8 years ago my sister suggested I find a way to publish the amusing emails I sent her about our dog Zoe. Now there is blogging! Zoe tales are about Zoe (3 1/2 lb Chihuahua), Gracie (bigger and the world's friendliest Chihuahua) and other stuff I am thinking about. Enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Ordinary Racism

I had another close encounter of the racist kind today. I've had a lifetime of them and I'm just so tired of them.

I was talking to a neighbor this afternoon while our dogs started the process of saying their goodbyes. This neighbor is an older gentleman and loves to tell stories and reminisce. He told me a story about growing up in San Francisco and about how great the high school he went to was. He mentioned that when he was a student there in the 50's it was a great, fabulous top school. And, then, when laws changed that opened up schools to students from all neighborhoods things went downhill (in his mind.) He illustrated his lament of the educational changes wrought by not restricting kids to only the schools in their segregated neighborhoods by telling me that when he was a student there were only 2 black students and when he went by the school more recently, there were perhaps 2 white students.

Why do people say shit like this to me and assume I agree with their fucked up world view? Because I look white. Even though I am a card carrying Negro (it says so on my birth certificate), I am paler than many white folks I know. Therefore I get to hear what white people really think and would never dare say in front of black folks.

When I tell my white neighbors that I plan to move (home) to Oakland I get consistently shocked reactions. "Oakland... Oakland, CA (shudder) why?" they ask? Unspoken subtext: why would a nice, sweet little white girl like you want to move to that city full of black people?

I could blog for months and just tell you stories like this. And what can I do? Wear a t-shirt everyday proclaiming my blackness? Tell every jerk who shares their racist self with me to sod off? I don't because it wouldn't make much difference. I live my life as a black woman and eventually people figure it out or there's an appropriate opening in the conversation and I let them know. If I can, I let them know that I don't appreciate or share their point of view. But, calling people on their racist bullshit doesn't open their eyes - in fact it is quite the opposite - they close off and get defensive - "I'm not racist - I've got really good, justified, logical, fact based reasons for my bias."

I think people are really conscious of their bias - they've just learned for the most part to justify it to themselves and are smart enough to not share it with the people who are the objects of their bias. What most white people are, I believe, is unconscious to their power and how that power and the structures and systems built into every aspect of our culture and society enable their bias.

I'm sick of fighting and deeply sad that apparently I'm never going to stop hearing how much people would hate me if they really knew who I am.


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