the r word

i have met many ppl who are liberal/progressive in their thinking.  these ppl are usually feminist, prochoice, socially sensitive, use proper adjective to describe minorities, etc.  most of the ppl who are amoung the progressive elite, they are white, extremely educated and wealthy.  they donate money to orgs like the southern poverty law center and the naacp.  they write letters to law makers and vote.  really these ppl are nice, caring and utterly disconnected from reality.

when the topic of race comes up, they are ready!  

“i can’t be racist!  i have 2 black friends, and i voted for obama!  i am so not racist, i don’t see race!”  this is usually said in a high pitched squeal indicating how impassioned they are.

as white ppl we have the privilege of not seeing race.  we have the ability to walk down the street, and not notice.  we don’t notice that when a person of color goes into the electronic department of walmart, they are followed by the undercover security officers.  we don’t feel the alienation that a black man walking down the street feels when the white couple sees him and crosses to the other side of the road while walking past him then crossing back again.

we don’t teach our children how to handle it when the police pull them over.  for most of us white ppl the only time we are pulled over is if we break the law, this is not true for ppl of color.  it is not rare for a person with brown skin to be pulled over for trivial things like driving through their neighborhood, acting too suspicious, avoiding the police.  these are not rare things, these are things that happen all the time.

a friend of mine told me a story the other day, and i have been working it through my mind for quite sometime trying to justify it in some way, but there is no justification for it, and i can’t just sit on it any longer.  one day my friend’s friend, who is hispanic, was standing on her porch enjoying the day.  her neighborhood is like most neighborhoods in our town-you have 3 blocks of quiet, nice and cozy houses then you run into very low income housing rampant with drugs and poverty; our town is very integrated racially in comparison to alot of other cities, and there are many many white ppl living in low income neighborhoods.  the friend lived a couple of blocks down from an apartment complex that has been known selling crack.  so the friend was out enjoying the day on her property, and a white man approaches her.  he walks up to her porch and tries to sell her something.  she said no, and have a good day.  well, this guy was in desperate need of money, and he attempted to rob the woman on her property on her porch.  she pulled her cell phone out and called the police, while on the phone with the police the man stabbed her.  the police rush to her house, they are always in her neighborhood.  by the time the police got there the man had walked further down the street.  she is on her porch, spewing blood, and the police approach her guns drawn.  they put her in handcuffs.  they go and get the man who stabbed her.  he had the stabbing instrument on him covered in her blood.  they put him in cuffs.  they take them both to jail.  he went to jail for stabbing her, but she went to jail bc she must have done something to provoke the incident.  a white man doesn’t just walk around stabbing hispanic women. she was released later that day, but the damage was done.  she now has an arrest record.  her family and neighbors saw her cuffed and pushed into a police car.  she cannot call the police even when being physically assaulted bc she is too brown.

white ppl have the privilege to ignore facts,  racism doesn’t exist as long as we don’t see it.  we don’t see that 85% of prisons across the country are filled with ppl of color, most for nonviolent offenses.  most of the laws are built to alienate people of color from society.  police have the authority to stop and frisk without cause.  district attorneys are granted full licence on who to prosecute and to what to prosecute them for.  judges can sentence a convicted criminal to life for one nonviolent offense in some cases.  lawmakers create laws to cause a chasm between races.

we pat ourselves on the back bc look at how far we have come in combatting racism-a black man can even be president of the united states now!  the fact is that this should not be exceptional!  when looking at our population diversity, and our government, things don’t exactly line up.  if we had true representation, wouldn’t there be the same amount of hispanic representatives as there are hispanic ppl living in the represented population.  the same goes for black ppl, natives, asians, women, queer ppls, trans ppl, disabled folks, and so on and so on.  

when we see spokespersons for the minorities on television, they are deemed outrageous.  al sharpton is a loud, outspoken, black man.  he is vilianized in the media, and most white ppl just block him out as an “angry black man looking for attention”.  “if that al sharpton would just act more like that oprah winfrey, ppl would like him much better.”  “they are just living in the past and trying to stay victims!  i never owned a slave!”  these are all phrases commonly used among whites, even the white liberals, and even among people of color.

i have wondered why we are so insistent on the idea of being colorblind,  why can’t we see the difference and appreciate the difference, not only in skin color but in culture?  we want to homogenize culture, in turn ripping it away from the ppl, watering it down and giving it to the white population as a tool showing how we are accepting of all ppl therefore proving we are colorblind.  “i have a malcom x poster, eat tamales, and watch anime.  i have even been to a sweat!!!! i don’t notice color and when i do, i don’t care!”  the destructive part of this statement is that “i don’t care” bc we should care.  we should care about the culture of other ppl!  we can appreciate the differences!  it is actually quite healthy for us to study, accept and appreciate without consuming different cultures.  

i honestly believe a major part of our colorblind mentality stems from embarrassment and an inability to reckon the past.  it is difficult to be aware that you have privilege bc you were lucky enough to be born a certain color,  add to that the knowledge of what has been done by your genetic ancestors to the genetic ancestors of those around you, and it is hard to look at.  it is hard to look ppl in the eye.  there is absolutely nothing we can do to atone for past atrocities.  we cannot undo what has been done.  but we can stop acting like these things don’t have a major role in the lives of ppl’s of today.  we can learn the histories of others.  we can take into account the anger as legitimate backlash of oppression bc there are still ppl alive who were direct victims of genocide. instead of trying to sweep it under the rug or denying that the past happened.  we can stop trying to take what culture there is away from ppl.  

we can talk to ppl!  i think that is the most important thing we as white ppl can do.  talk!  it seems so simple.  to have open honest discourse with ppl of color.  you are allowed to say “i somehow feel responsible but i don’t know what to do about it”.  you can ask questions.  you can listen.  you can talk to other white ppl.  you can become educated about the true history of all ppls. (there were different nations of native americans, each with it’s own culture  and language, family structures, social hierarchy, and governments!  there were over 60 slave languages.  south america is a continent with many countries each with their own government, culture and commerce.  africa is not a country, again it is a continent, many countries, language, dieties, theologies, culture, etc.  islam is not a country, it is a religion.  the list goes on and on of what we are taught as white ppl….really it is degrading to all involved)

*when ppl find out that i am a lesbian, they try their hardest to make me comfortable with their straightness, which i am already cool with, by telling me how they are somehow related to a gay person.  it’s strange.  and it does not make me feel more comfortable to know that you have a certain amount of gayness in our life.  i do not feel closer to you.  it does not make you less homophobic.  the same can be said about having your token minorities of all kinds.  it doesn’t feel good.  please stop.  please realize that voting for obama is not the same as you being involved with actively ending racial discrimination.  


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