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It's time to stop ranting, start listening

If you stop reading now, I'll understand.

I honestly will.

If I were white, I would probably not read on, either. I probably would also be tired of hearing and reading about things racial.

After all, I would say, we have come a long way. Aren't people who once were slaves now full citizens? Aren't there laws that say they have the right to do anything I can? Aren't there laws that protect them from people who would deny them those rights?

If I were white, I would know how hard I've worked for what I have and I would resent anyone begrudging me that, suggesting that I'm where I am because the other person was denied the chance to get there.

If I were white, it would seem to me that _ except for a few hard-core bigots _ the world awards advantage primarily to those with the initiative and ability to step up and accept it.

If I were white, I would feel free of the sins of my forefathers. I would want to go on with my life and not be bothered by ambitionless people pointing their fingers at me.

If I were white, I would say that black people are their own worst enemies. I would say that I don't pour liquor down their throats, I don't make them have, then abandon, their children, I don't make them shoot one another. I would say each individual is responsible for his or her own actions and accountable for the consequences, whether that individual is black or white. If I were white I would probably be out enjoying a perfect Sunday afternoon in Florida rather than sitting in front of a computer terminal thinking other things are more important than perfect afternoons and Florida sunshine.

But I am not white.

And as long as that makes a difference in what we want to hear or read, in how we react to the person approaching us, then somebody needs to write about it and talk about it. Then maybe one day through it all, we will understand each other.

We are not at that point yet. We are at the point where our differences set us at one another's throat. Black people are screaming that this American experiment isn't working; white people are screaming for us to stop the screaming and go to work.

Before the screaming reaches a deafening pitch and escalates to something more than screaming, we need to begin to listen to each other.

We might hear that although we're black or white, the vestiges of slavery are still very alive. The psychosis of slavery is still alive. The pathos is alive.

Many of us still view the world through the framework established by the relationship between white masters and their black slaves. That framework was intact through the first half of this century, even though slavery was abolished 100 years earlier.

Some of us who work side by side now were raised by people who had to cast their eyes downward in the presence of white people. Others were raised by the people who enforced that deference.

So mistrust based on race, in either direction, is not foreign to us. Black and white parents have taught it to their children for centuries. Many still do.

That makes it hard for us to hear each other sometimes, or even to say what we really mean.

So we usually don't bother to try. We draw our own conclusions, point fingers at each other, and wash our hands of any part of a joint solution by ranting about individual accountability or discrimination.

Of course, any individual is accountable for his actions: A criminal, for example, should expect to be punished for his crime.

And just as surely, any individual who discriminates should be accountable for his actions and expect to be punished.

America today is doing time for the evils of its yesterday.

But it's up to each of us as individuals to decide if the time is going to be hard or easy.

We do that by trying to understand the different suffering the crime has visited upon its victims, black and white.

We do that by talking. And listening.