Saturday, May 30, 2020

My Own Stories Witnessing Racism

Just like the "Me, too" movement stirred up buried memories of my own encounters with predatory men, the death of George Floyd (and so many others) by a white police officer is just another reminder (wake up!) of the brutality black and brown people live with every day.



I'm sure that I've witnessed numerous instances of racism, and listened to countless white people spew racist remarks, but because I wasn't personally in the cross hairs, it didn't resonate with my younger self.

I attended a workshop more than a decade ago on racism and bias, and it really shook me up. I was choking back tears at my own complicity and lack of awareness. I was that fragile white person and I'm sure there were folks in the workshop who thought, "Oh, she only now getting it?" Yes, I am a product of the dominant white culture.

I wanted to share memories that are arising for me at this critical time.

  • Helping my neighbor with her garage sale. Watching cars pull up, take a look, and pull away. This happened often, too often to be a coincidence. A mostly white town of surfers and liberal college students, old family conservatives clashing with a now liberal, left wing City Council. So, yeah, you guessed it, she was black. I finally turned to her and shared my observation and asked her if she thought it was because she was black. "Oh, yes." she answered. My head exploded.
  • Same town, I was selling my electric bike and a friendly guy with his elderly mom drove about 40 miles to pick it up. I told him he'd need to purchase a new battery for it, and I wrote down the name of the shop where I purchased it so he could get the right battery. He asked me to please write a receipt and I did. Awhile later I received a phone call from the POLICE asking me if I had sold my bike or if it was stolen. You guessed it, he was black. I verified I sold it to him. The bike shop owner had called them, his racism in all it's full-blown shame. I was so upset: this was a gentleman and a sweetheart. So was his mother (well, a gentlewoman).
  • Completely different town and region in California: A few years ago we hired a college student to house sit for us while on vacation. A real upstanding young man - serious about his studies, his photography and his faith. We were so lucky to have found him and trusted him to take care of our three dogs and our house. I knew, however, that neighbors would see a black man coming and going from our house while we were gone, and to deal with the matter straight up, I took him around to the neighbors to introduce him as our house sitter. My husband thought this a little over the top, but our sitter appreciated it very much. Would I have done that if our house sitter was white? Nope. I wouldn't have had to.

Those are just a few instances that I can remember off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many more that have faded with time. This is what black and brown people have to deal with all the time. Can you imagine the drag on your psyche to have to be this vigilant every day? Walk a mile in their shoes.

White people must confront their racism. We are the problem. Only we can fix it.

10 comments:

  1. Most white people aren’t aware of these micro aggressions black people deal with every day. And you describe it aptly, the “drag on the psyche.” Wherever we go outside of our familiar circles, we must always be braced for the not knowing how we will be received, and the knowing that the reception could at any moment turn deadly. It helps so much that people like you and others who are part of our circle here have some consciousness about this. This is how we pass the light till it illuminates the whole world. Not in my lifetime, but that’s no reason to stop working for a better safer more loving world. xor

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  2. I know about that psychic drag, as I identify as a Queer woman. I 'pass' for straight all the time, but when I'm with friends who are loud and proud, I experience the looks, the whispers and the slights. My former wife and I were verbally attacked in line at a movie theater once and not one single person stepped in to help. Not one.

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  3. Yes, great post Tara. Thanks for sharing. And wow! It's quite unfathomable really, how the colour of a person's skin could have such a profound influence on their life. Australia is also a very racist country, despite all the rhetoric about how we are one of the best examples of multiculturalism in the world. The riots in your country have sparked a small uprising in mine, and not before time. There have been many deaths in custody here and not one police officer has been charged.

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    Replies
    1. Seems as if everywhere white Europeans go they subjugate the local population. The arrogance of invading a country and dominating it and committing genocide against native people is astounding. How I wish the past had been different and the Europeans had been driven from the land.

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  4. This whole situation now is rather sad. I grew up in a NJ city that was more famously remembered for a racial riots in the 1960s than anything else in its history. Although my own neighborhood was quite integrated, I was always aware of differences between white and black races as voiced by others. It is so unfortunate that people cannot look beyond the color of one's skin or sexual preferences. As advanced as we humans claim to be in so many areas, there are some prejudices that still persist. Mr. Floyd's tragic death was indeed murder and those involved should be punished to the fullest extant. Those riots are just excuses for people to plunder and loot and do not honor his memory.

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    Replies
    1. We are all raised with the legacy of bias and hate. We learn what we see as children. Like the great song in "South Pacific," "You've Got to be Taught."

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