Writer Tyrone Beason on KUOW: “Dear white people: Please, please talk about race”

For Immediate Release — Jan. 27, 2017
Lindsay Taylor, Consumer Marketing Manager

When Tyrone Beason called his father after Donald Trump was elected, the conversation didn’t start in the turmoil of the present.

“He started to talk about segregation, those ugly times in his formative years that shaped his understanding not only of what it was to be black but what it was to be white,” Beason told KUOW’s Jamala Henderson.

“So we talked about the old days and about his fear that something of the spirit of those days had returned."

Out of that election and that conversation comes Beason’s essay on race published in the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times’ Pacific Northwest Magazine.

It includes an important question: What are we not saying to each other about race?

Beason writes about a burlesque performance called “Dear White People” (next performances Feb. 24-25, Theatre Off Jackson, 409 Seventh Ave. S.).

“What they were doing was not just taking off clothing, in some performances. They were showing you what’s beneath the skin they were wearing, the story behind that, the frustrations and anxieties, the hopes,” Beason told KUOW. “I think it gives us a model about how we can do that in our everyday lives.”

Tyrone Beason talks about his conversation with Seattle Seahawks players about race.

The essay turns to the Seahawks football team and race. It was a rocky year for racial relations in the NFL, with player protests over Black Lives Matter and other issues.

Beason told KUOW that behind the stardom and money that pro football brings, players like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Doug Baldwin have the same concerns that other African Americans in this country feel.

“Cliff Avril said, ‘I’m just a brother with some dollars,’” Beason said.

He said his conversation with the players mirrored the other elements in the essay.

“They’re all telling the same story about figuring out who they are in the world, coming to terms with the fact that they might not be the same as others who enjoy other privileges, although these are quite privileged guys in their way,” Beason said. “How do other people see you and how does that shape your life?”

Finding an answer begins with the conversation, Beason said.

“It requires courage on all sides. If you want me to hold your hand, I’ll hold your hand. But what we can’t do is walk away from that moment,” he said.

“I need you to understand what it means for me to be black, just as you need me to understand what it is to be white.”

Listen to the interview here.