” Why do you write so much about race?” It was a question put to me by a reader who also happens to know me personally. She is White and is surprised by some of the things that I have said. I responded that this blog, My so Called Glamorous Life, is about my very unglamorous and normal life. It’s my perspective on a lot of things that affect me on an ongoing basis – like being a wife and a mother. Sometimes I post recipes because I love to bake or I write about books because I love to read, particularly children’s and young adult books. Then there’s the fact that I’m Black and like most people (whether they know it or not), race and ethnicity do influence my perspective. We continued talking for a bit. “Surely,” she said “race isn’t a daily issue in your life?”
“Depending on what I’m doing that week, it can be. Even more so when I worked out side of the home.”
“You dealt with blatant racism on a daily basis during your career?”
“No, not blatant. More the kind of subtle thing that is born of complete ignorance. Usually, I would just walk off, roll my eyes and move on.” This is still usually my response.
“Like what kind of things?”
“Oh, you know, like when I was the only Black woman sitting with a group of moms waiting for our daughters to get out of a class. One of the people working at the studio was trying to schedule a meeting and asked every mother there if she worked outside of the home and if so, what time would she be available for a meeting. When she got to me, she said “Oh, Mrs. Owen, I know you have a job.” In fact, I was the only one there who didn’t work outside of the home, but why didn’t she ask me?
“The time that the driver of the car behind me, waiting to turn left at a corner, swung out and around me and yelled “Dumb ass spic!” because apparently he thought that I was taking too long to turn the corner.” Never mind that I’m not Latina (which really didn’t matter) and he was playing chicken with an oncoming car.
“The countless times that I have seen surprise register on someone’s face when I say that my parents were married for 59 years before my dad died. Nope, it’s not always like it is on t.v. All Black people do not come from broken homes.”
“The time that a little boy in my then pre-school daughter’s class said that he could be friends with everyone, EXCEPT Black girls. She was the only Black girl in the class.” I guess if I have to be honest, I really didn’t just let that one pass with an eye roll. I let the teacher handle it in class but, my passive – aggressive nature took over and I made sure that each and every time his mother was in my presence (even remotely) I went over to say “hello”. Because I’m just that friendly.
She didn’t need me to go on after that one. She really didn’t know where to go from there, I think because she wondered if I have ever had cause to walk off and roll my eyes at her. It’s clear that I make her uncomfortable or at least my posts about race do. Do I make you uncomfortable? If so, that’s a good thing because we should all be uncomfortable when it comes to the subject of race relations in this country.
When I previously wrote about Ferguson (A Mom’s Eye View of Ferguson), I explained why I understood the rioting in response to the shooting and subsequent police handling of the situation. I did not say that I thought that the riots were a good thing, but none of it is a good thing. Discussing how the citizens of that city should have responded without discussing how the cop should not have shot that unarmed young man 6 times then left him lying in the street for 4 hours is inequitable and naive. Trust me, there is enough blame and responsibility to go around.
A reader once accused me of ranting about race. No, I don’t rant about race. I rant about poor customer service and from time to time I rant about my kids not doing as I would like them to, but not about race. I’m too old to rant about it because I’ve dealt with this type of environment for so long that it’s become par for the course. However, I am very open about my take on the topic because if there is one thing that I know, it’s that attitudes about race permeate absolutely everything in this country – politics, education, health care, entertainment, sports…EVERYTHING.
The United States is ushering in new generations of Americans that have no real, first hand, knowledge of our racial past and everything that we have gone through to get where we are now. Young people who only know of Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Shirley Chisholm and other Freedom Fighters from text books. Textbooks that have never told the entire story and are now being watered down even further to tame our ugly past. In large part that’s why what took place on the streets of Ferguson was so hard to understand and disturbing for so many. They had never seen this before and the racial tension is palpable. Race riots, which is really what it ended up being, were only contained in history books. Right? I mean, after all we have an African-American president so surely we are past all of that racial strife, right? Hardly. It is that distance from our past, for both Blacks and Whites, as well as Latinos, Asians and everyone else that has landed us exactly where we are today. After all, it is far easier and more comfortable to bury your head in the sand. Ignorance is bliss. No. Ignorance is just, well… ignorant.
The most important thing that we all can do for each other is to really listen and learn from one another. I mean really listen. Let down your guard and welcome honest conversation. Be willing to let go of the stereotypes. It is not an accident that every issue to come to the attention of the masses seems to divide us racially. Given the amount of garbage being spewed (and I mean vile, disgusting, contrived garbage) all in the name of political, religious and social freedom, it’s completely expected and I would argue by design. If you can sow seeds of doubt, mistrust and hatred within a society, you divide it’s its people and thereby reduce its power. Is it any wonder that the United States finds itself in such a political and fiscal mess? Power is multiplied by unity.
While on a visit with my 87 year-old aunt, I was telling her about my blog. She turned to me and asked “Are you helping anyone?” Good question. I really had to think about it. Which brought me to this: I write about race because I know that there are people out there who believe that Black people are always whining and playing the victim. That we are our own worst enemy. That we should just let the past be the past and just move on. I know that some of these people are actual friends and acquaintances of mine and would never believe the accounts of prejudice that I relay here on this blog if they were told by a stranger. Likewise I know that there are black and brown people who believe that all white people are racist. I know that’s not true and it’s important that we (Black people) stop approaching every white person with mistrust. It’s important that we stop letting our fear get in the way of taking care of our selves and each other. It’s important that we stop preying on each other and focus our positive energy in a different direction. I also know that there are people on both sides of this issue who feed the fire and fan the flames. Some unwittingly because they have no idea that they have bought into every stereotype out there. They are naive and uneducated when it comes to this thing we call social justice. However, for some it’s very intentional because they divide the masses in order to retain some sense of control. If the United States is a great and powerful country in its current political and economic state, imagine the possibilities if we were unified?
I write about race because I really want you to listen and understand that race is a part of every day life in America. Now, what are we going to do about it?