Clearly I AM the world’s worst blogger. It’s so odd; I love to write. The problem is that I tend to write when I am upset. It’s cathartic. I don’t write when I am happy and content. I need to fix that.
But today I rant. About Ferguson. Here’s the thing: I don’t have an opinion on whether or not the officer should have been acquitted. You know why? I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. Only two people truly do: one is dead and the other would probably not want everyone to know every intimate detail of the encounter. The violence seemed excessive. The kid seemed troubled. But I was not there and I do not know the truth.
Here is what I do know. We have an alarming problem with racism. African Americans are treated completely differently than us white folk. Every.Single.Day. You can watch it on the news, you can read tons of statistics with a simple Google search, or better yet.. you can go out with your African American friends and see how people react. Check out the looks you get when you have dinner with one of your BFFs who just so happens to have a darker skin tone than yours. Heaven forbid one of them happens to be male and you are a white woman. Go shopping at the mall and see how quickly a uniform is nearby. Or how closely the store clerk monitors them. It’s not your imagination and it’s not right and I’m not even sure it’s better than it was 20 or 30 or 100 years ago. Sometimes I think it’s just more hidden.
I had a wonderfully kind friend who helped me a few years ago with projects in “this old house” where I live. He felt a bit concerned when he saw the Confederate flag flying in a neighbor’s yard. And please oh PLEASE don’t get defensive with your southern pride. Have you ever asked your African American friends how it makes them feel? Every friend I have asked initially downplays it, but then admits it makes them a little tense, or a bit nervous, or more cautious. Surely there is a better way to be prideful.
Of course, I also have the distinct pleasure of living not far from an idiot who used to fly the Aryan nation flag along with his Confederate flag, just in case any of us wondered where he stood. What flag do African Americans who hate white people get to fly? It’s all freedom of speech right??? Of course, if such a flag existed and someone chose to fly it, I have to believe they would have a cross burning in their front yard by nightfall. And just so you don’t think I blame the south in any way for this problem, the Ku Klux Klan originated in my home state of Indiana. I certainly find no pride in that.
I really like to think I am not racist. I have tons of African American friends. Many of them are like family to me. I would do anything for them. I believe there are good people and bad people whether you are White, Black, Hispanic. Asian, Muslim or Pink with Purple Polka Dots. However, several years ago, one of my close friends said, “If you go into a mall, and you walk by a group of black guys… does your hand reach over to hold onto your purse? Because that happens to us all the time.” I thought “WELL OF COURSE NOT!” But you know what? The next time I was out and about, I was hyper vigilant. And my hand did do that. Unconsciously. Shame on me. Shame on a whole lot of us.
I adopted my daughter when she was 8 years old. She was raised to believe black people were bad. We had many long talks about it, and she met enough of my friends to change her mind. But when she got to high school, she started dating a boy who was racist. She told him it was “OK as long as he didn’t say that stuff in front of her because it bothered her.” She is 14; how many of us who are old enough to know better say the same thing? “It’s OK for him to be my friend even though he’s racist; I’m not and he’s a lot of fun.” But you know what? It’s not OK. I told my daughter it’s NOT OK. We have to have integrity and values and then we have to stick to them. All the time.
I would like to end world hunger, resolve educational issues, stop exploitation of women, and get rid of stupid politics based on party lines. But more than anything else, I would like us to look at each other and not see race. Maybe a whole bunch of those other issues could be resolved if we could understand that we are all in this together.