional, we laughed about being each other’s ‘token’ friend from a different race or ethnicity. We also talked about serious issues and the things we don’t understand, and made a commitment to continue to actively seek opportunities to meet people who are different, to be open and candid even when that is uncomfortable.

One of the things they do at these events is bring artifacts that help people make the connections to the crude realities of slavery, segregation and racism. Last night, they had a $10 Confederate States of America note with part of very fragile classified advertisement attached to the back. One of the classified ads offered a woman for sale and another offered a $250 reward for the return of an escaped boy.  They also had the shackles you see above; these were used to transport slaves from one place to another.

I’m very happy I had this opportunity; I’m also hopeful because we were able to have conversations about race in a safe environment. Also, because it proves that if we are willing to listen and go beyond our own prejudice we will find that many more Americans want understanding, fairness and equality. We need to give each other a chance, we need to be courageous enough to speak up and not be discouraged by those who are led by prejudice.

As I got home, I grabbed my computer and had to share this experience. I really feel as if I had gone to a birthday party. Wherever he might be, I think Dr. King would approve. There is a lot of work to be done, but there are also a lot of people willing to do it. And that, my friends, is a very good reason to celebrate.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King!

About The Racial Taboo Film

The Racial Taboo documentary looks at our history, uses comedy and candid interviews to help the audience gain a common understanding of our past and how it affects our present. Racial Taboo is intended to be a catalyst for open, respectful and ongoing conversations between people of different races. You can visit their website to learn more about the film and what they are doing.


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