A long time ago I had my first political debate with a stranger who happened to be black. It was neither a formal nor planned debate. It just happened. Our forum was on a street corner in New York City. We were both very young, waiting outside for our dads to attend to business at the Roseland, then a famous dance hall evenings, a meeting place for musicians to network during the daytime.
The black man and I exchanged small talk which soon developed into a political discussion, the focus of which became and remained, a debate on racism, although at that time neither of us used the word racism, let alone racist.
Although the transit from small talk to racism was smooth, our discussion was a cliché exchange, as are an overwhelming majority of debates. The one exception to our cliché encounter is that I was not at all defensive about being white. It was and still is easy for me to be non-defensive because I was and still am intrinsically not defensive. I don’t feel guilty just because someone claims I must be because I’m white. Nor do I accept the nonsense that I must be guilty even if only subconsciously.
However uncomfortable that sidewalk encounter was when I was very young, it provided me with the resolve to never again encourage circular debates. I’ve easily kept my resolve through the middle of my ninth decade. At the first sign of a cliché, game over!