5.06.2015

Separate Not Equal

I struggle with this. This feeling. This post is probably going to offend someone. Someone else will probably call the post or its author a racist, privileged white suburbanite sitting in his white bread all-American apartment on Main Street, USA far removed from the very real struggles of race that are facing our nation in cities across America. Some very prominent on the news, others boiling just under the surface, ready to explode at a moment's notice.

Maybe that's true. Maybe I am a racist. I don't think that I am. I would like to think that I have moved past judging someone based on the color of their skin. But maybe I haven't.

I don't think there is any question that our government and institutions of this nation are (and/or were) built on a foundation of white privilege (take a good look at the original draft of the Constitution if you doubt this).

I remember as a young child in elementary school, my first experience with someone who had different color skin. His name was Dante. I came home and told my mom all about my new friend. Somewhere in there was the wide eyed fascination because his skin was brown. And that was it. No fear. No excluding him. None of that. It was a footnote to me telling my mom all the cool things about my new friend.

My new friend.

Not my new black friend. Not my new brown friend.  Not my new African-American friend.

My new friend.

As a young child I got it. Somewhere along the way as I grew older, I felt compelled as so many have to use skin color as an identifier. So, I went to lunch with Jerome the other day. You remember Jerome, he's black.

I mean, what the shit is that?!? It's fucked up. That's what it is. I've done it. I'm not proud of it. And I'm working on eradicating that kind of bullshit. It's tantamount to saying, you remember Rick? My gay friend.

My new friend.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a rap star. I had rhymes for days. I had a group of guys I would rap with but mostly I made tapes in my bedroom. I wound up doing a pep assembly. I rapped a capella while some friends clapped along in time. Others stood dumbfounded at the white kid in their gym rapping.

At that time...rap was not a white person's musical genre. The fact that I even think (or thought) of music in terms of a certain color or race's genre shows how fucked up and ingrained this color wheel bullshit actually is. But I digress.. So for me to stand in front of the school of 2000+ students rapping seemed like a big deal. I was terrified.

Some people that I thought were friends found delight in calling me wigger after that. Which, depending on who was saying it could stand for either white nigger or wannabe nigger.

Yes. I said nigger.  It's part of what I was called.

Now...don't misunderstand me in the slightest. I in no way think I'm qualified to talk about racism because some idiots in high school threw that ignorant slur my way. My struggle was not and is not that of the African-American culture (then or now). It's completely separate from that. But the ignorance thrown my way is a direct reflection of the racism in their hearts. Evidenced by the fact that they felt they needed to hurt me because of who I associated with. No, I'm qualified to talk about racism because I believe it is more rampant than ever. And  I want to change that.

It might bother some that I typed that word out. And I get that. I thought about saying 'the n-word' which, in my mind is worse. I don't throw that word around lightly. I use it here only to illustrate the power, the negative power of such a word. I have re-read this post no less than 8 times. And each time I winced as I read the word. Wondering if I should use it at all.

Words have power. Words have all the power we give them. And if you're afraid to say a word in a discussion, how can you ever hope to change it?

Fear.

Fear of a word. Fear of something different.

Remember when it was easy to identify the racist? Signs on their lunch counters. Rallies where white hooded sheets were worn. Some would say racism was worse during those times. I would disagree. I think racism is worse now.

Now the racists can hide behind a keyboard. Spewing hate on all dark corners on the internet. And there is little fear of reproach and no accountability.  How can you fight back against a nameless faceless avatar on the interwebs?

I do it one word at a time.

Under our skin, the makeup of all humans is basically the same. Same bones. Same organs. Same biology. The only difference is the level of melanin in our skin. If we were animals in the wild, that difference would be in the coloring and patterns on our fur.  How does the color of the skin make someone more or less of a person than you?

It doesn't. It's a thing. Like blue eyes or blond hair. It's a trait. Not a defining characteristic or indicator of what kind of human being someone is.

I imagine there was a time when survival of our species was such a high priority that it didn't matter one doodlyfuck if OO'g from three caves over was darker or lighter than you--that goddamn saber-toothed tiger was coming and you had to band together to defeat it. OR everyone died.  I want to go back to that time. When people didn't have qualifiers. I want us ALL to think to that time, when people are described as people--without any fucked up modifiers. Maybe the answer is not going back to that time, though. Maybe that answer is moving forward. Maybe it starts with a conscious decision to make a fucking difference.

**UPDATE**
It is the next day and I still struggle with this. The racism is real. The struggle for all sides is real. It is very much a situation where powers far removed from the cities and urban battle grounds seek to keep the people of our nation in an US and Them. Black versus white. Thug versus cop.  Fear. Be afraid White America, the Black man is coming to steal your dreams. Be afraid Black America, the White man already has.

I don't have the answer to this. I wish I did. I wish I could say Hey-wake up. Stop fighting. Stop fearing. Stop focusing on the differences between your races and celebrate the differences in each other.

I can say it. I can try to live it. But I'm one person.   And even then, I'm not sure it's enough.   I guess, like most things I try to do in this world, if I can make a difference--even a small one in just one person's life, I can feel good about the day.

Like I said originally. I was all over the fucking map with this post. I don't know of a good answer. All I know is that we have to start having the conversations.

I can remember as a teen, there was a thing...don't know if it was a movement or what. But a lot of my friends had embraced the slogan It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand.

And you know what? They're right. I probably wouldn't. And I may not now. But I understand pain. And I understand suffering. And I understand that I don't want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of ending pain and suffering. So...I guess that's that. I mean, not like this is Hollywood wrapped up at the end of the 22 minute episode resolved or anything. But the more I plow through this post, the more I know.

I really only have one choice in this life.  Lead from love.  Fear is fucked up. And I'm done with it.

Love.

It's not a black or white thing.

It's a human thing.

-AT

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