A few years ago I worked in a very conservative, very white, very well-off community on Long Island. My commute involved two subway lines, the Long Island Railroad, and a twenty minute walk through this community. As far as colored folk go (or any folk really), I look pretty tame: slim bootcut blue jeans, casual shoes, glasses, a colorful graphic tee and hoodie. Or vest. Or hooded vest. Though my appearance never did stop the people of that community to lock their car doors, stop everything they were doing and scowl, or even call their kids to them as I drew nearer.
What I’m saying is that there’s racism. I get it. I’m aware and everyone should be because it’s real and it’s a problem.
The lady who glared at me as I heard the power locks click into place doesn’t know me. We’ve never met. Her sense of hatred, fear, disgust is based in something that is not at all because of me, but instead a generalization imposed on me because of my skin color. Why does she feel this way? Maybe it’s how she was raised. Maybe it’s the media. Perhaps it’s due to personal life experiences. Probably all three, each one fueling the other in some raging racist cycle.
As I, like many entities of the universe, enjoy some good cosmic balance, during the time I worked on Long Island I also lived in Harlem. Low-income, black, dirty Harlem. Basically the opposite of the community in Long Island. Interestingly enough, walking around that neighborhood dressed as I am, I would get nearly identical looks. Narrowed eyes and expressions that seemed to say, “You are different and therefore unwelcome.” People would snigger under their breaths when I walked past or mutter the word “faggott,” which, it turns out can be defined as a black person who dresses or acts “white” (granted, I’m also a faggot faggot but let’s not worry about that right now). Needless to say, I was feeling real loved that year.
What’s a dude to do? Look at the bigger picture, of course. It’s so easy, SO easy, to dwell on their negativity. Negativity sticks, you know. The all-knowing “they” says that it takes five good deeds to make up for one bad one. Sometimes I think it’s far more than that. For every person in my life that’s walked to the other side of the street, herded their kids away from me, or made fun of me for not “acting my race” (one of my favorite flavors of racism), there have been hundreds (family, friends, co-workers, strangers on the street) of all colors who have shown nothing but kindness or in the very least total indifference. The moment you let someone else’s hate create in you a generalized reaction based in hate, is the moment you become a part of the problem. Period.
Stay tuned for Round 2 of Vs. RACISM!
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