Reading Jerry Sternberg‘s opinion piece, “Gospel According to Jerry: Confessions of a Recovering Racist” [Feb. 11, Xpress], inspired a lot of feelings in me: Irritation, disgust and confusion were the big ones, but there was also a sense of relief. Here is someone with white-skin privilege talking about racism in Asheville, acknowledging that he is a recovering racist and asking about solutions.
I don’t think there is a “superior solution” to Asheville’s white-supremacy problem, but there are thousands of small solutions. For decades, black activists from Malcolm X to Alicia Garza with #blacklivesmatter have asked white people to talk to other white people about white supremacy and racism. So, today, my small solution is to invite you out for coffee to talk about your article. I’d love to hear more stories about your childhood in Asheville, about what got you into recovery from racism and what we can do to put more white people on that path.
Just as an example, you mentioned that white people have been pretty bad emancipators. Dr. Darin Waters, a history professor at UNCA, gave a talk the other day at a local synagogue where he said that enslaved Africans set themselves free – not white people or Abraham Lincoln at all. I had never heard that before, but it sounded true, and I would love to hear what you think. I’d also love to talk to you more about your views on the role of family planning and gun control on race relations, but I would need beer — not coffee — for that conversation.
— Desaray Smith