Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Great example, both bad and good.

I don’t think he realized he was doing it. Well, maybe he did but I’m sure he didn’t realize he was offending her. It isn’t that unusual. I have watched lots of white people do it. Most think it is endearing or proves they are “down”.
She didn’t really know how to tell him it bugged her. We usually saw him when we were all in groups and that makes it worse on two fronts; she didn’t want to confront him in front of people, but then again him doing it in front of people made it even worse.

Whenever talking to her, he would add things like, “you know that’s right!” or “you go girlfriend” to the conversation and would talk with his hands.

She would come away wondering, “do I talk like that?” She doesn’t.
I take that back, she doesn’t talk like that to white people.

She wondered if that’s how he thinks she sounds. Does he even hear me? I don’t speak like that around him, why does he think I sound like that?

It began to bother her a lot and she didn’t want to be around him. She was sure he didn’t really mean to offend but she didn’t know how, or really want, to bring it up with him.

Then he did the perfect thing. He approached her.

“I think I have offended you,” he said. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I don’t really think. I do boneheaded things. Please realize I didn’t mean to be offensive, I made a mistake.”

She was impressed and told him he was the bigger person for approaching her, for doing the thing she was avoiding. She now thinks highly of him.
Just before that, she wanted nothing to do with him.

Lots of people make honest mistakes, few truly apologize and try to make things right.
If more people did, I would have to write about something else.
I would love that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It takes a big person to open up

I got this letter from a friend of mine. He has never commented on the blog and his admission is a bit surprising to me. Only a bit, in that he is a pretty honest and sincere guy, and in that I’m sure he isn’t alone in his experience.
Here is an excerpt:

“My problem honestly isn't black vs. white (in fact I wish sometimes I was black, at least then I would have a heritage other than European no matter if slavery was part of that heritage it would be better) it's more like Latino vs. white. This comes from a very bad experience from a con man who took me for some money and through his shoddy workmanship almost killed me. Now why is it when a white person does that to me, which they have, do I not blame white people. Why do I have the tendency to blame another race when the individual that "robbed" me was from a race that was not my own. I don't remember my parents ever teaching me that. What is your thought on that? I honestly don't mean to do that, in fact just the thought that I subconsciously blame all Latinos for what that one man did, makes me sick and want to crawl under a rock. One thing though I try not to dwell on it or act on my strange feeling of I guess you can call it racism. Is racism a choice then? You know me, I try not to judge, so if racism is a choice, if I choose not to act racist, then am I racist even if I thought for one brief second I hate all Latinos? This might sound superficial but I wonder what your take is on that?”

My first thought here was, “wow you almost died? I wanna hear that story”.
Other than that, two main things here should be addressed.

Unfortunately this is one way racism can be born. I hesitate to say he is a racist, but these thoughts come from a view of someone else as the “other”. He doesn’t blame all whites because he is one, and that would mean blaming himself, his family, his close friends, and he knows they are not all cons. The wrongs done to him by other whites are balanced out by the good whites have done.
This in no way means Latinos are not capable of doing just as much good but rather shows where, or rather with whom, he is spending his time. Most feelings or thoughts that those not of our race are an “other” come from lack of meaningful experience with those we deem not like ourselves.
This is pervasive, I see it all over.
Black vs. white
White vs. Latino
Republican vs. Democrat
Since we don’t really know “them” we paint with a broad brush. We pick up things we have experienced or been told and that becomes the group. As a result we are occasionally correct in our assumptions and occasionally wrong. Whichever it is, it is never fair.
No one should be judged by what they are but rather who they are.

The author of this letter knows this, which leads to my second point.

Someone like this should not be condemned or labeled racist. This is someone realizing some personal tendencies toward racism, struggling to understand them, and working to correct them. This is exactly what more of us should do. This is exactly the person who is worth taking some time to help. Were a Latino to be reading this and happen to know this guy, I would hope that said Latino would reach out and help the guy work through this.

This sort of work is how we get past racism. Ignoring this guy, or even worse acting angrily, only pushes him back into his more insulated world and he will never conquer his problems… and that means neither will we.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

That Flag

When moving to South Carolina for work, I spent a day driving around with the girl I was replacing. She was a cute young blonde whose pride in her hometown could not be contained. She liked to talk.

She showed me the main street, the church she wanted to marry her “southern gentleman” boyfriend in, plantation homes, and all the places where the “young professionals ate and socialized. She told me how people here took southern hospitality serious and I was sure to be welcomed.

In the process of my tour she remarked how she was born in the wrong century. “Wouldn’t it have been great to live in the old south? I mean, I think I was meant to go to balls, relax with family and friends on the porch while drinking mint juleps. Wouldn’t those days have been great?” she asked wistfully.
“Sure, unless you were a black person,” was my response.

She was visibly taken aback and looked confused. “Well I guess… I wasn’t talking about that. I mean, I was just saying the values and genteel lifestyle ya know?”
“You do realize that lifestyle was only possible because of slavery right?” I asked.

She hemmed and hawed and moved on to other subjects. I’m sure she thought me rude and confrontational. I’m glad this girl was not required to report to my superior about how the day went.

I don’t think this girl was a racist but I do think she is representational.

Racism has moved from an open, rationalized, hatred or possibly dislike, into a simple glossing over of all things racial. The desires this girl had for times past ignored the very existence of race. I have seen this as a pattern in mainstream/white American society where most never think of the minority and bristle when they are pointed out. It is as if pointing out an issue becomes the issue.

I have argued with many over whether or not the confederate battle flag is a racist symbol.

Many claim it is simply an honoring of those who went before. A symbol of those brave enough to fight for what they felt was right, to fight against Northern or Federal oppression aimed at destroying another’s way of life. It is a symbol hearkening back to better times when courtesy and manners ruled, when a Southerner could be proud.
That has nothing to do with race.

Unless you are black.

That is the racism of it.
To ignore a group of people that have always been there is ignorant. To ignore a group of people who were beaten, raped, and killed under that flag, by the very ancestors “that flag” glorifies, is both the seeds and the fruit of racism.

But then again, I’m sure they weren’t really talking about “that”.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Drawing done on location

In a Rocky movie, not a bad seat in the house, and home of one of my favorite nights of the year... Philly Fight Night!!! (

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I don't "get it"

Today reminded me of something.

I don't really "get it". I will never, I cannot.

I don't write this blog because I am all wise, or all understanding, and know what its like.

I write because I know enough of what its like, to realize I will never know how it feels.

Its impossible.