Racism and Prejudice in Daily Conversation

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Racism no longer exists!

-Some Earthling from 7510

Astute 1960s music aficionados will recognize the aforementioned, 7510, as the year that Zager and Evans said, “If God’s a-coming, he ought to make it by then…”

That’s right, over 50 years ago our dear singers predicted that 7510 would be the year of Divine judgment!

Personally, I believe that we are being judged daily–by our own conscience.

That’s assuming that we have one.

Anyway, I find it kinda eerie that while Zager and Evans titled the song, In the year 2525, they don’t say much else about that year–other than to wonder “if man is still alive…”

In fact, it appears as if they simply opted not to complete their thesis about what 2525 might bring.

I shudder at the thought!

Anyway, this post has very little to do with that song other than to illustrate how much farther, as a society, we have to go in order to become more advanced in our thinking; I pray we get there before 7510 because 2525 is beginning to look like a freaking wash!

Ok, so after watching and listening to a whole lot of people talking about racism these days, I decided to put in my proverbial two cents by offering a couple of suggestions on how to avoid racist/prejudice talk in your daily conversations.

I might even throw in a little story.

And so…

In essence, if you are interested in having a genuine conversation on race–or anything else–with black folks, please refrain from saying any of the following:

  1. “Racism does not exist.”
  2. “You’re being overly sensitive.”
  3. “How do you know <insert complex, intellectual, technical, little-known, sophisticated topic here>
  4. “How did he/she/they get a better grade than I did?”
  5. “How did she/he/they get that job, house, car, thing?”
  6. “Family doesn’t mean much to Black people” (Said by some foolish ass congressman, very recently.)
  7. “That’s not racism!” (An easy out for people who are uninterested in learning about racist remarks and behaviors.)

This list is not exhaustive.

While some of the above points are blatant, others are very subtle yet highly offensive. In fact, I’m NOT even going to include the REALLY blatant shit that people say.

That said, I am willing to offer a more slick example of how prejudiced beliefs and attitudes slither into a daily conversation. (This is an example of my 3rd point from above)

For your consideration:

Once upon a very recent time, LadyG was having a conversation with a couple of co-workers about travel.

During the conversation, Lady G stated, “I’d like to go visit Findhorn someday.”

To which one of the co-workers, a white female who fancies herself to be very well versed on just about every damn thang, inquired, “What is Findhorn?”

To which LadyG replied, “It’s a beautiful community in Scotland where they have been known to grow gigantic vegetables by working closely with spiritual beings that inhabit the land.”

Before LadyG could complete her sentence, her co-worker had whipped out her iPhone, looked up Findhorn, and was instantly amazed at how accurate LadyG was in her description of the joint.”

“Hmm,” dear co-worker responded, “And how do you know about that?”

To which LadyG shot back, “I’m just nosey as hell.”

-THE END

Granted, the average person in Georgia has no clue what Findhorn is–never mind where it is.

Hell, some of you are also probably wondering how I knew about it.

Let’s just say that I am an avid reader who loves to learn about new people, places and things.

At any rate, it’s not so much that she asked that question, it’s more the way she asked the question.

It was clear to me that she didn’t think it was possible for me to have any knowledge about a subject that she did not already know about.

Who was I to know so much about something that she had never heard of?

Now, I can hear someone in the ethers saying, “How is that racist, she’s just a know-it-all.”

True dat!

She definitely was a know-it-all!

But here’s the thing…do you think she would have asked a white woman or man the same question– with the same kind of undertone?

Would she have been completely amazed that another white person could know about Findhorn?

I’d wager that she would not have asked another white person that question–at least not in the same way.

She asked me with an air of suspicion–disbelief.

Now, if, in fact, she had asked another white person, it would have been out of genuine curiosity–a “tell me more” kind of situation.

Trust me, as a black woman, I know the difference.

I’ve experienced this, or something like it, more times than I can properly count.

Seriously, I could give you a thousand other examples; including the one where the white male student asked my Political Science professor how I got a better grade than he did on an essay exam. It should be noted that the professor, who was also white, was the one who told me what the guy said.

Oh! What about the time a white co-worker told me that I was not “black… black.” By that, she meant that I was not like “regular black people”–whatever that is.

Or, the time my white Biology professor told me that I was one of only two black students to ever get an A in his class. Why did he feel the need to tell me this?

Oh yeah, what about the white English professor who stopped me after class one day to ask where I was from because she could tell from my writing style that I couldn’t be “from around here.”

Whew chile…it’s tiring y’all!

So, I think I’ll stop here and encourage anyone who is ready to have a polite and meaningful conversation about anything that I mentioned in this post to drop down in comments so we can chat.

Fifty Shades of Black

mama holding tack
Mama (Eva) holding Tack, that’s me on the right with my mouth wide open!

 

Random Woman:  Hey Brenda!

Brenda:  Hey girl, how are you?  I haven’t seen you in some years!

Random Woman: I know!  It’s been a long time.

Brenda:  Yes it has, by the way, let me introduce you to my friend, Eva.

Random Woman:  (Very dry, cold and nonchalant) Hey Eva.

Random Woman: (Directly addressing Brenda) Ooh Brenda, your little girl is so pretty, how old is she?

Eva: (PISSED) That’s MY child!

Random Woman: (Slightly Embarrassed but still chilly) Oh, I’m sorry, she just looks more like Brenda to me.

Eva walks off with child (ME) in tow.

Yes friends, my mother, Queen Diva Lady Eva, was tee’d off!

Why, you ask?

Because ‘Ms. Random Woman’ assumed that I was Brenda’s daughter based solely on the fact that we shared the same skin complexion.

She never thought for a moment that I could belong to my mother–who was a shade or two darker.

It simply didn’t occur to her to ask.

Sadly, this type of attitude was nothing new to Mama.  As a child, she had received whippings from a lighter skinned uncle for being “too black.”

Colorism 
col·or·ism
ˈkələrˌizəm/

noun

Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group–Oxford Dictionaries
What the Oxford folks failed to mention is that this phenomenon is a ‘carry-over’ of Slavery; having been birthed from the actions of slave owners.
In essence, slave masters created division among their chattel by treating them differently based on skin complexion.
The darker slaves were treated far worse than the lighter slaves.  Because of their color, dark skinned men and women were forced to engage in heavy labor while the lighter skinned slaves were treated better–relatively speaking.
Naturally, the lighter skinned slaves were told that they were superior to their melanin rich brothers and sisters and both groups bought into that belief.
And there we have it!
A lifelong mutual animosity between darker slaves and lighter slaves…which sadly continues with their descendants today–albeit to a much lesser degree.
Come now!
Let’s re-evaluate the scenario that I offered at the beginning of this post.
Notice how dismissive Ms. Random Woman was toward my mother.
She all but ignored her darker skinned ‘sister.’
‘Ms. Random’ never imagined that chocolate Ms. Eva could be the mother of a caramel colored daughter with long pony tails.
Of course, at the age of 3, I was too young to notice or understand the larger implications of this woman’s attitude.
I had no clue what was really going on.
Little did I know, I would continue to experience some form of this lunacy throughout my life as my father’s racial identity was, to the average onlooker, perplexing… to say the least 🙂
Lord, I got all kinds of questions like, “Is your Dad Mexican?”

Puerto Rican?

Cuban?

Arab?

West Indian?

East Indian?

Native American?

And everything in between….

Oh, and then there were the really stupid questions like:

How did your Mom get a handsome man like your Dad?

Ok, that’s when I got rowdy!

All bets were off!

Seriously?  What do you mean?

Do you not realize that you’re talking about MY MOTHER?

You better back the hell up!

I’m sorry guys but that mess really got under my skin!

Oh and if you think things got better as years passed…

Think again!

My Mama often recalled a time when an associate of my Dad’s came by to borrow a drill.

Apparently, he peeked past my Mom, who had answered the door, in order to get a better glance at me and whispered, “That must be Jim’s daughter.”

Mama said, “Yes, and she’s my daughter and we have a son too!”

What an idiotic thing to say!

“That must be Jim’s daughter.”

It rolled right off his ignorant ass tongue without a bit of thought attached to it.

The fact that he knew that my parents had been married for 100 years added insult to injury!

Ah…but here’s an even more egregious example.

One day, back in 2012, I had been sitting in the hospital room with Mama for most of the morning.

Well, this black nurse, who had been in and out, and who had seem me sitting there the whole time, asked, “Has any of her family come by yet?”

What the hell do I look like?

Chopped liver?

Of course I didn’t say THAT but I did say, “Well I’m her daugther.”

Naturally, the nurse apologized.

I thought to myself….Here we go again…after all this time.

Still dealing with issues of color.

Mama caught hell for being too dark and Daddy caught hell for being too racially ambiguous.

Good grief!

 

 

004
Daddy and Mama at about age 15

 

Inspiration for this post came from comments between myself and these great bloggers:

Kelley at Gray Suede

Dr. K. E. Garland

Ron Brown 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron’s Time Tunnel: What’s That Smell?

thebrokengeneral

 

I grew up in Cuthbert, Georgia, and although I wasn’t attuned to it in my youth, racial bias and prejudice were interwoven into the “colored” fabric of our lives there. In retrospect, I don’t see how I could have missed it, but as I matured, the signs became obvious.

Going into the Air Force and experiencing the climate of comradery which dominated the atmosphere there, gave me a broader perspective on race relations; being exposed to the fresh air of diversity, made the malodorous and stagnant air of my beloved home, by contrast, even more oppressively obvious.

It’s kind of like working all week at a paper mill, or the chicken plant—whose efflux blankets the town of Cuthbert when the wind is right—then getting off for the weekend; enjoying the comforts and pleasantly familiar smells of home all weekend; then afterwards, going back into the plant on Monday morning.

When you first enter the chicken plant, on Monday morning, the rancid smell assails your now “virgin” nostrils, but after a few days, or even hours, you become acclimated to it. It becomes almost unnoticeable. That’s what leaving Cuthbert; staying away for a while (e.g. the Military) then coming back felt like, when it came to my hometown’s racial climate.

I recall one such instance, in which my father and I had driven to town to get gas at a “filling station” on “the square”. Every small, southern town worth its salt, has a “square”, but Cuthbert’s “square” is more of a “squircle”—a real word by the way—than a square. The “squircle” has thrived for decades under the vigilant gaze of a life-sized statue bedecked in full Confederate Army officer regalia, with all of the accoutrements deserving of such an immortally heroic figure.

As a child, I thought this monument was an image of “General Cuthbert”. I was never told that his name was Cuthbert, neither did I read it anywhere. It just seemed to me that he must be “General Cuthbert”. Why else would he have been given such a prestigiously prominent post?

Since that time, I’ve had an opportunity to read the plaque affixed to the pedestal only to find out, rather disappointedly, that he was not “General Cuthbert” after all, in fact, he was no one, in particular.

Yes! He stood high above the “square”, on a pedestal, surrounded by stone cannons, his stony gaze, unwavering; that is, until “Drunk Guy” drove across the park proper and crashed into his pedestal, thus knocking the old fellow from his perch and sending him crashing, unceremoniously, to the ground below; shattering his “body” into to several rocky chunks.

Some say that guy wasn’t so drunk after all.

Personally, I was glad to see the old guy go down and I don’t think I was alone in my sentiments. To me, the old “General” represented a time of pain, sorrow and oppression for Black people. A time that we’d rather not see “memorialized” so obtrusively and prominently, in the very center of the town that we call home. Now, thank God Almighty, he was no more, OR WAS HE?

Well, as it turns out, the encounter with “the Drunk Guy”, was not the “General’s last stand” for some of the good “citizens” of Cuthbert, in an awesome display of “philanthropy”—obviously borne of some misplaced sense of “patriotism”—thought it not robbery to donate the funds necessary to re-erect that old phallus. Soon another, identical image of the old bastard, forged in the depths of Confederate hell, was brought forth—shinning white and new—and deposited, ceremoniously I might add, atop the moldy marbled plinth.

This, the current incarnation of “The General”, is actually his third. He was first erected in 1894, but he was subsequently, blown from his lofty perch by the “cyclone of 1909”. In his falling, he lost his left hand and was thus, retired to “Greenwood Cemetery”; the final resting place of many of the Confederate dead he’d so proudly represented, for so many decades.

His second “incarnation”, or one MIGHT say, his first RE-incarnation, was in the 1940’s, when the cyclone “victim” was replaced by a fresh-faced recruit, identical to the first one. Then came the “Drunk Guy”!

Something stinks!

But I digress; back at the “filling station”. My father had an “account” at the filling station. If one was “fortunate” enough to have had such an account, one could get gas on credit and pay at the end of the month. Once at the filling station, a young Black fellow sprinted cat-like, up to the driver’s side window of the car and asked, “How much?” “Fill her up”, Dad told the boy. It appears to me now, that all of the “pumpers” back then, were black guys and the white guys ran the cash register.

When my father went to “sign” for his gas, the owner/cashier greeted him warmly, “Hey there Fletcher. D’ja fill er up today?” “Yes sir Mr. White!” my father replied. “Well awright Fletcher, jest sign rat cheer and have a good ‘un now, ya hear?”  the owner/cashier chimed arrogantly.

Here’s what I found odiferous about the situation; why did my father refer to Mr. White as “Mr.” and Mr. White refer to my father by his first name? My father was, at least, as old as Mr. White, an educated man, and a respected member of the community.

Scenes of this nature, unfortunately, were commonplace in those times, but like the smell of the plant—to one grown unaccustomed to its odor—they were especially noxious to the olfactics. Where was the MUTUAL respect?

Let me share with you, a few of my thoughts and observations about racism, racial bias, and prejudice:

• Prejudice judges a person by his/her outward appearance, without regard to what is in the person’s heart or mind.

• Prejudice is the mark of an ignorant mind that perceives itself to be enlightened.

• Prejudice assumes it understands the actions and behaviors of others while having no knowledge or facts about the person or persons.

• Prejudice has its roots in ignorance and breeds ever increasing ignorance.

• Discrimination deprives a person or group of persons of their Constitutional rights of: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

• Discrimination deprives a person or persons of the right to belong to society.

• Stereotyping deprives a person of the right to be an individual.

• Racism is a small-minded man’s way of raising himself above others. He elevates himself by demeaning others.

God does not look at the same things that people look at; people look at outward appearance, but the Lord looks into a man’s heart.