RG: Discussions about race, particularly in mixed company, are often combative and contentious. How the hell do we talk about race?
TC: No idea. I just try to communicate with as much honesty and respect as possible. I think we should not forget that a not so insufficient portion of this country sees it as in their interest to disrupt and marginalize such discussions. Everyone isn’t convince-able…
RG: How can allies best serve as allies? What is an ally? Are they needed?
TC: I don’t know. I think it’s probably terribly important to listen. It’s terribly important to try to become more knowledgeable. It’s important to not expect that acquiring of that knowledge — in this case of the force of racism in American history — to be a pleasant experience or to proceed along just lines. They certainly don’t proceed that way for black people. It’s going to be painful. Finally I think one has to even abandon the phrase “ally” and understand that you are not helping someone in a particular struggle; the fight is yours.
-From a conversation between An Untamed State author Roxane Gay and Between the World and Me author Ta-Nehisi Coates about the challenges in writing and discussing race in our culture, at Barnes & Noble‘s site.