September 15, 2006

RACE RELATIONS

I've been thinking more about my post from yesterday, and I can't help but think that this simple act of buying a greeting card has encapsulated my view of race relations.

My college roommate (whom I've written about before) was afraid to walk across campus alone because she thought she'd be lynched. I am not making that up. I invited her to a party one night with some of my friends, and she kept asking me if it would be OK and if my friends would think it was weird. The next day, she said how much fun she had had and how accepted she felt. Well, duh. But she said that there was no way on earth that she would've taken me to one of her friends' parties, because none of them would've accepted me. But we white people are supposed to be the racist ones.

I always end up depressed when I watch Dave Chapelle, Chris Rock, or other black comedians. I hope it's just schtick, but they seem to roll with the idea that all white people have an inner klansman. That we all secretly hate black people and can't stand to be around them. Well, if we've given any vibes that we don't want to be around them, I believe it's usually because we're scared to death that we'll offend them. In my reality, most white people bend over backwards to never ever ever do anything that could mildly be construed as offensive or racist when there's a Person Of Color in the room. We walk on eggshells to make sure we don't say anything rude. That is what's happening today between the races: white people are scared to death of hurting black people's feelings. That's how two French kids ended up as African-Americans.

You know what the conclusion to my card buying experience was? After I walked away from the rack, I thought that I might like to get another copy of the same card. Good cards are hard to come by, and I always like to have nice ones on hand. I went back to the rack and found a black lady perusing the cards. And I walked away. I was too nervous to walk my sour cream ass up to the Mahogany section and stand side by side with her to pick out cards. I was afraid of what she'd think of me. I was afraid that, rather than having her think "Cool, this white girl thinks it's OK to send a card with a black face on the front", she would wonder why in the hell some white girl has to come into her card section when there's two whole aisles of cards for white people. I think that's what a lot of white people fear these days. I wanted her to think I was cool and hip, but I was afraid that it would backfire and make her dislike white people even more. That's why white people switch off the rap music when they stop at a red light next to a black person. That's why we don't put the collard greens back. We're afraid that the things that could possibly bring us together -- the fact that this woman and I both liked the same greeting cards -- might be used to make us look bad. And so we don't bother to reach out in the first place.

I don't have any idea what it's like to be black, but I know that being white isn't always a piece of cake. We've got a lot of crap floating through our heads every time we encounter a black person, crap that I hope someday we won't have to waste time worrying about.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:43 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Post contains 625 words, total size 3 kb.

1 You are soo right. And I'll tell you, when my southern accent peaks out, it's even worse. It shows when I'm nervous, which is usually when I'm meeting someone new. For business? Yeah, makes it very difficult sometimes.....

Posted by: Tammi at September 15, 2006 08:36 AM (Bitcf)

2 I don't even think about offending people. I always try to treat others the way I want to be treated. You really can't go wrong that way. There will always be people of every race who will have an attitude, and anything you do or say will upset them. That's their problem to deal with, not mine, and I personally refuse to wear a coat of guilt.

Posted by: Cheesy Knit Wit at September 15, 2006 11:07 AM (/l6sd)

3 Sarah, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. Just like the comment yesterday that said there are no racists only people who don't know any better... black people can be the same way. Some of us were reared to believe that all whites are racist... and some of us believe that. But, the smart ones know better.

Posted by: Terri at September 15, 2006 11:12 AM (cgjLF)

4 I must be the most oblivious person in the whole world. None of this would occur to me. My only issue with the card section is if someone is standing and blocking the section I would like to look at. Otherwise, I'm so focused on getting the job done (in this case buying a card) I don't have the time or energy to worry about what anyone else is thinking about my buying habits. Not to mention, if I pick up an item mistakenly (which I do periodically because I don't always read labels like I should...) I have no hesitation in telling the checker that I don't want it (if I notice before I get home). How it makes one racist to want spinach when you came to the store to buy spinach... it's beyond my comprehension. So far I haven't been called for any sort of racist behavior in a store. It's too much work to worry about everyone else and what they might be thinking. Unless the person outright gets in my face (something that has never happened to date in my life), I'm assuming they shop the same way I do... for what they want. If I don't care what they buy, why should they care what I buy?

Posted by: Teresa at September 15, 2006 12:29 PM (o4pJS)

5 Jay Leno touched on it in his monologue last night. He mentioned the current "Survivor" show that has created tribes according to race. He complained that all the races can cheer on their groups except whites. It's okay for African-Americans to yell, "Go, Blacks!" But it sure sounds bad if a White American yells, "Go Whites!" Nope, not fair at all. Funny thing about racism, I've always encountered it in the places I least expect it. I'm Asian but have always considered myself an American that just happened to be Asian. I have been criticized by others for not referring to myself as an Asian-American. But I think I have more in common with people in Texas than in the far east. Especially if you saw me wearing my Stetson, drinking a beer, and listening to Toby Keith. I do drive a pick-up, am a NRA Life Member but I don't chew tobacco. Okay, let me get to my observation: I've encountered open racism here in the Northwest and in the Northeast. But I've never seen a hint of it in the South. I've experienced the most racism in Hawaii, China, and Japan. Go figure! R

Posted by: R at September 16, 2006 01:32 PM (Mn1rm)

6 "she would wonder why in the hell some white girl has to come into her card section" We seem to be more segregated every day. Why not put ALL the birthday, anniversary, get well etc. cards together. Shouldn't matter if the picture on the front is black or white. I have friends who are black (sigh, even that statement has racial overtones, because of PC idiocy)and hispanic etc. etc. I tend to lean a little conservative politically and socially. Sometimes when I'm talking with one of my black friends I will be hesitant about expressing my POV; they might take the opposite liberal view and I'm afraid of looking like a racist. Then when they say something that is consistant with my thoughts, I'm surprised. I hate that I do this, but, there it is. Are we so programmed to think that all minorities are liberal thinkers by the media? By being told on a daily basis that external differences outweigh internal similarities? I just try to be the kind of friend that I would like to have.

Posted by: Pamela at September 16, 2006 01:47 PM (HRfF5)

7 i have a fitting story to share: an important detail: the school my children go to is a magnet school where the students are determined by a lottery system. the school is located in an area of town that is at least 95% black. now, onto the story: while standing in the front of the school, waiting for my children to emerge with about 30 other non-black parents and about 10 parents who were, a car approaches the school with the music blaring. not just any car - a metallic gold, 1970-something cadillac, with ALL kinds of flash and 'bling'. not just any music - rap. and not the fun, bouncy kind. f* you, n* --over and over and over LOUD! the bell rings, traffic is backed up and at barely a crawl. children are spewing out of the school, the cadillac is now sitting directly in front of the school, still blaring it's filth. 30 parents and now teachers and even the principal stand frozen on the school lawn, staring. every person terrified to tell this young man to turn his crap down. not fearing this young black male in his 'do-rag' and 'wife-beater', but fearing what will be thought of them for approaching this young man. would it be racist to ask him to turn it down? the children, for crying out loud! after 1/2 a second of worry of what the black parents were going to think of me...i did it. marched my white self right over to his car, leaned in a bit, and asked him to "please turn it down. the kids are all getting out of school and this is very inappropriate language" "oh, sure thing, ma'am." was his reply, and he turned it off. perfectly nice young man (with horrible taste in music-just my opinion). i'm still angry about the whole thing. i wouldn't have had that 1/2 second hesitation had it been a young white man in a truck. it's all so frustrating. damn eggshells! this guy was in the wrong, no matter his color. it's juat a shame that we're all so frozen by being PC and not hurting anyone's feelings, that parents aren't even protecting their children. what IS the next step? how can this all be stopped? my children are 1/2white and 1/2 hispanic - i don't want people to feel the need to walk lightly around them because of their mixed heritage. ugh! it's just nuts

Posted by: Rebecca at September 17, 2006 11:32 AM (YL5y0)

8 I did the same thing you did a few years ago - I found one card in the store that said what I wanted to for a friend's wedding, and so I bought it. As I was signing it in the car, one of my other friends who was with me started laughing because I had bought the Mahogany card - I hadn't noticed. This was year 3 or 4 of my being in the US; I didn't know there were racially segregated greeting cards. I gave it to the friend anyway - wrote a note in it saying 'apparently this is a Black-person card; I didn't notice when I bought it, but I like what it says. I hope you do too.' Tis weird how everything has become politically charged these days.

Posted by: karishma at September 17, 2006 07:15 PM (slDge)

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