Seahawks defense end Michael Bennett recently announced he’s writing a book titled “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable” and it’s sure to cause controversy. And it’s warranted. Why? Everything about it is remarkably condescending.
I’ve read that the book is a memoir and I’m sure it will include his sense of humor. But the way he’s been talking about social issues, it seems like it will be more than simply telling his story. The title of the book is a common tactic used to criticize people who may disagree with a point someone is making, then, consequently, stifle conversation. It makes the assumption that the person speaking comes from an authentic experience that forms an opinion beyond reproach; that their interpretation is the only truth (“my truth” is often used) and anyone who disagrees only takes that position because they’re uncomfortable with said-truth.
It’s nonsense. There’s no “my truth” – there is “my opinion” and “the truth.” You and I can’t have different truths; we can have different opinions, though, and they should be shared openly.
Bennett has plenty of experiences that I won’t ever have – from being African American to being an NFL player to being a multi-millionaire. His experiences inform his opinions. But they’re just that: opinions. My experiences also inform my opinions. And they’re just that: opinions. My opinions are not facts; his opinions are not facts. They’re our takes and simply presenting your opinion as a fact doesn’t make them facts.
Bennett too often refers to incidents where cops kill black suspects as “murders” and compares it to terrorist attacks. In an interview with ESPN Radio, he said:
…the police is one of them and every month we find out another black man is murdered and I feel like that’s a form of terrorism, too. We talk about Paris and, it’s not blowing up a building or anything, but at the same time it’s killing our own people and it’s happening from the people that’s supposed to be protecting us.
This position doesn’t make me uncomfortable because it’s not a truth; it’s not fact. It’s his opinion. He’s entitled to it, as I am to mine. I find his take troublesome, to say the least, and simply dismissing me as uncomfortable means we won’t have a dialogue.
He’s made up his mind, perhaps. He gets to do that, but if his goal is uniting people around understanding his perspective, it should be treated as that: his perspective. At worst, it’s an arrogant position to think you’re the only one who knows the truth about any given situation; at best it’s condescending. I think he’s well-intentioned, but people informed by a whole host of experiences can add to any conversation and dismissing someone as “uncomfortable” because we disagree with an opinion seems counterproductive to me.