The actors in Passage Theatre Company’s “Race – Let’s Talk About It” had read their lines and then, along with the play’s authors and director, had gathered on stage for an informal discussion with the audience. The topics were familiar: poverty, injustice, the depressingly familiar account of a white couple who got up from their table when a black couple was seated next to them—even in this day and age.
We are all—black and white—feeling the pain of racism. Who had taught black people that black hair is ugly? Suddenly one of the actors, with a passion that seems to surprise even her, explodes, “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER tell me to ‘Get over it.’”
The audience and people on stage cheer her openness, the courage to speak her mind. But I wince. Suddenly I am white. Those words and that anger distance me. I would like nothing more than to get over it—to move beyond the pain of slavery—because it is my people who were responsible. I understand the pain—may feel actual pain—but there is nothing I as an individual can do to change the history of that pain.
I’m angry now. I do want to tell you to “Get over it” to spare myself a guilt I don’t deserve. I want to tell you to get over it, but white people are not supposed to tell black people what to do. So frustrating! It’s not that I want to minimize history. I don’t want to tell you how to feel. But hearing your anger hurts. Invoking history continues to divide us into white and black. Aren’t we both victims of our history?
Could anger be part of a conversation about race? Why the difference between those who don’t get over it and those who move on? Whose anger is it? Where should it be directed?