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Continuing the dialogue on race

After the documentary and live discussion on race aired on MSNBC Friday, April 11, both David Wilsons answered questions from viewers.
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After the documentary 'Meeting David Wilson' and live discussion aired on MSNBC Friday, April 11, both David Wilsons answered questions from viewers.

The responses, which they gave separately, are below. David A. Wilson is the young black producer from New York City. David B. Wilson is the white restaurant owner from North Carolina.

From Joni, Seelyville, Indiana: ‘”I think he’s going to be a tobacco-chewing, straw-eatin’, rifle-totin’, rockin’ chair-sittin’, lemonade-drinkin’ redneck,” Wilson, half-joking, said as he and Woolsey hit the road from New York.’ Half-joking or not, don’t you realize how racist this comment was? Do you not realize that it works both ways?
David A. Wilson: I made those comments half-jokingly and I apologize if anybody took offense, but that’s one of the points of the film. There are a lot of preconceptions coming from the other side and that was just one of them. I think there are African-American misconceptions about Southern whites and I would be dishonest if I said there wasn’t a bit of that in my thoughts before my journey. This film is about starting an honest nation conversation and hopefully in doing that we will help shatters some of those stereotypes for black, brown and white people.

From Ana, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Surely the “white” Wilson was raised with the notion that whites were “somehow” superior to blacks. Deep down inside his heart, is that what he still feels today? Is there any residual remorse or any remorse whatsoever for having enslaved a fellow human only because he/she had a different shade of pigment?
David B. Wilson: I would think Ana wrote these comments prior to watching the film as I would hope that she heard my comment about slavery. I think this film is suggesting to people that we can make progress with our relationships if we avoid putting all the emphasis on old feelings, bitterness, resentment, and instead move away from stereotyping people (both black and white) and work toward opening up honest dialog trying to listen more and talk less. As I mentioned on several occasions during interviews, “more conversation and less confrontation.”

From Larisse A., Bronx, N.Y.: Did you, or do you believe that having the same name is a mere coincidence, or part of fate’s inevitability in bringing the both of you together?
David A. Wilson:  I don’t believe that this is all a coincidence. I just think that everything from my experiences in college and working in broadcast news prepared me to go down and meet David B. It also enabled me to document my journey and have an intelligent conversation with him about these very serious issues. 
David B. Wilson: I have no doubt that this encounter was not just from chance! The name, the initial ability to communicate, the growing respect, and the eventual creation of this important documentary. I will certainly add, that it was not mere coincidence that a network such as NBC/MSNBC felt the importance of this work and made the decision to support it.

From Kaili, Riverside, Calif.: I think that this is amazing, and shows how much America is moving forward... slowly, but moving. How did the rest of both of your families feel about the visit, and better yet, was it awkward to be David A. and B.?
David A. Wilson:  My family was very supportive. They were just as interested in David Wilson and his family as I was.  Of course there were nerves there just like it was before our initial meeting. I think that when we went down North Carolina it was more of a celebration of the progress our family has made and the progression we as Americans are making. So far as the name, I just think that it's one of those things where everything happens for a reason.  I always find it interesting how I was teased by a lot of black kids as a child for having a “white name.” Yet it was my name, which started this whole journey to meet this guy. I now hope my journey will benefit the next generations of young black and white Americans. I don’t think it’s an awkward thing as much as I think it is, as David B. Wilson would say, “providential.”
David B. Wilson: Both families are very encouraged and certainly feel both proud of the message in this film and hopeful for a positive impact to our nation. I can only speak for myself, but I do believe David A. has the same feeling, that our meeting was not mere coincidence, but of a Providential nature. Each time prior to being interviewed, I asked God to put the proper words in my mouth. I think His hand was everywhere in this endeavor.

From Lisa N., Pittsburgh, Pa.: Hello New Jersey David, How were you able to get started tracing your family’s roots? My family was so splintered and the older folks didn’t talk much, so all we have is general information on where our grandparents came from, but no idea of where their parents came from. Anything you can suggest to get started will be appreciated. Thanks.
David A. Wilson:  Lisa, I don’t know your ethnicity, but there’s an issue in the black community where a lot of the elders, because of the shame and embarrassment, do not like to talk about their past. That being said, I think it’s important for you to take whatever information you have about their geographical roots and possibly travel to that location and speak with extended family members and old family friends. You’ll be surprised at the discoveries you may find through them. Also check with county courthouses, look at old deeds, marriage certificates, death certificates and old letters. If you can’t travel, hire a genealogical researcher from that area to gather these records. Also many of these records are now being digitized and can be found on through Internet services.

From Everett, Greensboro, N.C.: David or David, do you view people(white or black) in different perspective after spending time with each other and breaking bread together? And would you agree or disagree with the statement “opinions are generated about people because we do not spend time getting to know one another?
David B. Wilson: The answer to the first part of your question is-YES. I think you hit at the core of the entire commentary. Dialog must be started and, from there, only God knows where it may lead. When you listen and appreciate what is in a fellow human being’s heart, you are better able to understand that person’s feelings and motivations. The answer to the second part of your question is closely related to the first. We need to spend time in communicating with one another whether it is someone of the opposite race, a neighbor, a friend, a wife or husband, or you can add other names to this.
David A. Wilson:  Meeting with David Wilson and doing this project, I spoke with more whites about race than I ever had.  I learned that white America is really interested in the race issue. I just think that the climate has been so hot, that because of political correctness there’s a fear of saying something and getting a mob reaction.  I think many white Americans really want to contribute to the conversation but they are afraid of being labeled racist. I used to think that white Americans were completely oblivious to the race issue, but now I learned that there are a lot more white Americans that are interested than black Americans know about. I do believe that interaction begets understanding. Once we have a better understanding of each other, we’ll be able to make some major progress.

From Sandra Wilson, Indianapolis, Ind.: I work with minority programs... I have noticed that many young African Americans are more reticent about “demanding” their rights when something is done to them that isn’t right. Young Caucasians would be very verbal if the same thing were done to them. How can young African Americans, particularly from the south, learn to stand up for themselves without receiving a negative label like they are “difficult”...or should they just not worry about labels other people put on them?
David A. Wilson: They shouldn’t be overly concerned with labels. They should always remember to stand up for their convictions. Think about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he was considered a misfit during his time, but through his efforts he helped shift mainstream America’s perception of what is moral and just. Now when we reflect back on his legacy, he is considered a national hero. The labels you receive by people today can very well change in hindsight. So don’t put too much stock in them.

From Tina Bain, Edina, MN: In the last two years our family of two parents and four biological children has been blessed to adopt two bi-racial babies from North Carolina. What advice to you have for families like ours, transracial families, as we raise our children today? What can families like ours do to teach, encourage, and embrace our children’s birth heritage so they grow up with respect for both their birth family and adopted family? Participating in racial reconciliation through foundations like the John Perkins Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi is one step we just participated in for one week.
David B. Wilson: Wow! It seems to me that in your hearts you have already found a lot of answers. Unfortunately, we can’t just turn a switch  and make everything okay; however, receiving support through organizations like the John Perkins Foundation can give you the tools and ideas on moving forward. I do think that the climate is much better today (not perfect) for there to be less prejudice especially among children. One of goals for this documentary is inclusion in school curriculums across the country. An emphasis on communication with children is probably the area in which we stand to make the most progress because of hopefully being able to prevent early prejudices that carry throughout one’ life.
David A. Wilson:  For African-American kids and bi-racial kids, there is a deficit of information on Africa and African-Americans in mainstream education and media.  I would search out certain books, there are a lot of children’s books that talk about race that are written for African-American children. I would look for books that not only deal with African-American history, but the beauty of African history. There is certainly a deficit of it, and that’s one of the things that creates this interest in African-American kids. There is not a lot of material for African Americans to look at the history that they can be proud of, history that doesn’t point to slavery or oppression.  Most of our history is of oppression. So that has an affect on African-Americans.  So I would even encourage you to look into some reading on great African civilizations.  History is the message of our potential, and if we don’t have that history, we don’t learn from our potential.  So I think it’s very important to compensate for the lack of material about Africa and African-American history that your child will be exposed to.

From Gloria Pacheco, Orlando, Fla.: Now that you have revisited some of the past. What will be your relationship into the future?
David A. Wilson:  I hope that we will continue build upon it.  We already have a very solid relationship right now.  We talk quite frequently, we email each other, we talk politics, and we talk race. We’ve become genuine friends.  I look forward to having David and his wife as a part of my life for a long time to come. They’re very important people to me and I’ve learned a great deal from them and I hope that they feel the same about me.
David B. Wilson: We cannot know the future in certainty; however, David A. and and I have created a relationship over the past 4 to 5 years that will last a lifetime. There may be additional things to come as a result of this film such as including the film or text or both into the educational system of this country. We hope that the documentary has a positive impact and will create the thirst for such inclusion. Several educators that I know plan to order the Uncut DVD to show to students at their school.

From Carmen, Washington, D.C.: I don’t really have a question, but just a statement. I want to thank and congratulate the two of you for the example and higher standard that you are endeavoring to set. I am a 32 year-old African American woman who feels that true progress will begin when people like you decide that the future and reconciliation is more important to take a hold of than the stifling bitterness and unforgiveness that many of my black brothers and sisters wear as a merit badge or carry as an heirloom. I am smiling and encouraged, thank you!
David B. Wilson:
Carmen, I had a student from Howard University come up to me immediately after the Town Hall Meeting. She said she could hardly wait to get back to her dorm so that she could begin making a difference. Can you imagine how that made me feel. SHE GOT IT!! Each of us individually has to examine our own heart, ask difficult questions, and then hopefully resolve these lingering questions that our burdened our society for these so many years. We need to listen to one another to better understand what is in each person’s heart.

From David Alan Wilson, Muskegon, Michigan:  This is more a comment than a question. I find this very interesting. Other than being another David Wilson, my major in college was social studies. What you have accomplished is fantastic. Best of luck with any further ventures. 
David B. Wilson: Thank you for feeling the need to communicate with us. Good luck to you with your Social Studies. I would add one comment. Someone in the audience ( maybe a number of people) that watched this documentary, could be inspired to pick up the mantel in a positive way and advance a new and fresh era of dialogue and communication.