A White Woman Listens … Really Listens

We have a serious problem in the U.S.:  we don’t listen to each other.  Okay, yes, we have many serious problems in the U.S. today, but many of them could be solved if we simply took time to listen … really listen … to each other and consider what the other person is saying.  Instead, we have preconceived ideas and, so sure that our own ideas are the right ones, we barely listen to those with opposing viewpoints, or from whom we might learn something.

Yesterday, I came across a Facebook post by a white woman who took the time to listen to a black man, who asked questions and pondered the answers, who learned from someone whose life experiences differ vastly from her own.  Her post has thus far received more than 220,000 views and some 182,000 shares.  I think this piece is well worth sharing, for we can all do a better job listening and learning from others, making the world a little bit better.  This is the sort of civil discourse that will eventually lead the way forward for this nation …


Caroline Crockett Brock

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south, and today was the first time I spoke frankly about racism with a black man.

When Ernest Skelton, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in. As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate. Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?

When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.

What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble?

The answers were illuminating.

Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year. He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another. Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances. They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs. These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way. Everytime he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.

Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore. He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark. He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark”.

Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth.

A truth that needs to be heard.

When I asked Ernest what ethnic terms he gets offended at, he said that the most offensive term people use is ‘boy’. Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC. He is not a ‘boy’, and the term ‘boy’ in the south implies inferiority in station and status. He came to Myrtle Beach and got a job at Hobart. The supervisor repeatedly used the term ‘boy’. Ernest complained. After several complaints Ernest was fired.

Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.

After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years. He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me. I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.

I asked Ernest what he thought of “black bike week” in Myrtle Beach, where thousands of black people come with bullet bikes and trash our town. He says it hurts black people in our city, and he disagrees with the NAACP coming in to sue businesses that close on black bike week. He hates working that week.

Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is. His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.

When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.

I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up. I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today. Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple.

Edit: I asked Ernest if I could take his picture and post our conversation on facebook. He thought it was a great idea. As he left my house an hour later, he looked me in the eye and said, “If you ever march, or have a meeting on this topic, or want to change things in Myrtle Beach, I’ll stand with you.”Ernest-SkeltonWhat a great idea. Let’s begin standing together.
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Edit: 1pm EST on 6/1. Ernest just called me and we had one of the sweetest moments, both laughing and crying about the response to this post. He started the conversation by saying, “Caroline, I don’t know if I should kill you or kiss you–my phone is ringing off the hook!”
He doesn’t have a FB profile, so he’s coming over later so I can help him set one up. He’s been absolutely overwhelmed, as have I, with the response. We’re going to be sitting down together to read your comments. They mean so much. In addition, the Myrtle Beach city manager has contacted me and I’m getting all of us together to be sure this doesn’t happen in our city any longer. THANK YOU WORLD.

Edit 6/2 9am. Just got off the phone with Ernest and the local news. They will be interviewing us today, and it will be on the local news in Myrtle beach tonight. I’ll post it on my page later.

Edit 6/7. Ernest and I ended up marching together at a peaceful protest in Myrtle Beach! It was a lovely day and we went out to lunch with our spouses afterwards. What a whirlwind of events! Check out my FB live of the protest!

Edit 6/8: Ernest and I met today with a web designer to make sure his facebook and business pages are linked, so he’s good to go there! I spoke with an investigator at the MB police department who was top notch. More to follow.
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This is how we change our country. Normal folks. One town at a time. ❤️
====
Caroline Crockett Brock

What a difference between this, and the couple in St. Louis pointing guns at people marching peacefully down their street in protest of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to publish the names and addresses of people in favor of police reform.

46 thoughts on “A White Woman Listens … Really Listens

  1. A very beautiful life lesson that should be shared and emulated. It brought to mind something that took place during my childhood days. I was with my Gram at her local grocery store along with my elder sister and my 4 year old younger brother. We were in line at the checkout with we two sisters at the front of the cart unloading items and my Gram at the back of the cart. My young brother was sitting in the cart facing my Gram, when suddenly he said : “Oh Gram, look at the pretty chocolate baby and her big chocolate Daddy.” My gram turned around and was at once embarrassed, because needless to say, right in back of her was a black man holding his tiny baby girl pushing a food cart. Gram began to apologize, but the man held up his hand to stop her mid-sentence. He laughed and said that he had been called many things in his life, but chocolate was not one of them and he loved it! His wife joined him in line and he told her the story…she thought it so cute. Gram and the young couple continued talking all the way to the parking lot where my Father was waiting in the car for us. Long story short, the next weekend the young family were invited for a cookout at our house and they became close family friends. This story became a family favorite! Thank-you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on 1EarthUnited and commented:
    WOW, an incredible role model, if everyone took the time to listen and understand one another, there’ll be no more racism and ignorant hatred. Glad to hear the Myrtle Beach P.D. is taking notice and reform in a positive way! ❤

    Like

  3. Jill, this is wonderful. Through a great conversation, a better understanding of racism occurred and a relationship began.

    Just using three of Ernest’s answers, how would a white man feel:
    – if his clearly marked business vehicle was stopped six times a year and he was questioned on whether he was using it to sell drugs?
    – if he could not work after hours because of being deemed suspicious?
    – if he was repeatedly called “boy” in a manner that clearly defined the insult?

    This is not the Jim Crow south – this is 2020. Yet, the racism lingers. Thanks for sharing this. Keith

    PS – we just had the anniversary of the Charleston church shooting killing nine African-Americans. We should remind everyone these nine people invited the white nationalist (whose name is purposefully omitted) into the church to worship with them. By itself, that is amazing, but even moreso is many of the relatives forgave the killer. This killer felt these folks were beneath him, but these two actions fly in the face of that false belief.

    Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • I knew you would like this one, for this sort of communication is something we’ve talked about before … rather like the way you often begin with “Help me to understand …” We both know the answer to how a white man would feel in any of those circumstances … demeaned. And yet, white men are often the very ones who impose those same restrictions on people of colour. It is not the 19th century, but some days it sure feels like it.

      I continue to be amazed that so many of the relatives of those murdered in the Charleston shooting were able to forgive he-who-shall-remain-unnamed. They are better people than I, for I don’t think I could forgive under those circumstances.

      Like

    • Nah … not near that many. First, some 15% of the nation is black. Second, about half of the white people in this country are not racist and do, in fact, understand what black people go through just to survive.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s more like 60-40. The 40% who vote for candidates with an (R) next to their names. As u know, I keep tab of both liberal and conservative news sources for balanced perspective. If true, this was really shocking to me as I had no idea: traditionally the Democrats were the Party of racism and slavery! The Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, segregation, and the confederacy all stemmed from that party! Former President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat, ordered the infamous “Trail of Tears” forced relocation of American Indian tribes. The roots of the Democratic Party are undoubtedly ingrained in prejudice, slavery, racism, and the Confederacy — and the existing damage from their party’s past is still felt to this very day.
        Even today, America’s proudest cities have been run into the ground by Democratic leadership, and it can all be traced back to an ugly source.
        Now it seems the role has reversed! Of course Republicans cannot be overtly racist, that would not be politically correct, but their actions speak louder than words.
        Let’s pray this great nation of ours can unite and move on!
        https://thehornnews.com/democrats-must-change-name-over-racist-past-gop-says/

        Like

  4. I came here from Cheryl’s recommendation. I’m glad I did. I am very glad you had this conversation. We need to have more conversations like this – everywhere and everyone. Thanks to both of you.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    A real talk: Caroline and Ernest … “What a difference between this, and the couple in St. Louis pointing guns at people marching peacefully down their street in protest of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to publish the names and addresses of people in favor of police reform.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is, but it is also encouraging that this woman took the time and made the effort to listen, to understand, and then did something positive. If only even half the people in this country would do the same, we might manage to find ways to live in peace here. Otherwise, I think we are looking at escalating violence in this country over the summer. Sigh. Cheers Michael!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: A White Woman Listens … Really Listens – Finding Drew

  7. Changing one town at a time is fine provided all the other towns are waiting nicely and not employing Cops who pull vans over just for the pleasure of calling grown men ‘Boy;and hoping things might escalate, hoping they can make things escalate. It wouldn’t be fun not being able to go out in an evening knowing those same police might be om the prowl. It’s time to defund those police and employ a new chief of police and take on police perhaps black who can understand some of the problems of the past and stop it from happening again.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, I don’t think she meant literally only one at a time. What if there were somebody like her in every neighborhood, willing to listen, wanting to learn? How long would it take to convince those who simply don’t understand because they have never lived with the bigotry and racism? Not long, I think. Some will never be convinced, for they are die-hard arseholes, but I think most people are capable of understanding, if only they would shut up and listen for a change.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 2 people

    • I thought it was very encouraging … if we are just willing to stop and listen, we can understand. Yes, that angered me, too, but I have a neighbor who goes through the exact same thing. ‘Twas my pleasure, Scott.

      Like

  8. Pingback: A White Woman Listens … Really Listens — Filosofa’s Word | ShiraDest: toward The Four Freedoms for All Human Beings

      • Exactly: and this post moved me to tears. I have more privilege than many of my fellow Black Americans, and I often feel without voice; I know how angry my uncle, my cousins and my friends feel, both light-skinned and dark-skinned, but especially the men. Up North and here in CA most of the time, people assume that I am white, but back home and futher south, I often got more hatred than dark-skinned folks, and trying to explain or even articulate it is impossible if no one wants to listen. Really listen. So thank you.
        Peace,
        Shira

        Liked by 1 person

        • I live in a neighborhood that is predominantly African-American and refugees from the Middle East … both groups are discriminated against on a daily basis. I have many friends … both Muslims from Iraq and black people … and I see how they are treated, how often the police are called on them for little or no reason whatsoever. You’re right … people have their preconceived notions and they generally don’t listen, or don’t hear that which doesn’t fit in with what they already believe. Sigh. Such an ugly world this is sometimes. Peace and hugs to you, Shira!

          Liked by 2 people

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