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Don’t make assumptions about racists. That kind of speculation is what the prejudiced do. | READER COMMENTARY

How to identify a racist
How to identify a racist (Dan Wasserman / Tribune Content Agency)

I am a huge fan of Dan Rodricks. His topics are, well, so topical; his observations so spot on; his writing, clear, often humorous. He is a pleasure to read. Perhaps I should have written about his column before this, because when I read, “Dear Anonymous: About that racist letter you sent here” (July 24), I was deeply disappointed.

For me, one of the profound takeaways from public discussions inspired by the most recent Black Lives Matter movement is that liberal, open-minded, well-informed white people like myself do not have a clue about the Black life experience of our friends and associates, much less the myriad people of color we have not met. What I have learned is that I need to listen, read and engage with my Black friends if they are willing (while not expecting them to represent their entire race in answering my questions). This also applies to preconceived notions about all people we are ready to judge, not only individuals of color. Even the best intentioned among us needs to examine and move past ingrained biases.

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Dan Rodricks did not want to share any parts of the letter he received because he is “against providing platforms for bigots.” But what he did instead was resort to assumptions and stereotypes, postures that I know he does not normally support. He guesses, “you do not live in Baltimore. Indeed I’ll bet you lived your whole life away from the city, with no daily contact with Black people.” He further supposes, “Your father used to gripe out loud about people of color, didn’t he? Or maybe it was your mother.”

The column is sprinkled with, “I’m guessing,” “I’ll bet,” and “I’ll speculate further,” forgetting that his correspondent is, in fact, a real person with his own unique back story. If we are hoping, praying, that this country can get past deep-seated biases and judge people by “the content of their character,” we have to get to know them first, not imagine and suppose. I would have vastly preferred that he quoted the offending letter and addressed some of the writer’s points in his usual cogent, often wry manner.

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I am still a huge fan, Dan Rodricks, but this one time, you blew it.

Susan Sachs Fleishman, Baltimore

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