"It's Been Building Up Inside Me…For, Oh, I Don't Know How Long…" *
Nietzsche, in my estimation, was rightly blasted for his blasphemous declaration that “God is —-“. Many philosophers with greater minds than mine, have debated what was meant by this assertion. But God is most certainly alive, and will remain so throughout eternity.
Other things, despite our fervent declarations to the contrary, are also alive. I’ve been recently shunned by many of my fellow conservatives on a certain social networking site for daring to suggest that racism is still alive and well in these United States.
The mere fact that we have elected a man of African-American descent seems to assuage the minds of many that we are truly living in enlightened times. We’re all colorblind, and the singing of “Kumbaya” should commence shortly.
As a woman of mixed racial heritage who grew up with her Caucasian mother, I can say that for most of my life, I truly felt colorblind in terms of the way I related to others. But the way others related to me clearly showed, and continues to show, racism will outlive me.
Oh sure, I’m “drinking liberal kool-aid.” I’m a “hate-monger,” “fear-monger,” “[insert criticism here]-monger”…
I would like nothing more than to believe racism is dead. Racism has always been, and continues to be, my greatest pet peeve. The greatest injustice I can think of, is to judge someone based upon skin color alone. I stand with Dr. King who said we should not judge based upon skin color, but upon the content of one’s character.
Two of my children are adopted. Both are bi-racial. Both hail from a fairly racially segregated southern state. Both languished in a foster home without serious inquiry for over a year…all because of their race. How do I know this? I know because their birth mother, and their social worker were asked, point blank if the children appeared “more black than white.” And, when told the children appeared as bi-racial children, the inquiry came to an abrupt end. Please tell me, if that wasn’t blatant racism, what was it?
Trans-racial adoptions take place each and every day. In fact, as I write this, a report is circulating that Madonna is adopting her second child from Malawi within the next week or so. I don’t think it was out of an altruistic desire to make sure they had parents “like them” that these inquiries dried up so quickly. But, there I go mongering again…. ::::sigh::::
My mother was born in the same state my children are from. In the many years I visited with my “high yellow” skin (yes, I’ve been called that, too…but surely that’s not racism, right? It’s dead, remember?), I have been told, to my face that “Black people are alright to date, but not to marry.” Surely, I’m misinterpreting that innocent remark and making a case for racism where none exists, right?
In this same small, Southern hamlet, I never saw one face of color in the over twenty years I visited regularly. In fact, my cousin told me that a Black family once dared to move in, and were treated so poorly, they moved. But, I suppose I should corroborate my cousin’s first hand account and verify it wasn’t a lucrative corporate offer for the patriarch that took the family out of town…Oh, right, I can’t ask her. She moved to the big town ninety miles away and had two bi-racial children of her own and got shunned by those same townsfolk when she came back home…Oops, there I go sipping that kool-aid again! Ugh!
In my diverse, upscale suburban neighborhood, my middle class family went out to breakfast at a local restaurant very early one morning. The restaurant was not exceptionally busy, however, my bi-racial children and I, along with my Black husband, had to wait an uncomfortably long time to even be acknowledged, much less seated. After grudgingly being offered menus, we again waited for our waitress to take our order. Again, the restaurant was not terribly busy, and the waitress managed to find time to stop at all the tables in her station and chat in a friendly manner while inquiring if their meals were to their liking and offering drink refills. When our food came, the waitress would not offer eye contact, and hurried away without bothering to see if we needed anything else. My kids are pretty cute, if I say so myself, and very well mannered. They get compliments from wait-staff nearly everywhere we go because they are about as quiet as kids can be, and are very polite. The waitress stopped to chat with several children in the restaurant, affectionately calling them “honey” or “sweetie.” But not my children. We were not spoken to beyond the initial order-taking. In fact, the bill was left at our table when the waitress brought our food order. Then, we had to wait another interminable time at the register to be rung up. We were the only family of color in the establishment.
Please tell me what that was about? I’m overly sensitive? I’m mongering? I’ll tell you what: I hate racism. I hate it with every fiber of my being. But the way to combat it is not to pretend it does not exist.
You can say I have a “victim” mentality, but I have seen how inner-city schools look on the inside, as compared to their wealthy suburban counterparts. You can say inner-city kids trash their own neighborhoods and engage in criminal behavior. But, as distasteful as it might be, we need to be honest and admit that Brown v. Topeka may have mandated desegregation and “equal” schooling, we know urban areas have less equipment, fewer enrichment classes, and teachers that often are cutting their teaching teeth, paying back their AmeriCorp (or other service program) debt, and that truly caring, high caliber teachers are few and far between. Where are the equal opportunities? Oh, we have to take them, I was told. Right, because all education is equal. All hiring practices are equal and you just have to want it badly enough…I don’t even tell my kids fairy tales like that at night….
Yes, those who lived before us during slavery and after – all the way through the Civil Rights Movement – had to deal with harsh, outright cruel and blatant behavior, and what we deal with today pales in comparison. But, you knew who your enemy was! Now, it’s insidious: racial profiling (uh, any Arab-Americans out there who want to talk about your post 9/11 travel experiences?), DWB (driving while Black), etc. If you are not of color, you cannot begin to imagine the humiliation. Let that outrage keep you talking about this issue – not ignoring it, or declaring it dead.
So block me…don’t follow me on your social network…shun me…believe racism is dead. But as long as you do, you will perpetuate the problem, rather than being pro-active in stopping it. I will speak about it. I will recount what I have seen first hand. I will challenge it when I see it. I will listen respectfully to others, rather than stopping my ears…”La la la I can’t hear you….”
Yep, I’m angry today. Angry at racism, and angry at the assertion it’s dead. Angry that I’m branded the “high-yellow” traitor to all the ethnicities housed within me and purveyor of kool-aid. All my life, I’ve kept this anger inside. All this time, I’ve kow-towed to others who asked me to check off their little ethnic boxes, or told me to “choose” if I was “going to be” white or Black (hello? born already!), or told me to “stop lying…you know you are [insert ethnicity they decided should be ascribed to me here].”
Well, guess what? Today I resign and officially come out to all of you as…..ME! I am all that I am, no more, no less, proud of it, and sorry if you can’t “label” me or “box” me in…
As a typical kid of the 1970’s, I grew up on “Schoolhouse Rock,” the tagline of which was, “Knowledge is power!” And, as our ever-living, all-loving, exceptionally wise God says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free…”
The truth is….racism exists. And until we all submit under the mighty hand of God and heed His command that there no longer be “slave or free, male or female, Jew or Gentile…” it will exist until He takes His children home to a place where we will truly be rid of the tyrannical injustice that is racism.
* Blog title taken from “Don’t Worry Baby” by the Beach Boys