An Unapologetic, Unconventional Look at Race
An Excert from the recently released book: "You Blanking N-Word Cracker!"
Blacks, Be Honest With Your White Friends
I’ve come to accept my ability to shock white people. With close white friends and even acquaintances, I don’t dodge the subject of race. I don’t feel the need to lie or sugarcoat or ignore it, even after seeing countless eyes and mouths gape. They’ll get over it, I always think. Because if they’re going to be my friend, they’re going to hear me share my opinions and experiences about a wide variety of subjects. Why the hell would I not include race? Because they’re white? Nonsense.
I’ve run my mouth in such a fashion while some of my black friends were also present and I’ve seen their looks of dismay. “Donna, you didn’t have to say that,” I imagine them thinking. At other times they’ve laughed out loud. “Donna, you’re so crazy.” Whatever.
When you’re hanging out with friends and family, you feel free to share recollections. One story reminds you of something else and so on. I don’t filter my stories based on the race or even the sexuality of my audience. I don’t feel the need to. Not among friends.
I remember telling my step daughter how, as a kid, I was made to feel ugly by other black kids because my skin was dark. I told her how much I hated it when my playmates would gather in a circle and extend one arm, creating a bunch of wheel spokes, if you will. Whoever had the darkest skin was the loser. I lost that game many a time.
The poor girl nearly cried. She’s not from America. She was just visiting. I guess a story like that was more shocking to her than it would have been to an American. I didn’t tell it for effect or sympathy. I was just driving her around town and running my mouth, like you do with family.
Naturally I’ve told my husband stories. If ever I describe some run of the mill incident that was obviously racist he swells up with disgust. “You need to be on the phone to their boss in the morning. Report them. I would. I wouldn’t stand for it, Donna.”
Now, I don’t mind reporting people for extreme behavior. I’ll dash off a complaint email and copy ten interested parties in a heartbeat. But an experience that would be intolerable to a white person is often just one more notch in the post for a black person. Something that causes you to shake your head, roll your eyes and move on. It always amuses me though- the white indignation on my behalf over things I consider petty. I kind of shrug and say “Well, I guess you’re a lot more used to justice and fairness than I am.” I don’t say it with resentment. Strictly amusement. They’re still pulling the knots from their panties after I’ve moved on.
I believe my honesty is helpful on several levels. Obviously it demonstrates the ease with which I can judge people not by their race, but by their behavior. It stimulates dialogue and introspection in a way that is non-confrontational. It opens my friends’ eyes and broadens their compassion. And it lets me vent to my buddies.
I don’t know why this doesn’t happen more often. But it should. It has to. Black people with non-black friends should be honest with them. When experiences about racism are shared casually in the way you’d discuss your job or your spouse or your kids, it bridges gaps and helps us to feel more like the human family we are.
Now white people, you have to listen. Do not rush to the defense of the alleged racist or try to assure your black friend that the person must have meant something else or they were having a bad day. We’ve lived with this stuff. We’re experts. And if we’re liberal enough to have white friends, we’re not the kind of people who search for racism. We don’t live in those self-erected prisons I discussed earlier. We’re willing to reach out and bridge gaps. So don’t feel guilty or embarrassed or defensive. You wouldn’t feel that way if your friend was bitching about their mother-in-law. So let them bitch about the racist at the grocery store. I promise your black friend won’t turn on you in a fit of rage. You’ll survive it and get used to it, and be a better person and a better friend for it.
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