Admitted we were powerless over X and that our lives had become unmanageable.
(what did I mean by using “X”, there?)
I’m a liberal. I mean REALLY a liberal. A Wellstone liberal. All the more reason I think it’s important I admit something. Because if you don’t hear about it from me, you might hear about it from the conservatives. Because if I don’t admit it and talk about the truth, the other side might. Or people who feel like me might assume they must really be conservatives and then vote that way by mistake.
I’m a racist. And I need your help. There are situations where I really, really don’t know what is right. But I know pretending race isn’t the issue isn’t a good option.
I have to think about race every single day. I think lots of white folks do. I know lots of black folks do. And for right now I’m only going to discuss black and white, for simplicity’s sake (as opposed to discussing zebras, which combine black and white in a sophisticated, attractive stripey pattern). But I can only speak for the white folks. Actually I can only speak for me. There. Settled on that? I am speaking for myself (my white self, because as usual, my black self is having to play second fiddle) today. Right now. But secretly, I’m hoping I’m not alone.
And right now I am a racist in a one-day-at-a-time recovery program. I’m working on it. But I have found that the first step in my recovery makes a lot of people really uncomfortable. I am admitting I am powerless over the issue of race and that my life has become unmanageable. I am a racist. People keep telling me I’m not and stop saying it. But they’re not inside my head.
When I lived a mile and half south of here, I could go days without seeing a black person walking around in my neighborhood. There was one Mexican couple next door, but no black people (and the relationship between the blacks and the Latinos will just have to wait for another day, but Dios Mio! They have some dysfunction to deal with, too). Now in my newly adopted neighborhood which I love and never want to leave, I have to think about my problem on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.
Here are some of the situations that have led me to conclude that I have no control of my thoughts and ideas about race, and that I need to start to work on it. Better yet, let me just share with you what being a racist means to me. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like black people. It certainly doesn’t mean I am cruel to them or would deny them housing or a job. I don’t find them inferior to me in any way. But I do find them terribly and distractingly…black.
Being a racist means that when I am around black people, it takes a really long time for me to get to a place where there isn’t a monologue in my head about the fact that they are black. Maybe this is an obsessive compulsive behavior, which I have a slight tendency towards, but that’s another story. Here’s what goes on in my head when my teller in the bank is a young black man.
A nice looking young guy, dressed like a bank teller, but not too slick (did I say that just because he’s black?). Just a guy. Who is black. Keep in mind that I am carrying on the niceties of banking while my mind is causing all this static.
“Oh good I get the black guy he looks nice black black black ooh look how his undershirt shows through against his black skin with that white dress shirt maybe black guys really need brown undershirts he is black I am white should I tell him I am sorry because I am and he is still black I wonder if he will get to go to college maybe he’s in college he’s black I’m white you’re black buddy you do nice bank tellering but does it annoy you all this static when white people talk to you are you having the same kind of stuff in your head about me being white? I don’t mind that you’re black. I notice but I like you do you hate me? I won’t yell at you or call you boy…. “Thanks, you too.”
Maybe I have the same kinds of monologue about large breasted women at the grocery store and I just don’t notice it or feel bad about it. I’ll have to pay attention to that.
Wow fabulous and cavernous cleavage I think that bra could be a cup size bigger and we’d both be more comfortable with it I am not staring at your breasts but they are impressive and thanks for sharing them with me… “Can I borrow your pen?”
I have a rental property. All my tenants have been black. It seems almost racist for me to have noticed, doesn’t it? But I did. And seriously racist to have participated in the white-landlord-black-sharecropper-or-renter legacy of our country, don’t you think? Who cares that I thought I was participating in rebuilding a neighborhood torn apart by the systemic racism that killed Rondo (a St. Paul black neighborhood that was gutted by the construction of I94). I thought I could to help. Like a whole cadre of paternalistic white liberals before me (sorry).
The neighborhood is largely black. Not African (they live closer to University Avenue). My tenants have been black. All of my applicants (save one who was African, and one mixed race couple) have been black. Not all the people who have expressed interest have been black. Not all the people who have visited the house have been black. Only the people who were interested, saw the house and the neighbors and still returned my calls. Got it?
So I am admitting today that I am powerless over race (and breasts). Can’t get over it, can’t go under it, must go through it.