A video making the rounds on social media shows a frank conversation between a white caller and a black guest on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” during which the caller asks the woman how he can stop being prejudiced against people of color.
The North Carolina man called in Sunday and spoke to Heather McGhee, the president of public policy organization Demos. In the video, McGhee can be seen nodding her head thoughtfully as the man speaks.
The unidentified man told McGhee, in part: “I’m a white male, and I am prejudiced. And the reason it is, is something I wasn’t taught but it’s kind of something that I learned.
“When I open up the papers, I get very discouraged at what young black males are doing to each other and at the crime rate. I understand that they live in an environment with a lot of drugs — you have to get money for drugs. It is a deep issue that goes beyond that. But when, I have these different fears, and I don’t want my fears to come true, you know, so I try to avoid that, and I come off as being prejudiced, but I just have fears. I don’t like to be forced to like people. I like to be led to like people through example. What can I do to change? You know? To be a better American?”
“Thank you so much for being honest and for opening up this conversation, because it is simply one of the most important ones we have to have in this country,” she said. “You know, we are not a country that is united, because we are all one racial group that all descended from one tribe in one community.
“That is actually, I think, what makes this country beautiful, but it’s our challenge.”
She told the man that people of all races and backgrounds hold fears and prejudices. She said that for him to acknowledge his was “one of the most powerful things that we can do right now in this moment in our history.”
McGhee offered the man several ideas on how he could get rid of his fear of black people. She told him not to form opinions about people of color from the news, which she said over-represents crimes committed by people of color, but to get to know black families, to join a black or interracial church if he is religious and to read the history of the black community.
She also urged him to start conversations about race within his own community.
McGhee said the United States is still a very segregated country.
“Millions of white Americans live in places where they rarely see anyone of a different race,” she said. “This fear and set of ideas that we only get from the worst possible news; it’s tearing us apart.”
She said Americans must foster relationships across race, gender and age.
“We have to get to know who one another actually is. And we are always, I think, as Americans surprised when we build relationships across race,” McGhee said.
As of Wednesday, McGhee’s conversation with the man had been viewed more than 2 million times on Demos’ Facebook page. See their exchange below.
Conversations like this one between Demos President Heather McGhee and a caller striving to learn how to confront his prejudices are the key to coming together and solving problems in this country.