It's Not Black & White

By Maya Kieffer, Writing Class Radio student and creator of Dear Person, an advice blog.

When I hear the word black, the first word I think of is lives and then matter, which is good in a way. I’m glad this movement was successful enough to be the first thing I think of, but at the same time I’m so resistant to being advertised to that I hate how my thoughts go to a slogan. That’s sort of the point of a slogan though, right? To be memorable.

The other day a guy came into the bookstore — a really hot black guy in a Black Lives Matter t-shirt — and he asked me if we had any history books about slavery. The weird thing is, we don’t. The weirder thing is that I didn’t say, “We don’t.” Instead, I said, “We don’t, but we do have this,” and I showed him a copy of a book called Things That Make White People Uncomfortable.

This was a stupid joke, a bad move considering I’d never met this guy and couldn’t guess whether or not he’d be offended, but I’m trying this thing where I say and do things without over-analyzing them. Normally, I’d consider the joke and then retreat down into some frightening cavern in my brain where I try and assess if this is a good or a bad idea. But my hair looked good that day, I was wearing my favorite shoes, and like I said I’m practicing being bolder. So I made the joke.

He didn’t laugh. But he didn’t look angry, either. He looked confused, as if I, a white person, seriously thought this book was a viable substitute for a history of racism in the US. I tried to save myself and said, “Sorry, bad joke.” His puzzled face softened into a half-smile, but I’m pretty sure it was more out of pity than amusement.

He said, “Thanks” and walked out the door.


Click to read Maya's advice blog, Dear Person


allison langer

Allison Langer, MBA, travelled the States taking pictures, later worked for a ski photographer, then took pictures of her friends and their babies. This was the start of a 20-year photography business. She also taught high school photography and entrepreneurship. As her students wrote their business plans, she wrote hers to create a podcast about her writing class, which is now Writing Class Radio.