Racism roadmap, or Let’s talk about it

I’ve been online a lot recently. Too much, really. I’m not gonna lie, this means I’ve been losing my temper a lot. We got a racist governor up here in Maine, we got the “president” and his whole klan. Oh, and until recently we had a Nazi as the town manager of Jackman, Maine. He was fired, so at least there’s that.

Still, when I start to think about how often the morally weakest among us are activating each other, my face gets hot. I’m gonna try to keep cool on this because I like to write concisely, but, you know, my face is hot.

Here we go.

Racism isn’t measured. It’s not even defined, nationally. When an attempt is made, it’s often by those who can’t actually experience it. Race itself is designed only to designate power. White on top, everyone else in a big pile on the very distant the bottom. This makes racism an incredibly complex system that includes us as individuals as well as our institutions. And since we as Americans are not great at learning from our history, it only gets more complex over time. 

As a Black person, I wince when I hear someone call me “colored.” It’s not that the person is racist, necessarily. It’s that the use of that word shows that the person’s understanding of race is so out of date, the amount of work needed to understand the current complexity of the issue is unlikely to get done. And, honestly, there’s probably a reason the work wasn’t done in the first place.

Understanding of race is like a map. It needs to be up to date. A map of your town from the 1800s would not help you find a thing today. Everything would be unrecognizable. Sure, the map is valuable in that it’s important to learn about where the roads were back then. They’re the basis for the roads we have now, but that old map would still leave you lost as hell the second you stepped out your door. And it wouldn’t matter how much you loved the map or the good ol’ days from whence it came. We all gotta live right now.

Now, more or less, we operate under the presumption that we all want to be on the right path. Even though we live that way, we know it’s not true. We know that some people want the path to themselves, or just don’t care where they’re going at all, but we carry out our day-to-day as though we all agree.

The problems come when we’re all in the car together and we start to get the feeling the driver isn’t really looking at the GPS.

Yeah, we can ask him if he’s lost, but if he says no, that’s kinda where the conversation ends.  

Luckily, our understanding of the situation is not reliant on his admission. Like, if you’re on hour-three of a trip that only was supposed to last 10 minutes, you don’t really have to ask to know the truth.

The driver should to pull over and ask for directions. He needs to find someone familiar with the area and ask what to do. In other words, he needs to find someone who’s been down this road before. In other words, he needs to defer to someone with experience that he does not have…I think you see where I’m going here.

Unfortunately, in a moment like this, the driver probably doesn’t really care about being on the right path. The important thing for the driver is to never admit that he’s a racist—um, I mean lost. The driver must never admit that he’s lost. He may not even know he’s lost, even if everyone else around him knows. But it doesn’t really matter if he knows or not. Everyone else is trying to get on the right path, so he’s either gotta get in the back and let someone else drive or get the right directions! Ain’t no one got time to wait for some damn fool to figure out how to use his moral compass!

In fact, no! You ain’t gonna get in the back! You gonna get out of the car and figure out your shit all by yourself. If and when you do figure out how not to be lost, you can catch a ride with the next car going this way. They pass by all the time.

OK. While those of us who have been down this racist-ass road before can easily recognize just how lost you are, maybe you aren’t sure. Maybe you really don’t know whether or not you are lost. If that’s the case, please consult the list below. Do you use any or all of the following phrases?

1: I’m not a racist, but…

2: You’re too sensitive.

3: You’re probably hearing/seeing/feeling/understanding it wrong.

4: I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that.

5: Black people are racist, too.

6: I have a Black friend.

7: You call each other that word.

8: I’ve been called honky.

9: That’s not real racism.

10: I’ve been pulled over, too.

11: All you have to do is obey the law.

12: You destroy your own neighborhoods.

13: I agree with you in theory.

14: That’s not how you get your point across.

15: Black-on-Black violence.

16: Slavery was a long time ago.

17: The Irish were slaves, too.

18: I never owned a slave.

19: Stop complaining.

20: I don’t know why there’s no white history month.

If so, you’re as lost as this motherfucker right here and you need a map. Luckily, many are available. Here, here and here are great places to begin your quest.

Good luck finding the place. We’ll leave the light on for you.


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1 thought on “Racism roadmap, or Let’s talk about it

  1. I am a person of European ancestry, which is to say, in current terms, I am white. Actually I’m not very white — more beige with brown spots from sun damage over my 89 years. I wonder if you are really “black?” My African-American friends are all various shades of brown. My issue with these words is that black and white are opposites. Calling some people in our country “black” is a way of saying you are very different from me. Opposite, really. But it’s not true. We all bleed red. We all care about our children and want a good future. Slavery is rightly called America’s “original sin.” Although slavery has existed in most parts of the world at different times–and still today in a few places–here it became associated with a particular appearance: darker skin and different hair. I lived for 13 years in Bahrain where, when slavery ended, the slaves just became ordinary citizens. No such luck here. Appearance marked their descendants. The energy of all Americans is needed to resolve that history.

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