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August 03, 2002

Comments

michele

Very honest post, Jason. It probably took a lot out of you just to write it.

I grew up with racist parents. I heard every cliche and generalization about black people that you could imagine. My childhood took place in the 60's, before political correctness, before being a racist was frowned upon.

What did my parents teach me? They taught me that racist words and views make you look ugly. They taught me that they could never force their assumptions down my throat and expect me to swallow them. I knew I would never be like them because their racism was a part of them that I hated.

Even so, growing up in a society that accepted segragation, things become embedded in your brain. It is a sad commentary on our country, indeed, when you actually point out that there are more commercials picturing black families, that a black person holds this or that position of authority, etc.

Where I work, they count up the black judges as if it makes our court system more honorable for having them there. That says more about the history of our society than anything, that it has to be pointed out when a black person achieves such a position.

I do think about it. I am totally aware that race is a huge factor in our society. It does not effect me in any way the same that it does you, but it does effect me. I can't do anything about the thousands of ignorant, racist people that exist around me, I can only do something about the way I think about this.

I'm sorry if I rambled or wasn't quite as coherent about this as I wanted to be.

Linkmeister

"and so then I think about all those white faces that were on the tv and in the newspapers and yelling at black folks and spraying those hoses."

How could you not? I remember them too, as a teenager in the '60s. But I also remember the March on Washington, when there were one hell of a lot of white folks in the crowd, including my parents, agreeing and taking action. Try not to forget that part, please.

Jason

I never forget those faces Link...most of my friends are children of those faces.

But this is the part of the conversation where I get frustrated because after all that I wrote your response was to be defensive (and I'm not calling you to task for that, just noting it).

What I hear is "Remember we're all not like that" and why I'm frustrated is that I never said that you were.

One of the points of many that I'm trying to make is that I know we aren't like that...but that still Race Matters. My best friend is a white guy. I have been to and completed at least 10 programs on multiculturalism and diversity and conflict resolution and leadership and blahblahblahletstalkabouthowmuchweloveandcareaboutourdifferencescakes.

I still can't and don't talk with him honestly about race.

Many, dare I say, most of the people I hang out with regularly are white girls. We don't discuss race.

Invariably any frustrations I may have with race, prejudice and racism will lead them down a road of guilt and defensiveness. It comes with the territory.

My writing here is in hopes that we can break down some of those walls and just talk about it.

Linkmeister

Damn. I tried to edit out the defensiveness while writing it, too.

Well, then, it'll take a little more time to think about how to answer respond. I guess I just have my doubts about generalizations on anyone's part, including my own.

kd

thanks for this. eloquent and passionately written.

started writing the hell out of a comment but it turned into a post real quick-like. i shall ping when done.

Mary

Very honest post and extremely well written. I get so tired of people proclaiming that race isn't a factor like it was back in the '60s. It's a factor and it will always be. Those kids from those parents you mentioned have kids and the cycle continues. I'm thankful that while growing up, race wasn't something that was an issue in my family. I praise my parents for showing me that people are people and shouldn't be judged by anything but their moral character, etc. But then I think, isn't that strange that I feel the need to thank my parents for that? Shouldn't that be the way all parents should be? But that's not the reality so I am grateful.

By the way, I feel you on the t.v. thing. A friend of mine is the senior producer of an ESPN show. He says it's amusing to see some guests come and meet him and their subsequent reactions. Even when their words are full of commendation, it's always tempered with surprise. 'Tis a shame...

batgrl

Thank you so much for this, especially the clear way you have expressed your thoughts.

So many times I have heard many of these same things said - but in a way that seems to provoke the guilt and defensiveness, and argument. And when you have to work on getting past the hurt of feeling personally attacked, or feeling the anger that only appears to be directed at you, the listener - it's so damn hard to let the other person know that you do agree with what they're saying.
But then I always try and spin it in my brain that if I didn't take the issue personally, I'd not give a damn. Which would be much worse than being frustrated. It's a lot of work trying to not be defensive. I very much wish things were different. But I think that I have a better grasp of the issues from posts like this one - I wish there were more like this everywhere.

I'm wondering if the frustration will always be there - on both sides.
Again, thank you for this post.
(And sorry if any of this comment is incoherent!)

Lee

"We don't discuss race."

Excuse me for butting in, but the fact that you don't discuss race issues with your white friends surprises me. You say something about breaking down the walls, but between my friends and I, I see no walls. They tell me like it is whether I like it or not, and vice versa. We've all learned and grown a lot from the sharing of these issues as well. So I suppose I'm just curious as to why you don't feel you can do this with your friends?

drublood

Thanks so much for this post.

Dr. D.

Interesting post Jason. First thank kd for getting me to your site. I am Jamaican and I guess that by saying so you immediately think that I am black of skin. In actual fact I am a very light skinned Jamaican and if you met me, you might think that I was Puerto Rican or such, as many Americans do when I visit the US.
Now, our national motto here in this country is'out of many, one people". This attests to the fact, that although black people make up the majority of our population, we do have people from many ethnic backgrounds, African, Chinese, Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, whatever. As a consequence of that, there are many Jamaicans like myself, who are of a mixed ethnic background. My mother had black blood, Caucasian blood, and perhaps a touch of Indian blood also. She was a very light skinned woman and her hair was negroid, though she processed it. I'll get back to the hair point shortly. My father is half Chinese and half "Middle Eastern" whatever that means. He does not know that he has any actual negroid blood at all, though if he did, it would not be an issue. My sister and I both have hair that is straight. My Mom sometimes referred to her hair as being "bad" and ours as being "good". This was something that I used to tell her resulted from her being raised to think that anything Black or Negroid was bad or ugly. The reason why this was so, is because we were a colony of England until we gained our Independence from the UK. Colonial thinking.
As a child, colour was never an issue in our home. My parents and myself had friends of all colours, black, white, Chinese, Indian, mixed etc. We were raised to think that what you should look for in a person, is their morals. I do not judge people by the colour of their skin.
Despite the fact that I am from a multiracial country, and that I am a mixed person, I don't give a shit what anyone wants to call me, Chinese, white, Indian, mongrel, nigger (if I may be allowed to use the term). I really don't care and will answer to anything. Colour prejudice does exist in Jamaica, though I feel it is much less prevalent than it was in the 1960s when I was just a wee child.
I feel that perhaps if you were rasied in Jamaica, you would feel differently about yourself. I studied in England in 1997-98. I had a few friends who did this course with me from Jamaica also. The four of us looked completely different, this shocked many, as they could not understand how we could claim to be from the same country and look so different, and get along with each other so well. I also noted that even amongst Jamaicans who were born here, and had migrated to the UK as children and amongst British born blacks, that there seemed to exist a type of what I call 'mental slavery'.
I am a doctor, no bragging, and I specialise in Dermatology. These people could not fathom how people with black origins could aspire to professional work. I met a fellow who wanted to become a commercial airline pilot. We actually arranged for him to go to London's Heathrow Airport on a day when Air Jamaica had a flight, so he could witness for himself, that people of colour could do this type of work.
I do beleive that in the US things are a bit different. Blacks have been able to improve themselves in the US via education, it is not as easy for blacks in the UK to acheive this as far as I saw. Of note, for the year I was there, I never met a black doctor who was born in the UK. All the black doctors that I met were either of Caribbean origin or from Africa (Nigeria mostly).
Even though I think that it is easier for black people to improve themselves in your country, America, you have stated that you do not think that a black man could ever become President, that is very sad indeed. The vast majority of the world class athletes and many of your entertainers are black. It is time that those who still perpetrate this issue of colour in your country and worldwide, see the light and try to put and end to racial prejudice. Imagine you have to be saying that Africa means nothing to you (and I'm not blaming you for saying this either, as I know people who feel this way.) I will finish by saying that if and when I am challenged about my ethnicity, I try to explain it as I did above. Call me a mongrel, I really don't care. For thosewho wish to take the issue further, I tell people, that first, I am a human and secondly, I am a true Jamaican, "Out of many, one people". (Please do not get the idea that all Jamaicans think this way either, prejudice does exist.) finally I'll end by saying, FUCK racial prejudice, it has only managed to and continues to screw up many of the people in this, our beautiful world. Sorry to have taken up so much space on your site on this the first time that I have ever visited it. Please feel free to visit mine and comment as well, though I don't think I have ever taken on a post of this nature. And by the way, my views about Jamaica, the UK and America, are just my own opinions, and I had no intention to offend anyone, but I thought that I might just offer you another perspective on this point about which you have expressed your own views so passionately, on this, your own blog.

skits

I grew up in one of those quietly prejudiced households. My parent were ok with other cultures--as long as they didn't intrude on our lives.

Of course, I upset the apple cart when I married Francisco--my parents were horrified at first--but I've noticed this gradual acceptance of my marriage and my husband, and I hope within my heart that this acceptance will grow into love. I like to think that my parent's world has opened up a little. Maybe that's all we can do, you know? Open up the worlds of the people around us, bit by bit. It's probably not enough, and it may never be in our lifetime, but what else can we do but try?

jadedju

Hi! Another one directed here by the lovely kd, and man-o-man am I glad. I'm a white chick who makes her living talking about race.

At some point in my own journey I feel like I crossed a line and started actually seeing the enormous priviledge I experience every day, just for having light skin. I get waited on first, folks assume that I am not going to rob or steal from them, I am given the benefit of the doubt in a thousand ways. And given access to a million things, whether I want them or not.

Anyway, I am not surprised AT ALL that you don't talk about this stuff with close friends who are white. For me, I notice a fear that discussing it will make the chasm between us so large that there will be no coming back. Yet I know that silence keeps racism alive. I more easily challenge strangers than my own racist family --knowing that I have an obligation to address that which is closest to home.

Not making complete sense, but so stimulated by your post...

Lee

I suppose my friends and I could be an exception to the general rule, JadedJu, but talking about it brought us closer together. Of course, we talk about everything from that to our sex lives, nothing is off limits to us. :)

Jake

Fantastic post, Jason.
I have tremendous respect for what you've said and how you've said it.

The truth of my situation it that I have always been a white boy living in a white land (from Florida to Tennessee to New England to Colorado now) - all places with black populations that seem(ed) insulated from the rest... Hell, maybe that's everywhere - that's part of my point: After three years here I still wonder at the blankness of the color spectrum here. It's extrememly hard to break out or the white-wash, though. I can't run up to the guy with the cool locks and say "Oh thank god you're black! Wanna hang out?" That seems just a racist as anything else.
Anyway, here's the thing: I know I'm part fo the priveledged class and it makes me uneasy. At the same time I refuse to own any guilt (and I appreciate your care not to place guilt on my shoulders). I know *I* am a good person. As far as how I interact with people, it's a lot like Dr. D. above... Race doesn't come into it. If there's something we share, I'll call you my friend.
You, Jason, I'd like to call my friend.

(I hope some of this made sense.... It's a hard issue to express clearly, which is why this post rocks so hard.)

Jake

Let me edit that a touch: when I said "Race doesn't come into it." above, what I mean is that if the person I'm talking to is black or asian or whatever is about as important/interesting as whether the white guy I'm talking to has roots going back to Germany, Scotland or Sweden.
It's worth noting because it may inform how you understand them, but it's nothing to make or break the interaction.

amy

As a Jewish American who's parents were just white Americans and whose grandparents and great-grandparents came from Russia /Poland but before that I have no fucking clue and nobody in our family ever talked about it or knew...I feel a bit of your frustration. I realize your frustration being descended from a continent and no idea where is way more huge than the lostness of being a Jew in the diaspora. But , where did this Jewishness come from? Am I a great-great-great-great-great.....forever into ancient civ....daughter of the original Temple? The 2nd temple? NO CLUE. And why are we so hated? And why are white kids from all over Amerikkka wanting to kkkill me too? And when I see swastikas in San Francisco, do I need to fear The Holocaust Part Two? And my race is "vegan" and my religion is "buddhist" and my culture is "tree hugging" and I don't have a clue who I am.
Feel you.

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