When I was young I lived in an all-white little town in New Hampshire. I remember reading about black people and their being discriminated against in my social studies book. (this was after my dad came out to me as gay and we had to defend our 9-year-old selves in school with the word dad taught us: “prejudice”) I was really stupified reading that people actually hated other people just because of their skin color. I remember the feeling in my stomach and how I just couldn’t believe what I was reading, but in the next couple sentences it said the civil rights movement in the 1960s cleared that up. The feeling in my stomach went away and I self-righteously decided the world was an ok place to be in, and thought about how stupid people in the past had been. It is mentionable how clearly I remember this when I remember very little in general. Except certain aspects of mathematics and philosophy most everything else just disappears and can’t be recalled. But I remember this.
When I went to school in New York City I went to a very liberal “writing” school where black people were the majority, then Hispanic. I did not make friends with any black people. I also didn’t pick up on any stigma against black people. I felt sort of excluded, and *some* of the black people there spoke and acted strangely to me, but I was a country boy newly put in New York City and the culture shock from that was so overwhelming I didn’t really notice if it was because I was white.
Then there was Syracuse, where some larger groups of Black people tried to pick fights with me and my friends and stole some things, so did some larger groups of white people. And some black people in school seemed perfectly normal. There was a black social studies teacher that used so many big words I was one of the few who could follow him. I still believed what I read in that social studies book so many years ago though. It was a school textbook after all, and I hadn’t seen anything to force me to believe otherwise.
When I went to undergraduate college I had figured out that there was a lot of reason for black people to be bitter about this past, but I still believed it was mainly in the past. I treated black people the same way I treated white people. I even picked up the phrase “hell yeah, nigga” which I would say without directing at black people and without hate, and innocently in front of plenty of black people, until I was confronted and figured out I couldn’t do that. Apart from playing games with black acquaintances, I did befriend one singularly beautiful young black woman, who I loved as a friend and told me bizarre stories of her adventures growing up in haiti and her sexual escapades. There was a funny moment where she got the idea I was infatuated with her, which I honestly wasnt, I was involved with another brown woman, and started telling me she would never date me. But it was a great friendship.
I really didn’t get it through my thick head until I got my first job out of college. Then I really saw racism. Corporate America grossed me out in general. People were exceedingly proud of their surprisingly simple jobs. There were no black men in any capacity. I befriended two black women who became my best friends there. I saw a white guy who I immediately labeled as a moron get hired. Then he put a picture of Reagan in his cubicle, and was almost immediately promoted. On the other hand my friend who is a very smart woman stayed where she was for years. The racism I saw was a major reason why I quit, which I suppose is white privilege. I’m sure my friends would have quit if they had hoped for something better.
There is a long story about how this decision and how my subsequent criticisms of American culture challenged my sanity, that I will not get into here. I will say though, having seen the inside of mental hospitals, that if I were black I would not be able to speak lucidly at all on any subject. They would have crushed my mind and my soul in there, and one reason they didn’t was the stupid #@$#@ color of my skin.
Now that I have introduced how obtuse I can be on this subject, I have to say I still don’t get it. I mean its clear some black people have a pretty different culture from white people, some act like white people, some act like both depending on the situation. The whole topic feels like one for imbeciles. When I see the level of hate and learn about the systematic oppression in the USA, the amount of thought put to hating people based on their skin color, it makes me realize how low the civilization called the USA really is. This is what we were doing as the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world? Its mind-boggling what we could have spent our time doing.
What do we do?
It is hard to figure out how to remove this totally superficial and stupid idea from people with power. The fact that racist ideas have infested the CIA and FBI means that there are powerful people in charge of shaping public consciousness who are themselves shaped by security clearance access to racist ideology. It is very hard to access, criticize, and change these documents. Julian Assange mentions how security clearance turns people into morons, because they think their security clearance entitles them to be exempt from learning from people without that clearance. I think the answer for most other people is education, and not of the young. We need intervention with racists as adult education programs that follow the traditions of feminist consciousness-raising. This is what I think, but as this post shows, the whole problem is so dumb that I can’t wrap my head around it.
Now I am married to a brown woman and have beautiful light-brown children, the joy of my life. I owe my pleasant life in part to the color of my skin and the country that I have disavowed. Unlike the guy who got promoted for being white and praising Reagan, I am not comfortable with that.