I won't begin by saying "some of my best friends are white" I will say some of the most honest friends I have are white. My best friend is an African American man who is also my comedy relief, my editor, my calming factor and my husband. My white friends can handle the truth because they are my friends.
It matters not if you are republican, democrat, independent, white, black, religious, foreign, female, male or agnostic. Most people will say “I’m not racist”. If they don’t say it, then you know who they are. It’s the rest of the population that you think you know, but you don’t.
To my so-called non-liberal (former) associates, there shouldn’t be many surprises here. We've already gone head to head over the years. If you experience any shock treatment, it’s your fault. You haven’t been listening for most of your life anyway.
To my African American friends who think I shouldn’t stick my neck out on this subject (and you know who you are), you already understand that I’m not listening. Some of you are afraid for me to express these feelings in a way that might either offend white people or put me in danger, but being offended is long overdue. In terms of danger, president trump said I have nothing to lose. That's the only Kool Aid he serves that I will drink. If you are still working or beholding to a boss or company, then you can’t say out loud what I am about to write. However, you know you will say “AMEN” in the solitude of your shower with the door double locked and the shades pulled down.
In my last blog I struggled through telling the story of my father who was brutally beaten years ago by the New York City Transit Police. Since then, the guard is always on duty. It wasn’t my first rodeo with systemic racism, but it was the last time it caught me by surprise.
I have had some great jobs in my life, from flight attendant to television news anchor. Both came after university and both thrust me into an international arena that many don’t experience. My basic training though, came from a college English major mother, and a college educated father who was raised by proud southern educated religious parents. So I was taught to tell it as I see it.
A few white people have brought up the subject of Black Lives Matter with me. I don't engage in conversation about that. It is not their business how I feel, but I will say the attention to it was badly needed. I have mixed feelings about expressing BLM in public, but only because it feels like begging to me. I am allergic to begging white people for anything, so if it feels like begging, it’s begging. Black lives have always mattered to me, but don’t misinterpret what I am saying. Everyone is different. I choose to put my anger with systemic racism in writing because I can. Plus, it's in the confines of MY home so catch me if you can.
Most people want to live in a repaired and fair society, but they don’t necessarily know how to do their part. It’s not about what you “do”. It has to begin with how you “think”. It’s wonderful to see the massive global support from people of all races and nationalities but within that group, there are some who are just being charitable for a popular cause. It’s meaningless if they go back to their safe neighborhoods feeling good about themselves, while hoping you don’t come there. Since March, people have been desperate to get out of the house. Pandemic, murder by police and stuck in the house with no money could have driven people mad without an excuse to get out and march. Not everybody. I’m sure people were appalled by the George Floyd murder because they could SEE it, but they also knew it was nothing new. Marching and chanting are good but the battle needs more ingredients now.
My late best friend was cape Verdean and a quintessential New Englander who lived a multi-racial personal life, making her perfect for her lifetime job in human resources. Back in the 1990’s, a woman Nita once hired asked her to go to Dallas to help her through a liposuction procedure. Nita asked for my thoughts and I suggested she not go. Melanie had sisters, brothers, a mother and an ex husband. Let one of them be her post surgery helper. My friend went anyway because she was honestly blind to racial issues. White Melanie flew non-stop and paid for Nita to fly from Boston by way of changing planes in St Louis. It wasn’t worth it to her to spend more money for Nita to fly non-stop. After all, Nita was only a post surgery helper. Once they were back in New England, Nita never heard from Melanie again, not for a thank you and not even to attend her memorial service. So you think I was mean to suggest she not help Melanie?
Several years before that, Nita called me to ask if Melanie could spend the night at my New York apartment because a severe snowstorm had her stuck in the city. While drinking my good wine and absorbing the hospitality, Melanie revealed herself. She said: “You are very intimidating on TV because you speak too clearly”. Melanie revealed her systemic racist heart to me long before Dallas, but if asked then or today, she would say: “I’m not racist”.
Sometimes I think about that winter visit from the uninvited racist, but I mostly forgot about it until another friend told me her story. Stephanie grew up in the south, eventually becoming a lawyer. She told me the story of a young white girl classmate who once told her: “You need to stop talking down to me because I am supposed to talk down to you”. If Steph had been white, that girl would have thought she’d make a great attorney because of her vocabulary and ability to get a point across. As a black girl however, she was uppity and needed to be reprimanded for embarrassing a white girl.
I am also reminded of the day my husband with the very sexy voice was asked to audition for a Santa Claus radio commercial. He didn’t get the job because he spoke too well. They wanted an ethnic Santa Claus who would speak with bad english grammar. They ultimately hired a white guy who pretended to speak the way they THOUGHT a black Santa should talk; bad grammar, improper pronunciation and definitely with a step and fetch it, lazy black man tone. It was disgusting and a perfect example of systemic racism.
Today, white people who are honest about change are asking the same question: “What do you want them (the racists or borderline liberals) to know? What do you hope they learn from this?” Because so many young, unintimidated African Americans are being asked those questions, the answers are wonderfully universal; “We don’t want to teach them anything. We don’t care what they think:” People don't seem to realize that we realized the game a long time ago. The crime is in the fact that our hands have always been tied. We couldn't create change and stay alive.
Yet another personal experience in the form of a Facebook discussion with a middle aged self-proclaimed liberal white man took place recently. The topic is moot but the attitude was to downplay a piece of racist literature by calling it fake. No matter who printed it or when it was printed or why it was printed, it’s still a mindset and part of our history, as well as present day life. He tried to whitesplain it away until he finally said that he agreed with “most” of what I was saying, but not all. He expected me to retreat because that’s what should happen when educated white men speak. No one talks down to them, especially not black women. Well daddy-O, times have changed. This middle aged guy happens to have an ethnic wife, which isn’t unusual. MSNBC anchor Ali Velshi recently interviewed an African American podcaster who reminded the audience that historically white women have been considered “pure” and held at a higher standard than just sex, so black women were raped for white man satisfaction, plus we were always considered "exotic". It’s why we all look different. So white man, ethnic wife; Maybe it’s love and maybe it’s superiority, but either way just because he married you doesn’t mean he is not racist.
This is just the appetizer. Every African American, Latino or Asian American has stories to tell. Hopefully they will. All of our personal racism stories could get better with each paragraph, but you can only read so much of this in one day before going nuts. I'll reserve the rest for part two, including the ways in which African Americans are baited everyday by strangers and colleagues, the wealthy white guy friend, the racist neighbors with the black scarecrow hanging from a tree and our stupid God forsaken MIA mixed race relatives.