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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Already Know so Talk Amongst Yourselves


   Recently my Significant Other's Mother shared an interesting conversation she had. You see, she had this contractor working in her house upgrading the electrical system. At first he seemed to be a cool guy , capable, knowledgeable but ....a bit temperamental.  At first, their conversations were simple, they exchanged all the regular observations we all share about the weather and the price of gas but they quickly evolved into something strange, yet familiar.

 It took on a bigoted tone.

My SO's Mother is European, she still has a distinct accent. Her opinions on race and class are rooted in the 'fair' but 'unreal' meritocratic ideal. She feels the vitriolic racism that shows itself in our policies and history is an abomination. She embraces other cultures with curiosity and has always been shocked by the honest and open dislike for other cultures that her fellow white peers often share with her here in America and, closer to home, in New York.

Even more peculiar is the source of hatred...the television.

The thing is, he didn't know she has a bi-racial grandson. He didn't know she loves Morgan Freeman. He didn't know she is a World Class Track Athlete. He did , however, know she is white.

 The level of comfort and almost mutual assumption that- 'niggers are this' or 'niggers are that' - or that it is acceptable/appropriate to wax poetic about the alleged stupidity of Black People gives me chills. Its what makes me uncomfortable when I walk into FastTrac or Nice N' Easy out in the sticks. Its what makes me uptight when I'm the only Black guy around and things don't go my way. Its what makes me look stone-faced and clench my lips tight when I make eye contact with white dudes sporting crew cuts.

This is just one awkward conversation. One of many. The awkwardness hit closer to home when the contractor met me. He knows what he said and how vitriolic, insulting and hateful it was. She felt no need to tell him her personal beliefs, why stop him, according to her, he was on a roll.
An equal dose of hatred for gays, blacks and anything else that wasn't white and Christian.
How many times has that same conversation been met with total agreement, ironclad affirmation for what is Good and Proper...American...White.
How many people have been turned away from or not even considered for employment, housing, good service at the restaurant based on choices that these type of people make.
How many of you are okay with it? Say nothing when they yell nigger at the screen when their favorite team loses. Or Bullies a stranger in public.
When I look at whose in jail and for what. The overwhelming numbers of disenfranchised all in the same demographic, society starts to look sinister.
Against me or anyone who can't blend in.
Then cases like Donald Sterling (Clippers Owner) or Cliven Bundy captures the whole Nation's attention. Systemic hostility like the backwards atmosphere at the Nursing Home in Rome with the racist staff and client. The Client who flipped if a Black nurse came near him/her.
The Solution?

Wait For It

                                             'NO COLOREDS'!?!?!?!??!

A sign placed at the main  nursing station to let all the Black American's to stay in their place.
How could a climate of racism exists here in The Mohawk Valley that sees nothing wrong with posting a 'NO COLORED' sign at work? How can any management get that comfortable to think its okay.

I know how this happened. It is a multi-pronged disregard for Black People , our opinions are insignificant and don't matter. If they do, you can't tell.

At least in most instances. A  close friend went through the same thing in a professional environment. Everyone was white and one guy always dropped the n-bomb, making his extracurricular hatred plain to all. She reported him to human resources; he was written up and even better had no idea who did it.
Everyone employed there was white (see the irony?).

 Remember a couple of years ago the  Rome Capitol Theater played a (Super racist film) Birth Of  A Nation against the protests of the NAACP and every other African American in The Mohawk Valley. It was played because of the sheer number of requests to see it. A replaying of The Good Ol' Days for The Good folks of Rome who want 'Their America' back.

Its our America too lets quit making these types of mistakes. Have a little regard for your fellow citizens even though we play a small role around here.
We also need to remember how far we have come and how much closer as a people we REALLY are. There are a lot of Black families with white people in them and many white families with Black people as well.

 In the meantime I refuse to allow myself to dwell on things like this to much. Eye contact with the contractor's shaky psyche was enough. You can glean a lot from smiling while looking in another man's eyes.
Then I said "So, what kind of man are you"?