As you may have noticed — or you would have noticed if you’d guessed that it was at all relevant — I don’t spend much time talking about race on this blog. It’s not that I have no thoughts on the subject. At one point in my life, I had enough thoughts on the subject to write a 300+ page transcript about it. But it has never been a topic that I have allowed to run my life.
It’s kind of difficult to describe my attitude about it.
I’m neither angry nor bitter. I have never in my life made any decision about anything with the thought in my head that I can’t do something because they won’t let me. I have never let my race interfere with anything that I decided I wanted to do. It is a fact of my appearance of which I am aware, in much the same way that I am aware that my eyes are brown and that I am 5’5″ tall.
But don’t mistake me. None of this means that I am unaware of the deeply embedded racism that is pervasive in the society in which I live. I don’t get angry when that racism rears its head in particularly spectacular ways (Dylan Root comes to mind) because I have developed a profound cynicism about it over the years of my life. I am no longer surprised or terribly disillusioned by anything I hear because I have never believed that mainstream America has made any real strides toward obliterating racism at all in the 45 years or so since I started paying attention.
In spite of that, on a day-to-day basis, I spend zero time pondering my blackness, or considering my blackness, or thinking about it in any way. For me, it’s just there. The only time it attaches itself to me as a viscerally felt part of my identity is when somebody else makes it a thing.
I have nothing other than just sadness that once again we have to peer into the abyss of the depraved violence that we do to each other, and the nexus of a just gaping racial wound that will not heal but we pretend doesn’t exist.
— Jon Stewart
I am a coward.
I will admit it. The Dylann Roofs of the world have done their job well. The terrorist attacks have worked. It wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that I am terrorized but I would be lying if I refused to admit that I am afraid.
For the first time in my life. I grew up in inner-city Philadelphia in the 1960s. There were race riots that happened back then, but I didn’t know about them. There was police brutality back then, too, and open season on young black men. My family protected me from a lot of that but it was still there.
As somebody who has unhesitatingly spent a huge chunk of her life as the only black person around or one of a handful of blacks surrounded by a sea of whites, I have never felt this way before. But now, I will confess that I am afraid.
No, I’m not thinking that everybody around me has suddenly turned into a racist monster. But the fact is that I never know, when I walk out of my house, whether the next car that drives by will hold some bitter, angry white guy who feels like blowing my brains out. I never know, as I sit in my car in the grocery store parking lot about to start my car, whether the pickup that pulls into the parking space next to me holds a guy who made up his mind that he was “gonna go kill me some niggahs” and I happened to be the first one he saw.
Talk about history repeating itself. Once again, we have what appears to be a clear cut case of police brutality that pits white officers against unarmed black men. Once again, we have a predominantly white jury indicating that the white officer did nothing wrong and need not be punished.
And once again, we have countless white spectators on the sidelines standing on their soapboxes and shouting their insensitivity and their bias and their ignorance.
You’d almost think it was still 1992.
“Many are waking up to news reports of riots, looting and burning in Ferguson overnight, to unrest in our major cities, to echoes of LA 1992 and, for those that remember, Watts 1965. We have come some way since then, yet have so very far to go. I have not many words to offer by way of solace, but when our collective attention turns away from the mayhem and back to what gave rise to it, when we return to our lives and gather our families this Thanksgiving, let us pledge to move forward as one people who must solve this together. For it is not “they” who suffer anguish and rail their anger, it is “we.” – George Takei
And this is a lovely sentiment … but unfortunately it’s a fairy tale. Right now, in these United States of America, it is not “we,” it is only “them” and “us.”
Raven-Symoné did not commit even one deadly sin.
In some ways, I don’t even have the patience to write this post. We’ll file this one under “people make me tired.”
So, I have read two different articles about actress Raven-Symoné’s appearance on some television program called Where Are They Now, where she told Oprah Winfrey a bunch of things. And I have read about how she upset a whole lot of black people by saying, and I quote: “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m an American. I’m not an African-American, I’m an American. … I’m an American, and that’s a colorless person. Because we’re all people; I have lots of things running through my veins.”
So why did so many black people lose their minds over this remark? Because (a) apparently, this particular black actress was special to them and they had sentimental and entirely one-sided attachments to her because they had “watched her grow up,” and because (b) somehow this seemed to them to be a case of a high-profile black woman denying her racial identity and turning her back on all her “brothers” and “sisters.”
There are so many ways I could conceivably respond to all this silliness that it’s hard to know where to start.