Jerry Davich: What do blacks want to know about whites? I’ll tell ya
Jerry Davich email@example.com August 7, 2012 5:54PM
Attorney John Davis. | Sun-Times Media
For more info
For more information on John Davis’ book, contact him at 884-2461 or AttyHDavis@aol.com, or find the book at Xlibris.com.
Updated: September 9, 2012 6:20AM
What do black Americans want to know about white Americans, but are afraid to ask?
This eye-catching question is the topic and title of a new book by long-time Northwest Indiana lawyer John Davis. It’s his second book in a series, following the 2007 release of “What Do White Americans Want to Know About Black Americans, But Are Afraid to Ask.”
I wrote about that book, too, publicly asking such silly, offensive and stereotypical questions as: Are blacks naturally loud, lazy, untidy and athletic? Can all blacks dance? Can blacks get sunburned? Why don’t blacks enunciate English properly? Are they habitually tardy? Afraid of water sports? More religious than others?
That column attracted a ton of reader feedback from white, black and every other race of readers, as you might guess.
As I wrote in 2008, “So Mr. and Mrs. White Person, aren’t these the typical questions that you’ve raised behind closed doors with your non-black family and friends? Don’t you wish you could just come out with it and ask Mr. and Mrs. Black Person — without all the racial baggage, anger and fear those questions come with?”
Well, that’s what Davis hopes to accomplish, in part, with both of his books, which hover between controversial and conversational.
“I think it is a good continuation of the previous book and our social issues — particular today,” he told me. “There is still such misunderstanding between the races.”
That is an understatement of deep-rooted proportions in our race-torn country. The only black-and-white aspect of this multilayered social problem is the colors of our skin.
As Davis writes in his new book’s introduction, “The purpose of this book is also to disturb the foundation on which prejudice, racism, negative stereotypes rest, both as it relates to black American attitudes toward white Americans and white American attitudes toward black Americans.”
The purpose of both books is admirable, but it just may “disturb” a highly sensitive and traditionally secretive subject that we, as Americans of both races, often prefer to sweep under the proverbial rug, pretending it doesn’t exist.
Davis’ new book is a bit different than his first one, mostly by systematically addressing what blacks may want to know about, say, Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, Greek-Americans, and so on. Each chapter is a brief history lesson on each group.
“I thought I would provide a more congenial backdrop for an expanded version of both books in the near future,” explained Davis, whose personal ancestry includes Indian, African-American, Spanish and Caucasian.
Black and white Q & A
For the sake of this new book’s title, I feel there are many more personal questions that need to be asked, addressed and explored. So I compiled several questions that have been asked of me — a typical middle-aged white guy — by blacks who know me. I try to answer a few, although I certainly don’t speak for other white people. Here we go.
Q: Do you have any black friends? A: That depends how you define “friend.” I have only a handful of people who I consider a true, close friend and none of them are black. But I have many black acquaintances.
Q: When is the last time a black person was in your home? A: It was a few months ago when a water company worker changed my meter. Nice guy, enjoys blues music, too, I learned.
Q: When is the last time you said the N-word? A: I don’t say that word — not to blacks, not to whites, not behind closed doors.
Q: Does a group of black men make you nervous? A: Only if they look menacing, dangerous or intimidating, as with any group of men.
Q: Have you ever seen the TV miniseries “Roots”? A: Yes, when it first debuted. Very powerful TV series, and I still remember LeVar Burton’s amazing portrayal of Kunta Kinte (Toby Waller).
Q: What do white people mean when they say a black person can’t “articulate well”? A: Not sure, but possibly when someone uses the word “ax” instead of “ask.”
Q: Are you scared to drive through Gary (excluding to RailCats Stadium)? A: No, I was born and raised in Gary and I drive (walk and bicycle) through the city on a regular basis, yet rarely to RailCats games.
Q: Have you ever had soul food? A: Yes, but I didn’t care for it.
Q: Were you born with good credit? A: Not sure, but I’m still in debt at age 50.
Q: If you were picking a team for basketball, would you choose a black or white guy first? A: It depends strictly on their skill level and if they hustle. I don’t tolerate lack of hustle regardless of your talent (or race).
Here are a few other questions I compiled that other white Americans can address, ponder or ignore.
Were you born without rhythm? Why do some white Americans think that slavery has nothing to do with the current plight of black Americans? Why do some white women clutch their purses when a black man walks by? What is the real reason behind the “birther” issue in regards to President Barack Obama?
“Many white Americans are very thin-skinned when it comes to looking directly at some bias attitudes and in-grown stereotypes,” Davis said. “And many black Americans are extremely emotional when looking at such bias directed at them.
“I want to plant seeds that lend themselves to introspection and dialogue without the fear and emotion.”
A mighty tall task to be sure, starting with our region.
Listen to Jerry’s “Casual Fridays” radio show each Friday at noon on WLPR, 89.1-FM, streaming at www.thelakeshorefm.com.