It happens more often than I’m comfortable with… And I’m not sure if it’s happening more as I get older or if part of the wisdom that I’m earning as I get older is a more sensitive ear to it… But we live in a world that is still so racist.
No, thankfully, we don’t segregate public bathrooms anymore. It’s not as outward as it was sixty years ago… It’s an undercurrent and, same with the ocean, the undercurrent is the one you really have to watch out for. If we’re not careful, the secretly sweeping subtle racism will tangle around our feet and pull us all back down under.
I’m a white, southern, middle class-raised woman and I can say with absolute honesty, I didn’t experience first-hand racism until I was 25 year old. How foolish of me to think that I was living in a progressive world where we had learned from history. No, I was just in a bubble… As a child, my parents would reach out to people in the community they met — black, asian, white, whatever… It didn’t matter what color someone was because my parents saw the person inside. My parents loved all my friends — as daughters of their own — no matter what color they were… No matter what social or financial world they lived on… People are people.
They’re just people.
I remember it was a Sunday afternoon. My boyfriend at the time, an early-thirties black hipster with a mohawk, and I were waiting for our movie to start, killing time in Atlantic Station wandering through shops. We found ourselves inside Publix, reading magazines. The aisle was at least six feet across… Andrew was three or four feet to my right, browsing magazines. I was a half a step back from the shelf, reading a magazine. A woman, heavyset and older, came down the aisle. She made a deliberate and obnoxious display of herself, brushed against his shoulders as she went by and then barreling between me and the shelf, where there was hardly room for me, much less someone of her size. I was shocked at how rude she was with her heavy sighs and painfully sarcastic grunts… But I brushed it off, looking up at my boyfriend, hoping to catch his gaze and commiserate on how rude this bitch had been… But when I caught his gaze, I didn’t see irritation. I didn’t see frustration. I saw RAGE. It caught me by surprise.
“Racist cunt!” he said, not quite under his breath. She was out of ear shot, thankfully. I wasn’t looking to cause a scene in the grocery store. But… racist? What? I didn’t understand. She was black!
Andrew laughed at me. Oh, to live in that bubble again… That foolish, naive bubble where it NEVER occurred to me that a black woman would be racist toward ME. “She’s just like all the rest of the black women in America who are pissed that their “good black men” are dating cracker bitches.” SHOCK AND AWE! Wait… What? Is that my boyfriend, a black man, being racist against a black woman?
What the fuck? We made it to the movie on time, but I don’t even recall what we saw… I was too distracted, gathering up the pieces of my shattered heart… My bubble was popped. And now, armed with this newfound sensitivity to the world around me, I took care to watch what I said…
Later on, I would work with a woman named Millie. Millie was this incredible soul, a petite strict vegan made out of nothing but muscles and bones and a bitty little afro, wrapped up in beautiful batik fabrics and a kufi. She was unmarried, well-educated and dedicated to her work as a Montessori teacher. I had so much respect for this woman… So strong but so gentle… I worked under Millie for four years and learned so much about the world and my place in it during that time. She was the epitome of afro-centric. We spent all of February learning about the struggle of black Americans and, no lie, I learned more in those years with her, assisting her in teaching 2-6 year olds, than I learned in all my years of school during Black History Month. We learned about and celebrated Kwanzaa, learning the Principles of Kwanzaa in Swahili. My world became bigger when I was working with her… But it wasn’t even really about the lessons that were planned for the children… It was more in those conversations with her, sitting quietly together and rubbing the backs of children who were napping. I learned about her upbringing in Baltimore during the early 1950s… Her first hand accounts of the racism she experienced… I imagined what life must have been like for her… Knowing her and how sweet and strong and amazing she was… And thinking about someone perhaps spitting on her, hitting her, denying her of any of her rights as an American.
It still rattles me.
So, no… I’m not black. I wasn’t raised in a world where I experienced racism… I have only experienced first-hand racism a handful of times and it was so subtle that I just dismissed it at the time, as people being rude…
Someone posted something on facebook this morning and it… It frustrated me. I tried to sit on my hands because, really… It’s foolish to engage with people who are stupid and racist, right?
But I just couldn’t… I had to say something.
God, I am so disgusted. I am shocked and I shouldn’t be… The girl that posted this, she’s dropped little sly racist remarks in the past (“I would NEVER date a black man, GOD, no.”, etc) but to so blatantly show your ass on your facebook like this? So stupid.
Defriended. I can’t hang with that shit.