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.
The reality we seek, the reality that is possible, is that we reach a point where we can all see one another’s children as our child. Our child.
At the moment, there are people closely divided about the Trayvon Martin case. There are those who can imagine this dead teenaged boy as their son, and those who cannot. There are those who willfully choose to ignore Trayvon’s right to fear and self-defense and those who are horrified that a teenager’s walk home turned into terrifying, painful death.
In this same society, there are people who become emotionally invested when a pretty, young white girl is abducted or in some way goes missing. And there are those who roll their eyes and think “Yeah, okay. This happens all the time in Black America and no one gives a damn.” There was national outrage and despair over the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. At the same time, young black males are being killed by police officers and by one another at an inexcusable, genocidal rate, and only their friends and family hear of it.
When confronted by the existence of such varied reactions to tragedy, we cite circumstances, economics, environmental influences and so on. We say and think whatever we can to distance ourselves from horror because it feels so overwhelming, so impossible to solve, to understand or even conceive. And when we choose to focus on the loss of a child, or children, we focus on the children that feel the most like our own.
I ask that we widen our eyes and open our hearts enough to embrace all children as our own. Whether those children are spoiled, rich white girls or bitter, gang affiliated thugs. Whether they are rosy fleshed, huggable elementary school children or equally tender, chocolate colored babes on their way to school in a less desirable zip code. Whether they are Asian or Latino or Native American. Whether they are Christian, Muslim or Jewish. They are all of our babies, whether we know it or not, feel it or not, care about them or not.
Gun laws, drug laws, mental healthcare- all of these things will fall into their rightful places once we as adults, change our thinking, our habits of love, concern and compassion. Do we need to immerse ourselves into the details and statistics in order to better realize the scope of the problem? No, we do not. Leave that to the scholars and activists who dedicate their lives to calculating and measuring the extent of our troubles.
These people who report back to us with staggering news have a full grasp of the consequences of racist thinking. The far reaching effects of high incarceration rates for young black men convicted of non-violent crimes touch all of our lives. Wives and girlfriends lose a second income. Children lose fathers, inmates spread AIDs and bring it home to their lovers. Neighborhoods crumble beneath the weight of hopelessness. State budgets are stretched thin in the attempt to house the number of prisoners.
How can honesty at the level of friendship between blacks and whites have any impact on the mess our thoughts have created?
It creates better thoughts, more compassionate and understanding thoughts. It promotes empathy. And enlightened attitudes permeate the collective consciousness.
Let us not forget that the young black men turning to crime or violence do so based on the thoughts, perceptions and attitudes they’ve been exposed to. They are young and impressionable. If their parents and their streets and their schools are telling them that blacks were once or still are considered inferior, that will immediately impact the fates and outcomes that these children believe are possible for themselves. Limiting beliefs. Beliefs are always stronger than circumstances. Always.
As adults, we need to demonstrate a more welcoming, accepting world for our children. We should not pile our fears and resentments on their shoulders, creating bullies and villains and rebellious brats in the process.
For all of the perceived differences among us, I think we can all agree that at least one thing exists that we all can relate to, and that is love. Love is something we all need and cherish. We understand at the core level that love feels better than being right, or staying true to a political platform or a racial identity. Love feels better than dragging around the weight of history’s carcass. It clears our vision and de-clutters our minds.
However, love can’t be legislated. It can’t be enforced. It flows naturally and easily to those who are in the frame of mind to accept it.
In this society that we have deemed divisive, we recoil in horror at opinions that are so far removed from our own. We wonder how anyone can think such thoughts and entertain such notions, yet live in the same nation in the same time period that we occupy. But as we recoil, we don’t account for the limited vision, the jaundiced eyes and deafened ears that exist in the absence of interracial love.
As someone who first became involved in an interracial romantic relationship back in 1981, I can assure you that such relationships have a strong effect on those who witness them. I remember being stared at with resentment, disgust, admiration, support and indifference. I remember being nervous about appearing with my white spouse in this neighborhood or that bar. I’ve heard all manner of comments, positive and negative. I’ve been warned about the suffering interracial children endure. The complications of mixed marriages. I was warned of backlash, backlash, backlash. So much sound and fury that, in the end, signified nothing. But what matters the most all these years later is that I have seen my example encourage others to do the same thing. I have always loved to play Cupid, you see. To know that I have encouraged interracial love simply by demonstrating it in my own life is exceedingly rewarding indeed.
And that, Gentle Reader, is what I ask you to do in your life, with your friendships and love affairs. Be a model of what is good and healthy. Give a damn about other cultures. Taste their food, dance to their music, give in to their exoticness, love their women and children. Step into the shoes of their men. Talk to them and listen.
Our only limit is the height of our expectations.