Saturday, July 20, 2013

Oh. She's Talking About Racism Again...

Yep, I'm going there. Again. Racism isn't an easy thing for most white people to talk about. It's something many of us want to ignore, turn a blind eye to, or something we want to put in the past. Something that many of us feel has nothing to do with us.

Racism is about us. Like it or not. Our thoughts and actions can be powerful tools to perpetuate hatred or to deny it. Even when we say and do nothing at all.

I'll state up front that I will not divulge my opinion on what happened with the Zimmerman trial. That's been discussed all over the place and racism in this country is bigger than that man, bigger than his actions. I make no allusions to him, the lawyers, the media, jurors, the law or to his victim. Racism is not about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Even if the reverse of that statement is untrue.

So why is a kinky headed white girl standing up on a podium to discuss race? What on earth could she possibly have to say that would be in anyway useful? I say this: I support those who are in pain, those who are afraid, those who walk in shoes that are in ways, heavier than my own. I see mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers (people) who are at this point in time, feeling isolated, unimportant, and afraid. I am standing up to add my voice to the echoing din of love and peace and I hope that in some small way, they can feel it.

If you're a white person reading this, you may feel that my statements are over the top or out of line. You might have some rude things to say to me. If that's you, walk away. Now. If you are confused, but open to a greater understanding, please read on.

To gain a bit of context for my next comments, I suggest you read . It's quite chilling. I read this years ago and it still gets to me. I often find the phrase, "the berserkness of white people," popping into my head. Especially when the black man in the grocery store looked at me and said, "Don't be afraid," because he believed my white skin and womanly status would make me fear him; or when a young black boy looked upon me with frightened eyes and scurried quickly away because he was taught to fear me.

This fear is real and it is valid. You see, growing up, I was taught that the civil rights movement was primarily to give equal status to black people so that they could sit at the lunch counter the same as white people. So that they could use the same bathroom, dine in restaurants, get good seats at the movie theaters, sit in the front of the bus. I understood the humiliation of being second class. But until I read this , I had no idea that what they were really fighting against was the berserkness of white people.

From The Daily Kos; August 29, 2011

"...[But] living in the south (and in parts of the mid west and in many ghettos of the north) was living under terrorism.IT WASN'T THAT BLACK PEOPLE HAD TO USE A SEPARATE DRINKING FOUNTAIN or couldn't sit at lunch counters, or had to sit in the back of the bus.

You really must disabuse yourself of this idea.Lunch counters and buses were crucial symbolic planes of struggle that the civil rights movement decided to use to dramatize the issue, but the main suffering in the south did not come from our inability to drink from the same fountain, ride in the front of the bus or eat lunch at Woolworth's.

It was that white people, mostly white men, OCCASIONALLY WENT BERSERK, AND GRABBED RANDOM BLACK PEOPLE, USUALLY MEN, AND LYNCHED THEM.You all know about lynching.But you may forget or not know that white people also randomly beat black people, and the black people could not fight back, for fear of even worse punishment.

This constant low level dread of atavistic violence is what kept the system running.It made life miserable, stressful and terrifying for black people.

White people also occasionally tried black people, especially black men, for crimes for which they could not conceivably be guilty.With the willing participation of white women, they often accused black men of "assault," which could be anything from rape to not taking off one's hat, to "reckless eyeballing... ... similarly randomized sexual violence against black women was as severe and common and probably more so, because while violence against black men was ritualistic, violence against black women was routine."- Hamden Rice

I know that white people today are tired of being blamed for slights that we did not inflict. When black people start talking about the past, the old south, segregation, the horror of those times, we squirm in our seats. Those are some really awful things that happened and we feel we are being blamed for them - but we didn't do them! I didn't own any slaves, I didn't beat and rape black women routinely, I didn't hang anybody! How do you know that my ancestors did any these things? And even if they did, what does that have to do with me? Stop blaming me! I didn't do any of it!

After reading dozens - and dozens, and dozens of articles written by black people (or people of colour), I feel I need to say out loud that I no longer feel they blame me for what happened to grandpappy, great-grandpappy or great-great-grandpappy. Of course they know I didn't do those things.

What they blame me for isn't those atrocities of the past or even for current racism that I do not participate in - IT'S FOR STICKING MY HEAD IN THE SAND AND ACTING AS IF THOSE THINGS DON'T MATTER ANYMORE. Many of the people who experienced the horror of the Jim Crow era are still alive. It matters to them, I assure you, and it should never stop mattering to the rest of us, no matter how many generations come to pass. We don't stop celebrating our countries birth and the founding fathers just because we weren't there when it happened, do we? We never stop talking about the Civil War and lamenting the deaths and sacrifices made at that time. And we should never stop mourning the things that happened in this country to black people.

Although the injustices towards black people are no longer occurring on the scale that they once did, I'd have to be a pretty deluded individual to deny that racial profiling and discrimination still occurs. They live with the fear of their daughters being abused, cast aside and killed because they are black. THEY LIVE WITH THE VERY REAL TRUTH THAT THEIR CHILDREN MATTER LESS TO SOCIETY THAN WHITE CHILDREN. And they know that if their children are killed, raped, beaten or falsely arrested, a great portion of society isn't going to care.

When Trayvon Martin was killed, it touched a raw and frightened nerve in the black community because to them - the things that happened to their ancestors are still in the forefront of their minds. They don't have the privilege of pushing them off on a another subset of people and disavowing ownership for that particular heritage. They can't stick their heads in the sand and say it's not important. They can't ignore the racism that they still see today. And when incidents occur that remind them of the old terror, the berserkness of white people, who the hell are we to tell them it doesn't matter anymore?
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