Recently, in response to a comment I made on a Facebook post, I was accused of always finding something to get defensive about. As the post in question regarded insensitive comments made by white people toward black people, I thought my “defensiveness” warranted an explanation.
First let me state that I am white. The person who posted the video to which I responded, is black. She is also someone I respect greatly and have tremendous personal affection for. I consider her a mentor, a confidant and a friend. However, this issue is one that plucks a particular never with me, and so I must respond.
I was born in 1970. Two years and 16 days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. So I knew nothing of the man, or the society he was trying to change, until many years later. But there were some things I did know.
I knew my Pop Pop trained his dogs to attack black people on sight. I knew that my father’s father had instructed my dad, upon reporting to boot camp, to inform the drill instructor that members of my family didn’t take orders from <insert N-word here>.
I was surrounded, as an adolescent, by racism. I was taught through word and action, implicit and implied, that black people were less intelligent, more violent, and as a whole lazier, than white people.
I lived in neighborhoods wholly devoid of people of color. I attended churches filled with an uninterrupted sea of lily white faces. Boy Scouts was the same. Everywhere I went and everything I did, was with white people.
There were black kids in my school. I got along well with most of them. But I did see and hear things which reinforced my preconceived notions about the violent nature of the black culture. Though, to be honest, as I look back on it those things were not restricted to any particular group or ethnicity. I was always around a rough group of people. White or black, someone was always getting beat up.
Eventually I grew up and I began working. I ran in to smart, motivated, black men and women, and I began to question the things I had been told and had simply accepted. To be clear, I also ran in to people who perfectly matched the stereotype I had been told about, and for a time I was confused. But eventually I had what could only be described at the time as an epiphany. Each individual…is an individual.
Certain groups of people tend to gravitate toward a lifestyle or manner of conducting themselves. If you gather together all the people on a given block in any inner city, odds are that the majority of them will have a large number of things in common. The environment favors certain behaviors and mannerisms. Speech patterns are mimicked. Clothing tends toward the same styles and colors. People join the herd…
But, within each person resides an individual, and those individuals can break patterns.
I am reminded of Nicky Cruz, who went from leading one of the most violent street gangs in NYC to being a Christian evangelist to those same gangs. That story is repeated every day in this nation, as people choose to break from the crowd, ignore patterns, and be who they are in spite of societal pressure to conform.
And so, as a young adult raising two daughters, I struggled against institutionalized racism in my extended family and within myself. I taught my daughters to take each person as they come to you; or as a great man once put it, to judge others not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I am in the middle years of my life now. I have friends and associates of all races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. I take each person as they come to me, and I find value in relationships with all sorts of people. And this is where the comments and remarks alluded to at the start of this post get to me a little.
Because today, as a middle class white guy, I still see racism all over the place. The vast majority of it though, is coming from black people.
Gone are the days of slavery. Segregation has been over for many years. It is no longer acceptable to use “the N word” in public. Realistically, it’s not acceptable to use it in private either. We have Equal Opportunity Employment Commissions; quotas; diversity mandates; Affirmative Action; the list goes on and on. We have black Congressmen and women; Senators; and we have elected our first black president. But it’s not enough, and it never will be.
There are people like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton whose lives are so invested in the existence of racism that they will not ever let it go even if the day should ever come when it was completely gone.
Just like old white men cling to old ideals and notions, so too do old black men and women. The difference is, in white families we just shake our heads at grandpa…and wait for him to die. In the black household I get the feeling that the younger generations gather at grandpa’s knee and listen to tales of police brutality and the white man’s greed; segregation and slavery; and unequal justice. I think they take up these banners, keep the flame alive, and find racism around every corner because they are actively looking for it.
Take for example the Trayvon Martin case. A light skinned Hispanic guy shoots a black kid. The issue gets blown up to the point where the President of the United States is commenting on it and members of Congress are going to the podium wearing hoodies. But some kid named Antonio kills some kid named Latrell every 10 minutes in some neighborhood in this country…and apparently no one gives a shit. Why is that?
Tupac had a number of things to say about these issues. Most notably, in the song White Man’s World, he said the following:
We ain’t never gon’ walk off this planet, unless Y’ALL choose to
Use your brain! Use your brain!
It ain’t them that’s killin us it’s US that’s killin us
It ain’t them that’s knockin us off, it’s US that’s knockin us off
I’m tellin you better watch it, or be a victim Be a victim, in this white man’s world
The simple truth is that the most hateful, racist, violent speeches I have ever heard have come from the mouths of black men. Many of whom are walking around with the title “Reverend” or “Minister”.
And the simple reality is, though there is only one black person in my entire neighborhood, any black person I know could safely walk down my street at any time of the day or night with no fear that any harm would befall them. But the same cannot be said of me, walking down the streets of virtually any predominantly black neighborhood I can think of. Yes…I may make it out alive. But that is by no means a given. And we must be willing to discuss the reasons for that if we are ever going to move past these things.
I have black friends who are concerned about coming to my house because I live in the country, in the state of VA., and rednecks and Klansmen used to burn crosses out here years ago. Meanwhile, black kids are robbing, raping and killing each other every week in the neighborhoods they, or people they know, live in. Does that make sense to anyone?
So it pisses me off a little when people post videos where some white girl tells some black girl that she has nice skin. Or some black dude takes offense at a white guy commenting on the fact that he is unusually articulate. REALLY!? THAT’S the problem!?
25% of all black males between 18-30 are either on probation or in jail. 80% of all crime committed against black people is committed by black people. Your children are gunning each other down in the street over shoes and jackets, and the color of the bandana on their heads.
The number of black women raising children alone is astronomical. The black family, and hence the black community, is being destroyed by a federal and state government which has replaced fathers with bureaucrats. You vote overwhelmingly for a group of politicians that intentionally keep you oppressed because so long as you need them they can be assured of your vote.
But the real issue; the crux of your struggle; is an ignorant comment or two made by some dumbass Caucasian from time to time??
Though I have struggled all of my life against the forces which would coerce me in to falling in to precisely the stereotype you keep alive in those gatherings at grandpa’s knee, I am, by extension, found guilty of the racism you find because you seek it. And it irritates me.
Perhaps, if we were to focus time and attention on the real issues, we might solve some of them. And perhaps if those people of color who focus so intently on the color of other’s skin would focus instead on the content of their character, we could move past this tiring, inane, “racial divide”.
I am not being “defensive”. I’m just tired of spending time on this issue. Mine or anyone else’s.
No one I know gives a crap what color you are. A little time spent in reflection might reveal to those of you who are obsessed with color that the problem is not that anyone else has an issue with you being black…but maybe that YOU do.
My two cents. Take it or leave it.