Today in My History
3 June 2020
I have never thought of myself as racist, but I have been a non-racist by happenstance, not by choice, not because I ever had to make a decision one way or the other. It's not that I am "not racist," I am a product of white privilege, and thus racist by default.
I went to a catholic grammar school that I don't believe had any African American students. The first time I ever encountered an African American student was in high school. We were a school of 200 students and I can count on the fingers of one hand (or maybe a hand and a half) the number of black students in the whole school.
My circle of friends was racially mixed -- an Asian, a couple of African-Americans, a couple of Latinas, and a few Caucasians. I don't think I ever thought of the races, they were just my friends.
My parents' circle of friends never included anybody non-white and nobody ever talked about that, it just was.
My father was adamantly non-racist, Sort of. He was a lover of jazz music and you can't love jazz music without loving the black musicians who were among its best. He once got into an argument with a Black Panther, who accused him of being racist and he invited him to come to his house so he could play his Art Tatum records for him. I think the Black Panther didn't get aggressive because he was laughing too much.
But when my sister became friendly with a guy who worked on the cable car and agreed to go to the movies with him, my father went to meet him at the cable car museum, where he worked, to let him know that the races were not supposed to mix and that he wasn't allowed to take his daughter to the movies.
Adrian Martin has written a very thought-provoking article.
When you read it (89 thoughts on "what we want you to do") it gives you thoughts about your white privilege and how it affects your thoughts about people of a different color.
I don't have any African America friends. Again, this is not by choice, but by happenstance. I actually have no close friends of any color in Davis, for several circumstantial reasons. And when we moved here it seemed that there were no African American people in Davis. You see more now, but in 1973, someone with a dark color skin stood out like a sore thumb.
I never thought of myself as having any racist (isnt' there a less negative word?) thoughts about anybody. But reading Martin's piece, I realize that it never occurred to me how different I am from my African American neighbors and how I take my White Privilege for granted.
Raising four boys, it never once occurred to me to have to teach them how to behave if they encountered policemen. I was a Mister Rogers fan and, like Mister Rogers, I told my kids if they were in trouble, they should look for a policeman.
Listening to interviews with mothers in the George Floyd murder protests, it boggles my mind how many of them talk about how to teach their boys how to behave, how to look, how to hold their hands, etc. if they saw a policeman.
I remember working for an African-American psychiatrist. I was the only white person in his office and the rest of his staff were members of his family. He and his wife both drove BMWs and I remember that whenever their son borrowed their car he invariably was stopped by a police officer to see if the car belonged to him. If it had been Ned driving the car, nobody would have thought about stopping a white kid in a BMW.
Likewise this kid had a high priced bicycle and was often stopped by police to make sure it belonged to him.
Imagine what it does to someone growing up knowing that everything they do is suspect by the police. And to see that some innocent people are killed when stopped for questioning.
Watching all the George Floyd protests (they are even protesting in Paris, in the Netherlands, London and Berlin) it is both encouraging and depressing. Anderson Cooper says the only other curfew in New York was in 1943, when a white police man shot a black soldier. That was 77 years ago and we are still protesting the murder of a black man by white policemen. Will anything come of it?
Probably not, since we have a president who wants to send soldiers to shoot protestors and who pulls stunts like this
instead of offering any unifying message to the country. (Biden did that)
We have been through so many civil rights movements in my lifetime and nothing ever changes. Someone the other day said a very wise thing--that it is the next generation, Bri's age, who may change things. All the rest of us are too old. It is encouraging to see the diversity of the protestors. Seems like as many whites as blacks. I am hoping that a message is being imbedded into those who are going to be in charge of things in the future.
From my friend, Laurie Feldman: DEAR BLACK PEOPLE: please do carry on calling me out if you see fit, if you see racism in anything I do or say. That is appropriate and I welcome it. PLEASE NOTE, I said "if you see fit", not "please school me". I do know that is not black people's job.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Family picture (Walt, Ned and I are on the cell phone).
I'd love it if you'd leave a comment!
This is entry #7376