I know that by the simple act of writing this that I will be reviled by many White people as a bleeding heart liberal and White apologist and by many White progressives as part of the problem of race relations in this country.  I don’t know how people of color will react to this.  I can’t think about anyone’s reaction to this and I don’t much care.  I believe that until we can have an honest discussion about race we cannot make any progress. 

I am an American and a moderate. I am also White and have been since birth.  Until recently I never gave my race much thought.  I damn sure didn’t feel privileged, but I knew that if I was applying at the local fast-food restaurant and the only other applicant was a Black kid I would probably get the job before he would. I knew that inner-city schools with largely Black populations tended to be worse than White suburban schools, but my public high school (at least I was told—I never bothered to check it out) t wasn’t certified by the state, which meant that I if I attended it I wouldn’t be able to get into an accredited college; best case scenario I would have to go to community college before I would even have a shot at getting into a decent college.  I knew Blacks had it worse than I did, but I couldn’t imagine myself as born with a silver spoon in my mouth.

I started working at age 13 breaking damn near every child labor law on the books.  I have six siblings and my parents couldn’t afford to send us to parochial school without us putting skin in the game.  I worked hard, not because I was industrious (I wasn’t) but because I didn’t have a choice.  I drove a piece of junk car that I bought with money my parents loaned me.  Money was an ever-present worry, I never seemed to get ahead and spent the first 30 years of my life barely treading water. I got my associate’s degree while working full time.  Got married and ultimately got a job working the line at a GM plant that was scheduled to close, but I wasn’t worried; in those days once you were in the system you could reasonably expect to have a living the rest of your life, but those days were numbered.  I married about the same time and lost my job two months after my daughter was born two years later.

My life in the plant was miserable, the work was nearly literally back breaking. It was fast paced and physically and mentally demanding.  I built seats. Specifically I screwed 2.475 seat locks onto the base of car seats for Cadillacs.  I used to joke that I screwed for a living and came home sore.  The reality was that the job made me so miserable that tears would well up in my eyes as I drove home on Fridays at the thought of returning to work on Monday.  Our labor agreement meant that the company could force us to work two Saturdays in a row, but then had to give us a Saturday off. The job didn’t see race, or gender, or sexual orientation, all the job saw was a body and spirit that needed breaking.

When I was hired the plant assistant manager told a group of new hires, me included, that the plant where we would be working had over 6,000 employees. “That” he said “is the size of a small city.” He went on to explain that we would meet people of all different races, creeds, colors, and backgrounds. “You will meet wide-eyed farm boys who have never been to the big city and hard-core street gang members who would shoot you in the head if you met them on the street.”  Our department was more diverse than any workplace I have ever seen before or since. Blacks, Whites, men, women, Polish immigrants who spoke little or no English, Mexican immigrants, bikers, farm boys, city kids, boat people and Vietnam vets, bible thumping preachers, people with Satanic tattoos, and anyone else you can think of. 

When I started I sincerely doubted that I would be able to do the work and make it through my first 90 days. Randy, a towering hillbilly (his words) who was the prototypical substance abuser—if it could be snorted, smoked, drank, or otherwise ingested to get high Randy was first in line to get his fix—was assigned to “break me in” which meant show me the job and step in anytime I “got in the hole” (plant speak for falling behind and drifting into your coworkers work area. I still have nightmares of “humping the line” and not being able to keep up with screams of “man in the hole” echoing through my soul. But through it all—Black, White, Mexican, Black Militant, racist bikers, men, and women—we even had a post operative transexual—we were all in it together.  We were factory rats every one of us. That may sound like an insult to those who weren’t there but to us it was a badge.  It meant like the sewer rat we could thrive in the worst possible environment, it meant we were tough, it meant we could endure punishment that would kill a lesser creature,and we were proud of that.  But just because WE may have called ourselves that didn’t mean outsiders could call us that.  

In many respects the plant felt a lot like I imagine being in prison feels.  When you first get there you know you need someone to watch your back but you don’t know who you can trust.  We all had nicknames—I never knew some of my closest friends’ real names. Chico, Wagon Willie, Gigolo, Moose, Pee Wee, Sleepy, Dirty Sally, Chewy, D, Froggy, I’m fairly certain that these weren’t the Christian names of the people I saw every week day and most Saturdays. I earned the name Psycho for reasons I’d rather not go into (although one man who would later be arrested for beating his step son to death and disposing of the body in a dumpster on Belle Island called me “the Man of Steel” because “this guy works with steel parts all day and could smash your head with one good hit if he set his mind to it.”  He was White violent and affiliated with the dopers (in that environment drug use was rampant and you had to really distinguish yourself as a true drug aficionado to be considered a head; the rest of us were just hobbyists. He was considered dangerous by people who knew what dangerous looked like.  I remember when the police arrested him for killing his 6-year old stepson, I felt bad for the kid, I mean who wouldn’t? But I couldn’t suppress the euphoria of never having to have a run in with him.

Six months in I was feeling confident enough that no one was going to kill me but I still hated the job, but where else was I going to make that kind of money? I had half a dozen people who watched my back, two were White, three Black, and one Mexican. One of my best friends hated White people, and most of the Whites had sense enough to avoid him. He was a loan shark, dope dealer, and controlled a good share of the gambling that went in the plant.  He was connected “I run the numbers for the dagos so nobody (expletive) with me”.  

I made his acquaintance because one Saturday the people I usually have my lunch with decided to go across the street to have a beer at the bar where Leon Spinks was beat up and they stole his gold teeth.  I learned pretty quickly that the last thing I wanted to do after having 4 beers in 30 minutes was spend 5 hours working an assembly line. I hate eating alone.  My choices were eat with the Bible thumpers who would have a Holy war over which of these particular brands of Christianity were the right one, the Mexicans who spent the whole time talking about cock fighting in Spanish and didn’t think my frequent interruptions of “there isn’t a chicken alive I can’t beat in a fair fight.”  They put up with me but were clearly not amused. And the last option which wasn’t really an option, the Black Radicals.  “Screw it” I thought, “they can only kill me once.”  I bellied up to the picnic table and sat opposite the leader.  He glared at me with eyes that burned with pure hate.  No one else at the table spoke or dared meet his gaze.  There were copies of Jet and Ebony on the table and I flipped though them as I ate my lunch.  The tension threated to explode into violence when I said, “hey! Everyone in these magazines is Black! I’m just saying I don’t think this is an accurate representation of the demographic make up of America” The hatred turned into a smoldering rage and the fear of the others was palpable; a murder seemed imminent and nobody wanted to have to testify against HIM.  He leaned foreward close to me and said, “the White man wants to keep us stupid. The White man wants to keep us strung out. The White man wants to keep us drunk. The White man wants us to kill each other.” He enunciated each syllable with such menace that  at least one of the group excused himself and fled in fear.  Finally I spoke.  I looked him right in the eye and asked him, “who is this guy?” His expression was rapidly changing from anger, to hate, to confusion and back again.  “What?” he croaked in a horse beastly growl. I said, “who is this White guy you’re always talking about? He sounds like a real asshole. At this his face was a mixture of confusion and something akin to fear. I could sense the wheels turning as he tried to decide if I was serious or calling him out.  

As if on cue a broken down old White man walked by.  “Is that him?’” I asked him. He threw back his head and let out a laugh with his whole body, it was equal parts relief, amusement, and an enraged howl. He immediately extended his hand and said, “La Duke you’re White, but you are one crazy honky.”  From that day forward anytime a White stranger walked by I would yell down to him and ask if that was the guy.  He would look and say, “Aww no Phil that’s not him.” He was one of the few people who called me by my given name. I spent long hours talking to him and taught me much about “the streets”.  He never used the terms ghetto, or hood, and he never EVER would use the racial epitaph so widely used in widespread media today.  He would refer to young Black street gangsters as “Jits” (short for Jitterbugs); I never asked where the term came from, although I admit I was curious—it just seemed poor form somehow.

The plant closed and I spent almost two years unemployed.  I looked for work every day, even going so far as to check the obituaries for job openings. Little by little I lost everything.  I moved into my older brother’s farmhouse, renting the top floor from him. My wife was depressed and complained bitterly and constantly about how much she hated our life and living there.  Unemployment wasn’t enough to keep up with our bills, just paying our car insurance and taking care of the babies basic needs ate up most of our money.  We didn’t qualify for food stamps because I shared a kitchen with my brother and sister (who also rented a room from my brother).  As my marriage disintegrated I watched helplessly as my pride, dignity, and eventually hope evaporated.  I know my siblings and certainly my parents would have done more if only they had known but telling them just seemed like I was giving up.  Intellectually, I understood that Blacks and other minorities probably had it far worse, but I had enough to worry about without worrying about them. 

My wife enrolled me in a Christian co-op where we were given past its pull date food in exchange with listening to sermons about how we needed to embrace Jesus as our personal saviors and if only we had faith Jesus would save us.  I seethed inside.  I was a lifelong and active Catholic and I knew Jesus was nowhere near this situation. I wanted to tell them to shove their charity but I had a family to feed and I couldn’t let my feelings stand in the way of food for my wife and kid. 

Eventually I found a job making half what I previously had made but considerably more than the nothing I was bringing in before.  We immediately moved out and into our own place but it was too late to save my marriage.  She took a job working opposite shifts; we barely saw each other and when we did it quickly devolved into an argument.  We couldn’t afford marriage counseling so I turned, as I had when I was hungry, to the Catholic Church who once again told me I was on my own.  My parish priest, a good and holy man, paid for our counselling out of his own pocket. My wife sat mute and refused to participate beyond the occasional “I’m not crazy”

I suspected she was having an affair with a coworker, a suspicion that turned out to be more than true.  We split up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. As I packed up her belongings I found several caches of drugs.  I hadn’t even suspected she was using drugs. I felt like my soul had been sawed in half. I knew that what I was going through was an everyday reality for many minorities, but I was too wrapped up in my own suffering to think much about it. Misery, as it turns out, doesn’t love company.

Amidst all this, I enrolled at the University of Michigan using the scant tuition assistance offered in compensation for my severance. In college I had a course that was cross-listed as The Urban Experience and Multicultural Education. The professor, a towering Black man (he described himself as Black, not African American) loved to challenge the disportionately young, White females, on their most cherished and deep seated beliefs about race and equality.  He spoke in provocations sneaking  in Ebonic pronunciations and street slang designed to disquiet and discomfort the room fool of White suburbanites.

He started the course by saying, “all White people are racists” and defined a “racist” as someone who benefitted from a racist system. I pushed back on that definition arguing that it was circular logic and proposed a counter definition. A racist, I contended, was any individual who, by nature of his or her race, benefited from a system that intrinsically favors a specific race. (Now some of you can feel the blood beginning to burn like white phosphorus, but consider a homogenous society like Japan, and how they treat White people)  He loved the definition and used it (as far as I know) for the remainder of his career. For years people who had his class, when hearing my name, treated me with some meager celebrity—I was often quoted by the professor, I was told, with a sense of reverence and they were surprised to learn that I was a White man.

I don’t think there is a consistent, universal definition for racism.  I share my troubles for one reason: it’s hard to see the suffering and injustice done unto others when you are swimming in a river of misery yourself.  Now there are people out there who have been through  situations similar to what I did, and many of those people will harden their hearts and say, if I can get through it, so can they.  Irrespective of race, some people can and some people can’t.  I got through it because of a network of people who cared for me and because of no small amount of dumb luck. I caught breaks that other people might not have.  But I am certain of this, no one looked at me and thought that I deserved what I got, or the mess I was in was my own fault.  Nobody blamed my race, or my lack of morals, or lack of ambition, I was cut a lot of slack. I am absolutely certain no one of color looked at me and said “there’s no helping THOSE people.” But I was seen by a lot of people as trash because I was at a charity lining up for literally garbage (did I mention the health department shut down the co-op?) or government surplus food.  There are people out there, mostly White, but enough minorities to be unsettling, who think that what happened to me (and countless minorities and Whites) can’t possibly happen to them, or if misfortune should befall them it won’t be their fault.

I thought I would bounce back quickly. I had passed the apprenticeship test for the auto companies, I was on the list for a job as a boilermaker, and I had passed the test and was interviewing with Detroit Edison. I was confident but not complacent—I still busted my ass to find a job but when GM laid off 60,000 workers and closed 12 plants the jobs just weren’t out there.

I don’t know how it feels to be poor and a minority, but I know how it is to be poor and marginalized. Unfortunately, Blacks and Whites don’t talk the same language and that needs to change before anything else can.  Take for example,  “Black Lives Matter”. This slogan can raise the ire of even the seemingly most tolerant of White people who will proudly proclaim that  “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter”. Blacks are saying “Black Lives Matter” because they feel that Black lives DON’T matter to society at large. You can’t understand how it feels to be marginalized until you have been marginalized. I won’t pretend to understand what it is like to be Black. I won’t ever have to explain to my 4-year-old what a racial slur means.  I won’t have to have a talk with my 11-year-old son about how to talk to police; the dos and don’ts of surviving an encounter with police. 

The fact is that to many White people, Black lives don’t matter AS MUCH as White lives. I can speak to this from experience.  As a young man I managed the night-shift of a restaurant and was routinely pulled over because I was a single White man driving just after the bars closed.  I literally adjusted my schedule because I was pulled over on my way home from work AT LEAST three times a week.  Each time I was nervous, but never in a million years was I in fear of my life.  Most of the police were nice, although I had more than a couple who seemed pissed-off because I wasn’t doing anything wrong and hadn’t been drinking.  But having gone through this insane ritual for over four years I got sick of it, and even if the police officers were respectful and polite they really didn’t have a legitimate reason for pulling me over and it happened with such frequency that a simmering rage burned within me when I would see the blue and red lights explode in my rearview mirror.  Only once was I ever told to get out of the car, frisked, handcuffed, and put in the back of the police cruiser while they checked my license for warrants, ran my plates and insurance.  This is standard operating procedure when dealing with Black males. When I asked if all this was necessary, I was ordered, not told, not asked, but ordered to shut up. While I was sitting there waiting, I heard the officer radio that he had “the suspect in custody” . My heart was pounding and I thought I might throw up.  I felt like crying in relief when the dispatch radio said that they had apprehended both suspects after a police pursuit where shots were fired, the stolen money, beer and cigarettes were recovered.  The officer looked bewildered and disappointed.  

He explained that there had been a robbery-homicide one road over (a country road about a mile from where I was) and two men (I was alone) matching my description (White) and driving a similar vehicle (a grey car).  He sat there for a minute like he honestly didn’t know what to do with me. Given my frequent encounters with the law I hadn’t been speeding, my car didn’t have a tail light or headlight out, I wasn’t swerving in the lane—there was nothing he could legally charge me with or ticket me for. My blood ran cold.  What WAS he going to do to me? Things moved very quickly from that point on: he sprang from the vehicle, uncuffed me explaining the mix-up as he did so, apologized for my inconvenience, gave me his card on which he had hand-written his badge number and told me that if I wanted to make a complaint this was all the information I needed.  I was flabbergasted and told him that if I were in his position I would have handled the same way and handed his card back.  He looked relieved but handed the card back and said that if I ever got into trouble to have the officer call him.

When I got back into my car the adrenalin hit me.  I was shaking so badly that I began to wonder if I could even drive the mile or so home.  This was the only time in my life where I literally thanked God that I was White.  How much different might this have gone if I were Black? Sure I got hassled by small town cops who were either bored or who assumed that a young man driving late at night must be drunk or otherwise engaged in illegal activity.

During that period I was pulled over between 50 and 100 times and only once was I handcuffed and made to sit in the back of a police cruiser. At no time did the officers call for backup. But Black men are routinely frisked, cuffed, and put into the back of a police cruiser while their information is run.  You see, in my case, even when the officer believed with all his heart that I was a robber and a murderer, my life mattered by the nature of my race.  Why? Not because the officer believed that I was a good person because I was White, rather because the chance of a career ending incident if I was beaten or killed were almost certain.  Killing an innocent White  22-year old  working man just wasn’t as serious as the killing an innocent 22-year old Black working man.  

For centuries, people of color have accepted the two standards of justice, but in saying, “Black lives matter” they are saying that the lives of people of color matter every bit as much as the lives of police officers, and the lives of White people. And in the age where everything is videotaped, they can bring the horror of murder by police into our living rooms.  Even in the face of this evidence, there are still plenty in White America who will try to justify police brutality by dismissing it, saying, “well he most certainly must have done something.” No, he didn’t. His only crime was being Black, just like the only reason that things didn’t end badly for me in one of my many brushes with the law is because I am White.

A disproportionate number of Black males are incarcerated and typically are given tougher sentences. This isn’t a deliberate conspiracy where all the White people got together and said we need to throw more Black people in jail.  It comes back to the fear of the other.  White people see people of color as different, as alien, as unAmerican, as not having the same values as “the rest of us.”

Black Pride

It is LGBTQ Pride month and I’m sure this doesn’t sit well with a lot of White people.  We hear about Black Pride and many ask, “What about White Pride?”  It’s a fair question, after all, “White Pride” has become synonymous with White Supremacy. For the record I don’t care that I am White—at least not in any meaningful way. I am no more proud of my race than I am of the color of my eyes. I am also not ashamed of my race and I am not going to apologize or feel guilty for crimes other White people have committed throughout history. My ancestors came from Canada and Germany.  But here is the thing with the Pride movements—the people aren’t saying that they are better than Whites, they are saying that they won’t be made to feel ashamed for not being White. That is reasonable, because whether I like it or not, White people have committed atrocities against non-Whites for no better reason than to feel superior. So I don’t feel threatened by the Pride movements and I don’t see any more reason for a White Pride movement than I feel any need to apologize for being White. I was born this way; deal with it. I am a little put off that we are limiting Pride (or history either) to a month; isn’t this just a modern form of segregation?

I don’t have to proclaim that I am not ashamed of being White because I haven’t lived in a society where being White was something I was told I should be ashamed of, and for the record no one with half a brain (I’m looking at you academia) is telling White people that they should be ashamed because they are White. I’m proud of a lot of things (and ashamed of a lot more) but being White isn’t one of them.  I won’t apologize for being White, or being part of a racist system that rewards me for being White; that in itself is a point of contention with many White people.  “I didn’t get where I am today because I am White”.  This is in all likelihood true, but you weren’t prevented from getting where you are because you were White either, and many people of color were.

It’s also true that you didn’t get where you are because of your hard work.  In most cases you got where you are  because of generations of hard work. Your ancestors did back-breaking work and scraped and saved and most of all sacrificed so that their children could have a better life than they did.  To claim that you did it all yourself is an insult and an affront to all those who came before you.

Micro Aggression

Micro aggression is, simply put, the practice of paying a person of color a compliment that you would never even consider paying to a White person. Nobody has ever told me that I have beautiful hair (even though I do) and immediately asked me if they could touch it (please don’t). I’ve never been called “a credit to my race” or been complimented for being well-spoken for a White person. Nobody has ever told me that I speak English very well or assumed that I was born anywhere else other than America (except some English bastards who thought I sounded Canadian). The problem with categorizing these things as “aggression” is that well-meaning White people can’t wrap their heads around how something they meant as a compliment could be twisted around.  When you tell a person of color “you are really well spoken” you actually are saying “you are really well spoken given your race; I hadn’t expected you to be able to construct a grammatically correct sentence; good for you!” I don’t know a single White person who would feel complimented were that same thing said to him or her.

White Privilege 

When White Americans see news reports of police terrorizing, brutalizing, and murdering people simply because of the color of their skin it sickens and outrages most of them.  Some are so horrified that they need to rationalize what they have seen by telling themselves that the victim must of done SOMETHING, but this gets hard to justify when the news reported Dallas police officer turned convicted murderer Amber Guyger, returning from her shift and killed 26-year-old Botham Jean who was sitting on his couch in his own home eating his own ice cream and watching his own TV.  She claimed  she thought she was entering her own apartment which was one floor below.  To some her story seems believable and even reasonable.  They argue that she was in fear of her life and who wouldn’t be?

White privilege is real.  Don’t believe me? Have you ever suspected that you were mistreated by a grocery store cashier because you were White? If so, did you go to the manager and demand the clerk be disciplined (or at least consider it)?”

“They’re taking our jobs!”, “They won’t ever fire him because he’s Black!” or whatever excuse you have as to why it is someone else’s fault that you can’t find your ideal job is just whining and it comes from a place of entitlement and resentment that you aren’t getting what you deserve. You can’t lose a job you never had.

First let’s take a look at Affirmative Action, while people widely believe that companies are required by Affirmative Action laws to hire a certain percentage of minorities, that isn’t always the case.  Thomas Edison refused to hire Black people, and ultimately the company he founded continued this practice until the 1970s until a group filed an Affirmative Action lawsuit and won.  Through the mid seventies and well into the 1980’s.  The eighties were tough and I was delighted to be called in for an interview for a job as a stationary engineer.  I walked into a waiting room where about 30 candidates were seated.  Five of us were White and the remaining 25 or so were Black. I was surprised to see so many people of color, but not worried.  I had tested high on the qualifications test, and my dad worked there so…As we waited we talked amongst ourselves.  The Black gentlemen, to a person, were exceptionally impeccably groomed, confident,  and courteous. Each of them had fresh haircuts and were wearing a neatly pressed suit.  The White candidates wore rumpled and stained work shirts and looked at me wearing a suit freshly back from the dry cleaners and a tie no less! One of the White candidates looked at me derisively and bragged that he “don’t even own no tie.” Another had the audacity to bellow to the receptionist from his seat, “can we get some hot coffee and donuts in here?” He was clearly disgusted that such amenities weren’t provided. I held my tongue. I thought to myself, “I came here to get a job, and that is no way to get a job.”

We started killing the time talking amongst ourselves,  it was quickly apparent that I was the only one who wasn’t ex-military, and one of only a handful of candidates who had never done the job.  Most had been stationary engineers while in the service and had a minimum of four years experience. I knew I didn’t stand a chance.  

When I went in for my interview it went exceedingly well.  I nailed it.  The hiring manager agreed and then said, “I have 20 openings and 18 of them have to be Black.” My heart sank. This was only one group of about 100 applicants.  My guess is that somewhere in that mix they could find at least two White guys who were infinitely more qualified than I—even if the ones in my group had the business acumen of a not so bright gibbon. (For the record the loud mouth never did get his coffee and hot rolls and I am guessing that he didn’t get the job either.)

I think a lot about why a candidate for what I considered a job of a lifetime—good pay, great benefits, and true job security—would act so foolishly given what was at stake. I don’t think he was a bigot, I think he was an idiot.  The way he dressed, spoke, and out and out rude behavior was so far from what one would expect of a job seeker, and yet what he lacked in manners he more than made up in confidence.  There was no doubt in his mind that the job was HIS and the interview was just a formality. He was so cock sure of himself that it made me wonder if he had a relative that was an executive.

If he didn’t get the job—and I assume that is the case—I doubt he took a hard look at himself and asked what he had done wrong. Did he notice that he was the only one wearing a work shirt instead of a suit to the interview? Did he even know that he couldn’t put together a grammatically correct sentence? Did he even consider that maybe at least a dozen of the other candidates were far more qualified than him? Or does he today tell the story of how some Black guy stole his job.

“Stole his job.” Think about that for a moment and let that sink in.  Nobody stole his job, he just wasn’t good enough, and neither was I in case you were wondering.  I was really disappointed but I was glad that every single Black candidate was more qualified than I and it softened the blow a bit that at least some half-wit boorish twit didn’t get the job instead of me.  The idea of diversity hiring somehow dumbs down 

No one seems to want to hear this, but no one can steal a job that you don’t have.  If you can’t compete with the other candidates it’s easy to blame things that are beyond your control, not the least of all your race.  This cuts both ways, I’m sure there are minorities of all sorts who, unable to compete with other candidates, default to “I didn’t get the job because I’m (fill in the race)”.

Before I leave the subject of excuse making, let’s look at the old chestnut: “They won’t ever fire him because he’s Black.” Under the Equal Opportunity Employment Act of 1972, it is illegal to discriminate against people because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, or gender identity), national origin, age (40 or older), disability and genetic information (including family medical history). So while it may seem to be illegal to fire people in these protected classes; it isn’t provided that these people aren’t held to a higher standard of performance.  In my experience it is lazy management who uses the protected status as a reason for not doing his or her job.

So where did all this come from and where is it headed? Perhaps the Rap Band, Public Enemy had it nailed when they titled one of their albums Fear Of A Black Planet. Each census shows that the percentage of White people in the U.S. is shrinking.  Experts predict that soon White people will not be the majority (they will still be the largest minority for quite some time) and that is scary to many otherwise reasonable White people.  What will become of us when we are no longer in charge.  This is horribly misguided but it is real.  White people think that we rule the U.S. when in fact a cadre of ultra rich rule the U.S. They work to pit us against each other because they know that as long as we are divided we are vulnerable. I think it was Winston Churchill who said,   “We must hang together or we most assuredly will hang separately.” So let’s start by recognizing everyone’s right to see the world from his or her own perspective. We don’t have to agree with everyone, but we should listen and understand why we don’t agree instead of just shutting down.