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Authentic Conversations

Bored of Racism

By May 21, 2015October 2nd, 2019One Comment


Ok, I admit it. I’m bored. B-O-R-E-D. Bored. Of racism.

It used to interest me. I’ve worked to challenge it my whole life, and for many years I made my living doing “diversity” work. I used to get shocked whenever it occurred, but lately it’s been so ubiquitous, so pernicious and so persistent that it’s become ordinary. To quote Hannah Arendt, it just feels like more banality of evil. There’s really nothing fresh or new about racism.

When I heard about the incident between Walter Scott and Michael Slager, my first reaction was “Oh, again?” While I was horrified by what happened, I was even more horrified that I registered the news as though shooting and killing black people were “normal.” While I understand my reaction as a way to ward off heartbreak (when I heard about Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, I was so devastated I could barely function) the fact that I was becoming “used to it” shocked me to my core.

So I began to wonder why we are still behaving in ways that deny our humanity. What more could we possibly be learning that would justify lynching, the prison pipeline, or simple, everyday slights?

Fearing that I was alone in my exhaustion and boredom, I did a short survey of the staff here at Rockwood. I asked: “What bores you about racism?” Here’s a sampling of their responses:

  • “I’m bored that it is a new concept to people who have been around for a while.” 
  • “I’m bored that people of color are the only ones who ‘hold’ it or talk about it consistently.”
  • “I’m bored of its persistence – it’s exhausting.” 
  • “I’m bored because we never move past the same old conversation even though we know better by now.” 
  • “I’m bored because today looks a whole lot like it did 50 years ago.” 
  • “I’m bored by the lack of willingness to call racism racism.” 
  • “I’m bored of the ‘professionalizing’ of racism – that there is only one ‘right’ way to analyze/understand/talk about it with no room to fail.”

Admittedly, Rockwood’s staff is a unique sample. But I was struck by the fact that everyone had a ready answer to my question. My guess is that we are not anomalous, and that there are probably many out there who are similarly bored and fatigued.

So why are humans still perpetrating something so horrific and hateful that it results in such a tremendous waste of precious life? Are we learning anything new? I don’t think so. I think it continues to simply be a means to control/dominate/subjugate/colonize other humans based on the false distinctions of skin color. That’s certainly not new. And our boredom and fatigue is part of what allows it to continue.

So what to do? What could have occurred such that the bullet that entered Walter Scott’s back was never fired? How might we interrupt tired old worn-out patterns of racism?

The only answer I’ve been able to imagine is to focus on our collective kinship. What if Walter and Michael had recognized their (inevitable) common ancestor? What if they knew themselves as the cousins they most certainly are? What if Michael, in seeing Walter’s broken tail light had said to himself: “I need to pull my cousin over because I want him to be safe”? What if Walter, in seeing the lights in his rear view mirror had said: “Oh, there’s my uncle – he must want to see how I’m doing”? I can’t be certain, but I imagine that the scenario might have had a vastly different outcome.

What if we refuse to see each other as anything other than the relatives we really are?

Clearly the situation around race in the US is neither viable nor life-sustaining. Our historic and current ways of dealing with race are undoubtedly insufficient. What if we have been paying such exquisite attention to the intricate nuances of difference that we have lost the thread of our vast and common humanity? I wonder what might be possible if we were to spend the next fifty years paying equally exquisite attention to our similarities – our common heart? What would the conversation about power sound like within the frame of kinship?  As we can see in this video from love has no labels, “Before anything else, we are all human.”

I’m going to try on the practice of paying much more attention to kinship, and paying much less attention to the banality of everyday racism. This practice might not work, but the way of the past is not leading us to where I believe we are capable of going, and we need new paths and new ways.

Come along, if you’re willing.

From my heart to yours,

Akaya Windwood
May 2015

One Comment

  • Ines Merchan says:


    First I’d like to let you know that I love your Authentic Conversations!!!

    I am more than bored with racism, I get overwhelmed and lose my patience. How can it be that some don’t get it or see it?

    I have so many thoughts going through my head and as I try to place my thoughts in this response, I simply end up deleting everything I write. I just want to cry.

    Rather than continue to feel this endless frustration, I will join you in seeing (and focusing on) our similarities. And as I end this short reply, I do so with a smile. 🙂

    Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend!!!