Several years ago, we drove our new luxury car to Savannah, Georgia. After parking to take pictures of the bench where Forrest Gump was filmed, I noticed (through my sunglasses) a man and a woman sitting at a nearby outdoor restaurant table. I could read her lips when she said: “Oh my”. As the man turned to see what she saw, her lips said: “Don’t look, don’t look”. I smiled at both of them and they immediately buried their faces in their plates. I always hoped food went up their noses. They assumed we should be in some other vehicle, maybe what my old friend, Disc Jockey Tom Joyner used to call a “raggedy ride”. Systemic racism.
At home up north it isn’t much different. We live near an area that is predominantly Latino. The shortcut to the highway takes any driver through a residential 25mph neighborhood where young children play outside and ride bikes. White people race down that street, with eyes straight ahead like there is no tomorrow. Women grip the steering wheel, like they think somebody will snatch them from their cars, rape and kill them. It is systemic racism to disrespect the neighborhood and the families, but it’s also systemic racism to believe speeding is one's right. Those drivers would no doubt say: “I am not racist” because they are willing to drive down that street.
Do I think things will change? No. Do I think they may improve? Yes. Do I think people really want change? I think they want change because they know it will make their lives better as well, but is it our job to teach white people? No. Thinking, living and acting fair is something they should have learned a long time ago. So what do I think?
I think it is time for some black people to stop being intimidated by white people. By intimidation, I mean we can't just continue to complain to each other and stop fighting once the street is painted BLM in yellow. African Americans can Google CEOS and lawyers, just like everybody else. Get the names and emails or faxes. Let them have it in writing. Once that happens in mass, the movement will blossom.
If society is serious about change, then admit our country’s dirty past and treat people with respect, unlike the NFL and Trump treated Colin Kaepernick. Everybody knows the NFL was wrong, everybody knows Colin was railroaded but everybody, including the so-called liberals, let it ride. They didn’t rock the boat or become supportive until it was "en Vogue". They tried to demean Colin like a slave and just like George Floyd was demeaned before he was murdered. Fortunately, Kaepernick made more money without getting bashed in the head on the gridiron. Now white people say they always agreed with Colin. Really? Then where were you? Silent liberalism is systemic racism.
I don't know when change will come We probably won't be around if and when it ever happens, but I do know that it is time for white people to figure it out on their own. If fair minded white people are hungry for harmony, then it is incumbent upon you who are educated to teach the losers because it's “Not my job”. In the meantime, the growing population of multiracial children WILL work on this mess from within. There is a sense of confidence amongst them that unfortunately black children were not all afforded. Nascar's Bubba Wallace whose father is white, Colin Kaepernick who was raised by white people and whose biological mother is white, both have the confidence to stand their ground. It's hard to instill in your children what you don't have yourself...in this case: Confidence to handle it.
I have the confidence but not the physical DNA to fight like they can. I would be locked up, killed and raped. Most African Americans have had similar experiences, but we have different approaches to the method of change. My late mother had the confidence and the DNA. Her uncle left home as a young man to live life as a white man because he could get away with it and he did. Uncle Ernest only returned in the dark of night to visit his mother when nobody would see him.
My mom, as an offspring of that confusion, was so confident that she once knocked on the door of a neighbor who was displaying a lawn jockey in the front yard. She told them to paint it, take it down or expect an issue. She didn’t know them and they didn’t know her, but they painted it within days. That was years ago and that little useless lawn jockey with no working light is still white. (Yes, I’m a poet and I know it). Mom also rang the bell of another neighbor who displayed a black scarecrow hanging from a tree. He justified it by telling her it was for Halloween. Mom didn’t care about Halloween and that scarecrow was taken down while she watched. The last thing the man said to Mom was: “I am not racist”
Speaking of Uncle Ernest, I once received an email on Ancestry.com from a stranger who just so happened to find the birth certificate of Uncle Ernest’s sister, who lived with us until she passed in the 1970’s. This person emailed Auntie’s birth certificate to me with a note that they were not related, had no attachment to my great aunt, but noticed I had been researching. REALLY!!!!????? How did that person get
into the same heritage search if that person in not related? Was this a long lost relative who just couldn’t get out of the systemic racist bubble to meet the black family? It's his or her turmoil to sort out, not ours.
I have chosen 7 people from my lifetime list of lame Americans whose lives crossed mine at one time or another. Their closed minds opened mine even more and I am grateful for the exposure to their poison words and ways. It was just what I needed to be patient and wait years until now, to call you out. A few of the seven may no longer be vertical, so they will never know. If you are still vertical, you'll recognize yourself right away.
1) The radio station GM who said "F you" to me when I handed him my 2-week notice letter of resignation. I was destroying his equal employment statistics by resigning.
2) The former co-worker who chose vanilla extract as my gift in the Christmas grab bag. I had made the mistake of sharing a dish I cooked with the staff. She forever saw me as a cook, not a talented writer/reporter.
3) The former co-worker who, when I asked for his address to send a greeting card, responded by asking me if I was going to rob his house. I was a news anchor at the time. He was an assistant.
4) The old landlord who only rented to me after asking if I believed in emptying garbage. My answer should have prevented him from renting to me. Instead, it frightened him into renting to me and I was only in my 20s.
5) The old woman at one of my high school summer jobs who asked me what I thought of Dr Martin Luther King making a stink in a white man's world.
6) The newsroom supervisor (still employed) who, without hesitation on 911 said: "Rag heads did it" when the towers came down. I heard it was too painful for him to look at the newspapers the day after President Obama won, so he offered them to others.
7) The former co-worker who actually ran to the printer while I was standing there just to tell me he once had an afro like my people. "Your people"