UNITED STATES─This is a question that I’ve constantly had to ask myself time and time again: why is the topic of race something that so many people are afraid to discuss. Right now our country is in the midst of one of the biggest, most politically, devastating and eye-opening times we’ve ever seen. Race relations have reached a point where it’s forcing many of us to take a look in the mirror and examine any preconceived notions or bias that we have.

Have I used race to my advantage? Have I ignored someone else’s plight because it didn’t matter to me? Race is part of our lives America! It might make us damn uncomfortable, but the moment we get over that level of being uncomfortable we can make some sort of level of progress as a country. Open the box; don’t be afraid to talk about being Black, White, Hispanic, Asian-American, etc. That’s problem we all endure: we’re afraid of causing awkwardness, but guess what, that is life. It’s like introducing yourself to your new classmates in grade school, middle school, high school, even college for some. It feels off, but once you break the ice it makes things easier. Heck, nothing is more awkward than being the only Black person in a classroom with all Whites and having to discuss an issue pertaining to your race, and everyone including your professor is expecting you to act as the spokesperson for your race. Uncomfortable, frustrating? Yes, but it’s better to speak than to remain silent.

I will admit we do live in a country where everyone thinks race is either Black or White and that is not the case, there are other races people and we cannot continue to sit around and act like nothing matters or has impact. There is a tension when Black people talk about race with White people and vice versa. If I’m being truthfully honest the biggest problem is we talk way more than we LISTEN. Let me repeat that America, we talk way more than we LISTEN. We need to listen to the other perspective, hear what others are saying and talking about so we get to take in that information and understand precisely the plight, stress and problems others encounter that we don’t.

On the outside it might not seem like a big issue, but take a look at American right now, it’s bigger than we think. The biggest problem when it comes to discussions about race is that some people are uneducated and ignorant. There is a fear that I might say the wrong thing and if I do, I’m going to be crucified for it. This is not me advocating saying stupid stuff and not expecting to face consequences for it, my argument is talk to people so you can be educated about what is right and what is wrong, and not coming across as completely tone deaf.

I mean we could have the conversation about who can and who cannot say the N-word and that is something that would take countless columns to explain in its entirety. Let’s just say this if you’re not Black, it’s not a term you should be openly using, and if you are, you should expect some sort of backlash from it people. If you say it you better have a damn good explanation for it because the PC culture we live in is going to come after you in vicious fashion and with the advent of social media it only makes things worse people.

Race needs to be discussed more in schools, it needs to be discussed more in the community, the conversation needs to be present in the media, we need to see positive images in TV, music and cinema. We need to have more family discussions about race. People ask me all the time if a person is born racist? My absolute answer is: NO. No one is born to be racist they are taught it. It starts in the household and expands from there. Parents and family shape how people perceive and view race and the discussions they have about it.

If you think ignoring race will lead to change, people it’s not, you cannot fix an issue if you’re not willing to acknowledge that it even exists in the first place. Unfortunately, we are not a colorblind society, so we define by what we see and we see race, until we overcome those obstacles we will always have to address the issue of race no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.

Written By Zoe Mitchell