Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I am a racist

I come from an unusual school in an unusual district. We are not a white or a black or a Latino school. We are not Muslim or Jewish or Christian or Hindu or Sikh. We hear Bengali, Spanish, Greek, English, Patois, and maybe another couple dozen languages and dialects in our hallways.

Crispus Attucks, first death in American Revolution
via Crispus Attucks Museum website

I'm not going to ruin all this by claiming a Kumbaya moment, but what makes this building work maybe better than most others is the constant infusion of immigrants into our town, an infusion of confusion, that keeps us all wondering who we are.

I've heard several times a different version of that discussion, as a small group of kids will discuss just which banner they fall under.

And that's a good place to start.

The other race conversation is the one acknowledging the price of color in this fine land of ours. The problem is not starting "the conversation" about race. Most kind, nice folks I know are eager, too eager, to start the conversation.

The problem is getting past the niceties, the politeness, the veneer of civility that subtly reflects our standing with each other.

The problem with the hard conversation is that most white folks I know truly believe two things:
  • They're not racist.
  • If they're not racist, then this does not involve them.
This skirts the whole issue of privilege, neatly tidied up in a universal statement of our humanity, and who could possibly argue with the idea that an unbiased, nice person who just wants everybody to get along had nothing to do with, well, John Crawford? 

Here's a place to start. You're not going to get off the bottle until you acknowledge you're a racist. Not a John Birch Society heavy drinking racist, just the social two cocktail kind. The kind who sits on the sidelines tsk tsking away a world that does not concern you.

But it should.
Make the declaration, then let's try having the talk. 

And if it does not, you are in deeper than you think.


Jenny said...

I think recognizing and admitting our various -isms would get us started. I know I prefer to be served by people who speak English without an accent. I'm not proud of it, not by a long stretch, and I fight against it. But recognizing it allows me to fight against it. Not recognizing it means nothing changes.

By the way, after tracking Santa on NORAD this morning, my 11 year old took the race Harvard IAT. I was prepared to talk to her about societal issues when she turned up with a slight bias toward European Americans. It was going to be a great continuation of other discussions we've been having in the past few months. As it turns out, she showed up with no bias at all (unlike me). I decided to just believe that we're doing something right as parents and move on for the moment.

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

Recognition is key for those of us who can turn off the world when we care to.

I was unaware of the Harvard IAT, and may wander over there in a bit, but not until I wrestle through some thoughts, first.

To be fair, it's not your kids I worry about. They are blessed to have you and Jeff and the rest of your clan. I *do* worry about a lot of other kids I know.

(Maybe you could have a half dozen or more to try to fix the world faster! =) )