Lauren Joichin Nile introduces what she believes is humanity’s racial bottom line with a compelling account of her personal experiences growing up in 1950’s and 60’s segregated New Orleans. In so doing, she posits what she believes is humanity’s universal racial story.
Lauren explains how starting out from Southern Africa, fully formed human beings, over thousands of years, walked out of Africa, populated the entire rest of Planet Earth, and over 2,000 generations, physically adapted to their new environments, gradually taking on the appearance of the many races of modern-day humanity, making all of us literally one, biologically-related human family.
She then provides an abbreviated account of some of the most significant events of humanity’s racial history and an explanation of how that history has affected the American racial present. She also analyzes a number of controversial topics, including whether there are truly superior and inferior races.
Finally, Lauren shares what she believes are the specific actions that humanity must take in order to heal from our wretched racial past, realize that across the planet, we all truly can love one another and as a species, walk into a wiser, more empathetic, compassionate human future.
Question 1:What was the hardest part about writing your
Writing the book while working
full-time was perhaps my biggest challenge because I had such limited time to
devote to it while at the same time, wanting to do nothing but concentrate on
Question 2:Do you have a favorite excerpt from the
book?If so, can you share it?
The following is an excerpt from
Chapter I:“My Racial Memoir:The Making of a Compassionate Activist”.It is taken from an article that I wrote for
my law school newspaper in 1984.While
I’m not sure that it is my favorite excerpt, it is one which seems to deeply resonates with readers:
I wish that for a day, for just one
day, I could make half of America’s white population experience American
society as black Americans experience it.Twenty-four short hours would suffice.What would they experience during those twenty-four hours?They would experience the American culture
from a perspective which for most, would be shattering, shattering myths,
stereotypes, pre-conceived ideas, lies.Within those brief twenty-four hours, they would gain an awareness of
the subtleties of racism of which they otherwise may have remained totally
ignorant.They would experience
being the fourth person in a super-market check out line, seeing the three people
ahead of them receive a friendly "hello" from the cashier and they
not a word; they would experience white people's assumption that they are
interested in only “black things", which manifests itself, for example,
in white peoples' questions to them regarding what they think about Jesse
Jackson's campaign or Dr. King's birthday becoming a national holiday, or some
other such 'black concern". They would experience what it feels like to
have white people tell them all about the black people whom they have known in
the past. They would experience what it feels like to be in a society in which
the vast majority of its members harbor an entire set of often unconscious but
nonetheless firmly entrenched beliefs and attitudes about themwhich are based almost exclusively upon the
color of their skin, i.e. that they are less intelligent than white people and
that they lack the full range of human emotion, sensitivity, and sensibilities
which white people, by their very birthright, naturally possess - the ability
to appreciate nature's beauty, to be touched by a poem, to look up at the stars
with awe. In essence, they would experience what it is like to be thought of
and responded to as inferior, to lose their individuality, to be responded to
as "a black person", to lose their personhood, to be dehumanized.
They would no doubt see quite clearly that many white people are totally and
utterly unconscious of their preconceived notions about black people. They
would see the specific ways in which many white people relate to black people
differently from the way in which they relate to other whites, and they would
understand, no doubt with far more depth than "real” black Americans, that
the ways in which white people relate to them is the result solely of their social
conditioning. They would see clearly that most white people are not
deliberately or maliciously racist but they would truly and experientially
understand that that lack of deliberateness and malice does not alleviate the
pain of losing their individuality, their personhood, a big piece of their
humanity. They would see clearly that it does not alleviate the pain of being
objectified, the pain of dehumanization.
am convinced that it can be fairly safely assumed that most white people, after
only half of that day, would probably be driven to cry out, "I’m white!
I’m white! This is going to wear off in only twelve hours! I’m white!"
Most could simply not take the being classified, being responded to by
automatic impulse on the basis of the color of their skin, walking through city
streets and just being in society in general with the knowledge that when many
white people look at them, they, (white people), see a black person first,
their gender second, and not much else. With their exclamations, they would in
essence be proclaiming and reclaiming their full personhood, their humanity.
They would be shouting to the world that they really are “a regular
those twenty-four hours had elapsed and the 'black/white" people had
returned to their ordinary state, I would love to sit in on a discussion group
in which the 'black/white" people try to explain to the inexperienced half
of the white persons present what it was like to be black for a day. I would
love to listen to them attempt to explain how differently they, the
inexperienced half, responded to them (when they responded to them at all) as
black people, what it felt like to be denied the common courtesy of a
"hello" from a supermarket cashier, to have white people talk to them
about 'black things", obviously with the assumption not only that they
are interested in nothing else, but also that they probably don’t know much
about anything other than "black concerns". I'd like to listen to
them try to explain what it felt like to walk into a movie theatre, bookstore,
restaurant, classroom, one's work environment. . . and be one of a very few or
the only black face present. I would like to hear them describe what it was
like to experience the American media and advertising industries as a black
person. I would absolutely love to listen to that conversation.
thirty years of experience as a black American unequivocally inform me that the
inexperienced white people would respond to their comments and perceptions
with total skepticism and even disbelief. They would be utterly unable to hear,
to really hear, to listen to the descriptions of the patronizing, rote manner
in which the inexperienced white people related to the “black/whites”.Without actually having lived as a black
person for a period of time, albeit a very short one, there is simply no way
for the inexperienced whites to understand the experience of being black in
the U.S.Finally, they would for the
very first time truly understand that most white people simply do not see the racism
in their interactions with black people.
Question 3:What do you hope readers will take away after
reading the book?
My fervent hope is that after reading
my book, readers will have a true understanding both that as human beings, we
are far more alike than we are different, and that all seven-plus billion human
beings on planet Earth are literally one deeply connected human family.
Question 4:Who or what is the inspiration for the book?
My mother, Mrs. Selina Gray Joichin, whose
indescribable love and powerful life lessons of compassion, poise, maturity,
dignity, citizenship, deep concern for the less fortunate and hope for a just
and compassionate world, have been my foundation throughout my life. Her
example continues to inspire me to this day.
The other inspiration behind my book
is my sincere passion for helping humanity to mature beyond racism, colorism,
sexism, nationalism, classism, ageism, ableism, heterosexism, homophobia,
religious bigotry, and all other forms of xenophobia. What deeply inspired me
to write it is my passion to educate, and in the process, to open minds and soften
hearts.My greatest wish for my work is
that it will help us as human beings to see the Divine in ourselves and
ourselves in each other.
5:Have you had a mentor?If so, can you talk about them a little?
I actually don’t have a mentor.
Question 6:I have heard it said in order to be a good
writer, you have to be a reader as well?Do you find this to be rue?And
if you are a reader, do you have a favorite genre and/or author?
I agree that to be a good writer, a writer must
read. I write non-fiction, so not
surprisingly, I read non-fiction. Because
I’m interested in many different subject matter areas, I actually don’t have a
favorite genre of non-fiction. For the
same reason, I enjoy the writing of many different authors.
Lauren Joichin Nile is an author, keynote speaker, trainer and licensed attorney who specializes in assisting organizations in increasing their emotional intelligence, compassion, and productivity. The goal of her work with organizations is to help create environments in which understanding and kindness are valued and as a result, every person is equally welcomed and uniformly appreciated irrespective of all demographic differences. The goal of Lauren’s speaking and training in the greater society, is to help the human species grow in both wisdom and compassion.