Category Archives: racism

I Wish Race wasn’t An Issue…but I Didn’t Make it One

“The only reason you say that race was not an issue is because you wish it was not. We all wish it was not. But it’s a lie. I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America. When you are black in America and you fall in love with a white person, race doesn’t matter when you’re alone together because it’s just you and your love. But the minute you step outside, race matters. But we don’t talk about it. We don’t even tell our white partners the small things that piss us off and the things we wish they understood better, because we’re worried they will say we’re overreacting, or we’re being too sensitive. And we don’t want them to say, Look how far we’ve come, just forty years ago it would have been illegal for us to even be a couple blah blah blah, because you know what we’re thinking when they say that? We’re thinking why the fuck should it ever have been illegal anyway? But we don’t say any of this stuff. We let it pile up inside our heads and when we come to nice liberal dinners like this, we say that race doesn’t matter because that’s what we’re supposed to say, to keep our nice liberal friends comfortable. It’s true. I speak from experience.”

-Chimimanda Adichie “Americanah”

Sooo…my last serious relationship before I met the man who is now my husband was with a White guy who worked on the same campus as I did at the time. Until I read this passage in “Americanah” I told myself that the reasons we broke up, both times, had nothing to do with race But when I read this, it was like someone was speaking my internal experience back at me and I realized that I was holding all these feelings inside. I was reading one of my 2002-2003 journals over the Thanksgiving weekend and it turns out that while I never talked about these issues with anyone during the time I was in a relationship with, I’ll call him, “Average White guy” I wrote very clearly about my discomfort with his place in my life.

He hated his family and didn’t ever want to have kids, but other than that, was perfectly lovely, nurturing, kind, generous and sweet. The family hatred and not wanting to have kids turned out to be huge for me. I never even realized how much I wanted kids until he made this statement. Neither did I realize how much I loved the whole idea of family, as much as an introvert as I am. Those things I was always willing to admit and discuss out loud. But race?

This was not my first interracial relationship. It was just the first serious one in which I was not seeing anyone else and at an age where I was no longer willing to deal with anything short of serious commitment. This wasn’t just dating or exploration. I also wrote a lot during our time together about needing to be with someone with a spiritual core, because apparently he did not have one and i am not suggesting that this was because he was White. It was just one of many things about him I could not tolerate. He never said he was an atheist or anything but some things a person doesn’t have to say.

At some point though, in 2002 (I didn’t date it) I actually wrote, “I hate that I can’t sleep with my boyfriend while my hair is natural without feeling painfully self conscious about it.”

This is why I love that I was such a hard-core journaler (journaler should just be a word) since 1989. Because I would never have recalled thinking or writing this otherwise! I think I wanted so badly to believe that I was above or beyond race as an issue in my relationship with AWG that I just buried any idea that it had anything to do with my breaking up with him. I always told people, friends, peers, that it was other stuff. I think I was ashamed to admit that yes, when it came to thinking about a long-term commitment, even with the very first white guy, my whole “we are the world” “can’t we all just get along?” “I am human first” front came crashing down.

7-30-2002

I don’t want to get lazy and get used to this. To settle for something which essentially was not what I was shooting for if I had been shooting for anything. Things he doesn’t want, doesn’t believe in, I have no problem with but I have to find someone who does. I won’t try to change him. I adore him! But even the racial consciousness is a problem and kicks in sporadically for me as a problem where it never does for him. Pisses me off.

And there it is. I didn’t want race to be an issue because I wished that it wasn’t. So I wrote about it but I never raised the issue with AWG.

OH!!!

This memory just in! LOL!

He said he hated his parents because they were racist. AHHHHHHH!!!!

Yeah, I guess he must have slipped that one in after almost a month? At least that’s what I’d like to believe. I’m not saying that either of us were at fault. As Adichie mentions above, when we were together alone anywhere, it was like being in a different world, that same world of isolated and precious intimacy you would experience with any human being you love. But in the street, in social situations, at my family’s home! Oh God! I couldn’t deal. And we never talked about it. I never talked to him about how I really felt because I didn’t want it to exist.

It has taken me years to really see myself, not as I have always wanted to, but the way in which America sees me, and it’s hard because it is so unrelentingly ugly. And while I understand that what they say is not who I really am, I have to struggle not to unconsciously project the same negative qualities and stereotypes on my own Black and Brown brothers and sisters as a way of distinguishing my self. As aware as I always struggle to be, I still struggle not to fall into a place where I think, race doesn’t matter here, I can relax. I can care for a White person and not ever have to deal with the Race elephant in the room trampling over all we may have built together. The truth is that I don’t want it to matter. No person of color does. But I don’t have that luxury. I never have. And any African American in a committed relationship with a White person in America who tells you different is just not at place where they feel like they can discuss it.

 

 

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When we think of Segregation

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So this morning I googled the word segregation and of course the first few links that came up were around racial segregation in America.  Jim Crow, Brown VS Board of Ed, a story about a return to segregated schools in America on PBS.org.  In fact when we think about segregation, racial segregation as originally instituted by racist whites in America is the first thing that comes to mind. At least it does to mine.  I’m not even going to insult your intelligence by asking if you know the answer to the question I asked yesterday. We’re all smart people here. There is only one group of people who benefit from segregation and racism both at the time it was implemented and to this very day.  Let’s just get to my point and talk about how segregated experiences work right now and how it could have worked then. And when I say work, I mean succeeded. What you have to keep in mind though, is that in so many ways, the sickness and self-hating psychology of white racism which is essentially racism itself, the same way that segregation is essentially defined as racial is such that any attempt to organize separate services, resources, job opportunities, education and cultural institutes more based on the needs of people of color which are vastly difference from those of us who identify as white is always classified by whites as “reverse racism.”

Let me be clear on my position here.

REVERSE RACISM DOES NOT EXIST

BLACK PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE THE POWER TO BE RACIST

Bard College, circa 1990s. I was a part of the Black Bard Student Organization there and friends with the Vice President of the organization. I’ll call him Malcolm which was incidentally the name of the president of the organization. I was also friends with a Jewish girl who was incessantly clingy with me because she thought my “Blackness” was so cool. I have to say that she didn’t know from “Blackness” if I was her example. The Black people I hung out with had no love for her or any of the other white people I hung out with.  Because of my upbringing, I’ve always had crossover appeal but I never tried to get my Black friend and white friends in a Kumbaya circle because I knew that shit was just not realistic. That is what College Campus student organizations are for. That’s why Black colleges, Fraternities and Sororities exist.

You cannot take a person of color who has been in the “minority” all their lives and who has been taught the history of White America, and if they are lucky some post Slavery Black history, is flooded with media which posits that the only standard of beauty, femininity, intelligence, masculinity, self-worth and love is represented ideally by white faces and throw them together with White people and think everything is going to be lovely. People of color continue to be lied to and kept from the truth about the richness, wealth, brilliance and beauty of their vast culture. White racism has made that a certainty.  The sad truth we all know is that there is very little in American Culture that is actually American. The majority of it was stolen. But back to Bard College and BBSO.

So my Black obsessed Jewish friend doesn’t understand why she can’t be a part of the Black Bard Student Organization and I have to say she was not the only White person who felt this way. There were several other white students who thought their saggy pants, backwards baseball caps and appropriated slang and socialization with people of color (some for the first time ever) should give them access to this world because they weren’t “White like that.” But according to “Dear White People”  Whites already have a club. It’s called Mass Media.  But I wasn’t so racially minded in those days. I actually never did think so much about race until I was at Bard College and a minority in a school for the first time in my life.  Even then I was more of a “we are all human first” kind of gal.

That was my first mistake.

Lessons in Non-Equality and Why Segregation Often Works: Part 2

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Merriam Webster gives the following definitions for the words Equity and Equality

Equity:

1:fairness or justice in the way people are treated.

Equality:

1:the quality or state of being equal

I do wish that Merriam Webster would go into detail about exactly how the state of being equal is defined but since it doesn’t I will venture to come up with my own definitions of equality as I have come to understand them.

I believe that in nature, no two things are ever created equally. I believe there are scientific studies which have posited this opinion. To me it makes sense. Not even identical twins are actually the same in all ways. They can look the same in appearance right down to their DNA strands but they are still not equal. They’re not the same person. Twins are two different people but they need the same things as any other human being in order to survive and thrive. Family, friends, community, education, spiritual guidance, opportunity, livable wages, etc.

The sexes no matter how it is you understand the construct of gender are not equal. Men and women are different and no amount of masterful renditions and reiterations of the song “Anything I can do” can change that fact. Men and women are not the same and if we were, what would be the point of our evolution and development? How would we serve one another or learn about who we are? In order to be in relationship or learn from relationships, we have to have something or someone outside of ourselves to relate with. Differences are necessary to that end; differences in species of plants, animals, atoms, stars. We are all made up of a unique combination of similar concentrations of energy. Differences are necessary in my opinion because ultimately they can be used to discover and reveal similarities and the benefits of balancing both as a way of navigating life harmoniously without a system of evaluation which quantifies or categorizes one experience as being worse or better than another.

Tulips don’t wish to be dandelions. Fish don’t wish to be horse. They are what they are and they stay the course. They know what environment, what food sources and what systems of regeneration, socialization and development serve them best. But that is nature, not humanity. Humanity is the branch of nature blessed with free will.

I’m going to make a huge leap here.

Racism

: poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race

: the belief that some races of people are better than others

:  a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

Now who would go and create something like racism? Who would actually think to create, institute and perpetuate a system which says that one form of life based on the concentration of pigment should be treated inhumanely, beaten , tortured, raped, lynched, castrated, bought, sold, mentally and emotionally traumatized, stereotyped, stigmatized, followed around in public suspiciously, incarcerated for life in massive numbers with no hope for rehabilitation, treated like animals in the country his ancestors built, laid the foundation for, died for, bleed for? Who would do that? Who would create a system of laws which segregates one form of life based on a color, not so that they can create and build a community for the education, socialization and spiritual, cultural re-connection that is necessary for any life form which is uprooted, stolen, bred for slaves, torn apart and had its family structure obliterated but simply to say, “we brought you here against your will to serve us but you do not deserve to be given what you need to survive.”

Who the fuck does some fucked up, sick, dysfunctional, barbaric, unnatural shit like that? In other words who created a system of horrific inequity among those within it’s own species that are equal in biological category?

Still with me?

Next: When We Think of Segregation