Thursday, September 08, 2005

Of Course...He's Black!

Stay with me on this posting. Read it all the way through. It is important to me for you to understand what I am trying to say, so don't read a few lines and then skip to the comments to leave a comment about how I am a Nazi or something.

The hurricane last week has made me rethink some things. As I said in a previous post, it has laid bare my heart.

Also, in a previous post, I mentioned that my son calls me a racist.

I guess I am.

See, I grew up in a different time, another place. There were no black people where I grew up. At least not any that I knew personally. In the neighborhood where I grew up, there was a low income apartment complex a few blocks away. Only black people lived there. I don't remember my parents ever saying anything about them, good or bad.

All I knew about them was what things I noticed about them:

They stayed up all night.
They slept late in the day.
Their yards were messy.

They were scary to me, a child with no knowledge of them. I stayed away from them. I never actually had to interact with a black person until I was in high school, and I was surprised. They were pretty much the same as me, except for their color. And an attitude. I think it was the attitude that made me a racist. They seemed to carry chips on their shoulders. That is, of course, no excuse.

I didn't know at the time that my chip was bigger than theirs.

Anyway, most of my life I have known many African Americans, some good, some bad. Since high school I have had to interact with them more and more as they have assimilated into society. Then, I came to the conclusion that I didn't like them unless I got to know them personally. Once I got to know one, I always liked them. Always. But I had to get to know them first, and I didn't go out of my way to do that.

Still, I was wary of Black people. Distrustful. Even after I learned that there were no big differences between them and me. I learned to get along with them and be nice to them. I learned to interact with them in business, at sporting events, in recreation, and in church. To all observers, I was not prejudiced. I tried hard to treat them with respect, and the way I would want to be treated.

But whenever a crime was committed by a black man or woman, I would think to myself, "Of course, it is a black person". Whenever I found out some black person had a different last name then his daddy, I said, "Of course, he is black." And so on.

I hid my prejudice well.

In spite of my attitude, I began to accept them as equals. I made friends with some of them. Once my black friend Tim and I went to a singles bar. (that was when I drank) He was going to show me how to pick up girls. He had a really good sense of humor and he was slow to anger. That evening someone in the bar called him a nigger to his face. He just smiled and motioned towards me and said, "Yep, and this is my Massa" Later, he told me that whenever some white guy called him a nigger he got himself a white girl just to spite them. Except he didn't say "got himself". I think you know what he really said.

I laughed but secretly I said to myself, "Of course."


I had another black friend when I lived in Lubbock, Texas. His name was Kevin. He took me to Odessa to visit his mom and siblings one time. Man, that woman sure could cook! It was in his mom's living room that he told me that black people were taught from birth that they were supposed to always lie to "whitey".

Stupid me. I believed him. I remember I thought, "Of course...He's black!" He probably laughs about that to this day.

So, over the years I have learned that black people aren't really different than white people. It has been a long difficult lesson to learn. I have lost out on a lot of rewarding experiences because of my prejudice. I have missed out on having a lot of loyal friends, too.

Still, now and then, inside my pointy little head, my racist brain screamed, "Of course. He Is black".

There was one reason that I have continued to be racist over the years. It is those people, white and black, that maintain the division between the races. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Lewis Farrakhan, Teddy Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Robert Byrd, etc. They maintain the division by spreading hatred between the races. They do that by accusing people who aren't in the least racist of being so. It's hard not to be racist with all those influences.

Then came Hurricane Katrina.
Look at this picture. What do you see? Do you see a black woman? So do I. But I see a black woman who is hurting. She hurts. We hurt. I hurt. All God's children hurt.

My heart goes out to this unnamed woman. My heart goes out to all the victims of Hurricane Katarina. It matters not if they are black or white. They are people. People who live, love, hate, laugh, cry, worship, interact, suffer.

People who die.

I don't think I am racist anymore.

13 comments:

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The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Mark,

Thanks for being so open and laying bare your soul. You're a man of deep convictions but also deep self-reflection. That's a good thing.

I think we are all racist in some form or fashion. Of course, my definition of the word extends beyond the one that has the negative connotation we always associate with it. I also think there are clear distinctions between "stereotype" and "prejudice" as well as "racism". Some people equate the three as one and the same, but that diminishes their relevance and power to communicate accurately and convey meaningful dialogue.

Men like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are race profiteers. They make a living at exploiting and fabricating racial discord.

pecheur said...

Good post. Been in similar situations myself with similar thoughts.

Weary Hag said...

Mark,

I've only been here twice now and I'm so completely impressed with your honesty and openness.
I grew up in similar surroundings to those you mention in your post. I understand every single thing you've said and can relate.

I'm glad I found your blog. Nice work.

mlwhitt said...

Mark,

My best friend is black. And before anyone says anything about "a token black friend", save it, because of my top 5 friends, only one of them is white. So maybe instead I have a token white friend. I have black friends, white friends, friends from Korea, China, Iraq, and India.

I can honestly say that my black friends are the only friends that I have that I fully trust in the fact that they are my friends because they like me and want to be my friend. Not just because they want something from me.

I know that is a generalization, but I think it is the truth. You see I think that reason that black people scare white people so much isn't because they are black, but because they actually care about the past, heritage, and stick together in times of need. Most of the white people I know don't care anything about the past, know very little about their heritage, and don't have a bond that transcends social and personality aspects. To me, and most white people I know, a white guy on the street is just anyone else. But to most black people I know they would see some level of kindship with another black person on the street.

I think this is what scares white folk. We can't relate to that. We don't practice kindship. Sure we saw we do, but we don't. Most of us could careless about another white person, unless we personally know them.

I personally hate that I grew up in a semi-racist area. I had two black schoolmates growing up, but had little interaction wtih them. It really wasn't until I moved ot Nashville and met my best friend that I really realized that black people are just the same as white people. And even then after years of growing up around racist remarks still left an impact on me.

I have to constantly keep a check on my words just to make sure that nothing ever slips out that could be considered racial. I had that happen once while around one of friends and he just laughed and said... " I know what you were going to say... " I felt so embarssed that even after all the years I still from time to time think like your statement of, "of course.. they are black".

That upsets me so much that I can not even completely remove certain sterotypes from my mind, even though I know they are not true. That is why that I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that my daughter does not grow up hearing ANY type of racial remark from her family.

There is one other flip side to that. Because I feel so bad about sterotyping and the possibity of being called a racist, I actually treat black people that I meet better than I would a white person. I am extra nice around black people. And this isn't right either. It is just like affrimative action. You can't claim you are anti-racial by using race to promote equality. It just doesn't work. By the fact that from time to time I afford a black person extra leadway when it comes to an arguement or whatever, isn't a sign of equility. It is a sign of putting another race on a pedistal.

So until we all can just look at each other without seeing any color, will we ever truly be free of racism. But I am afriad we are still a ways off from that. Because I doubt that many, if any, white or black folks for that matter can look at someone of the opposite color without at least first nothing that they are a different color.

I am sorry I am rambling. But I liked you posting. It is something that I try to relay. We are all humans. We all have our quirks. Yes, whites may look at blacks as having an attitude problem. And blacks may look to us with similar thoughts. But until we realize that the real beauty or ugliness is beneath the skin will we ever truly be able to live in peace.

One additional note. I asked one of my closest friends what he thought about the term "African American" and he said, "Dude, I am just as American as you are, and you are just as African as I am." I love the way he thinks. And I hate the whole African American term because if you are born an American or become an American, you aren't African, German, Italitan, Chinese, or whatever anymore. You are American. This is the melting pot. This country stands for combining our best attributes into one. The attribute of being an American. No matter what your color, religion, or sex as an American you are special, and unique. And just as equal as the person next to you.

Mark said...

Let me add a caveat here. Just because I am no longer racist, I still do not excuse those who use race as an excuse to take advantage of others. It does not excuse thuggery. It does not excuse behaving in unacceptable ways.

Environment is not an excuse. It is a circumstance in which one can choose to fight to get out of, or choose to stay in and complain that you are not getting helped.

I have no sympathy for those who are in situations of their own making, unless thay are doing everything they can to change the situation.

Black or white.

Dorable said...

The lady in the picture lost her common law husband to cancer. His oxygen tank ran out and he died. She dragged his body thru the sludge from their home to try to get some help. I imagine he stayed there for a long time in that bag. Cant imagine having to watch someone die like that and then having to say goodbye in such an inhumane manner. Your blog is great. Will add it to my faves.

Poison Pero said...

"There are two races of men in this world...the 'race' of the decent man and the 'race' of the indecent man." — Victor Frankl
--------------
Speaking of racists, listen to Wolfie comment about those "so black" people --> Can you imagine if a Conservative ever made such a statement about someone being "so black"?

http://newsbusters.org/media/2005-09-01-CNNTSRBlitzer.wmv

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Those who are palying the race card, the libs are the very ones who are the racists. We who view this terrible disastor from a true heart of compassion do not see the race of those suffering, we see fellow Americans who need our help. Great post and great blog Mark. Just thought I'd let you know this Sunday you will be our blog of the week at The Liberal Lie! Keep up the good work my friend!

Ken Taylor

Fitch said...

I'm glad your continuing to evolve in to a better person. Ecellent post, Very personal.

Mary said...

Mark,

I'm always so impressed with your candidness.

Pero's quote says it all:

"There are two races of men in this world...the 'race' of the decent man and the 'race' of the indecent man." — Victor Frankl

That's my been my experience.

And congrats on being blog of the week! Recognition for your excellent writing is well-deserved.

tugboatcapn said...

Mark, I would like to believe that I am not a racist. Most of my friends are Black, and I honestly do not dislike or distrust anyone simply because of the color of their skin.
But then I hear comments like those of rapper Kanye West on the Telethon the other night, and the feelings well up inside me.
Comedian Chris Rock said that the most racist people in the world are Old Black Men, And I tend to agree. (I know and work with several of them, and they HATE white people. Not a racist statement, just a fact.)
White people can repent of their racism all over the place, but until EVERYONE is willing to let go of racism, no matter what color they are, it won't make much difference.
I apreciate your honesty, and your introspection.
This was a great post.