Some 30 years ago, I had my first encounter of racism.
When our family moved into the Watterson Woods neighborhood back in 1987, at the time and to my recollection, we were the only African-American family on our street, and one of a few African-American families in the neighborhood. The majority of my friends were white.
I was a smart kid, and because of that, I was tested and placed in the Advanced Program within Jefferson County Public Schools. I was often the only African-American student in my class throughout my elementary education, and it wasn’t until I got to middle school that I finally met other African-American students that were also in the Advanced Program. But even then, the majority of my friends were white.
In my neighborhood, there was one white boy who always had something negative to say about me being black. Now at the time, when I was in elementary school, it took me a while to realize that he didn’t like me simply because of my skin color.
And I found that odd.
All of my other white friends seemed to like me, so why would he view me differently? Everything came to a head one day, when after repeated racist remarks towards me, I ended up beating this boy up on the school bus on the way home. Now let me preface that I do not condone violence, but I was at my whit’s end with this kid. And when I tell people, what he said to me that triggered me, they tend to laugh…he called me a “burnt hot dog!”
I know, I know…sounds crazy, right? And depending upon the conversation I am having with someone, if I tell them this story, it kind of makes you laugh. But his statement, albeit a dumb one, was the final straw to all of the other racist comments that he said to me, and I had had enough. But what helped me, was the fact that all of my other white friends in the neighborhood stood with me, and agreed that we would no longer hang around this kid anymore, and if he comes around, we’ll play elsewhere. I remember his mother trying to get all of us to play with him after this incident, and we would ignore her requests too. While it is rude for children to ignore adults, it felt good to know that I had other white friends willing to stand up with me against someone who, at such a young age, displayed racist behavior.
Fast forward to 30 years later…
We have now had our first African-American President of the United States. We have countless African-American executives and leaders serving all across this country. African-Americans, for the most part, are living out our dreams and seeing generational successes. But yet, we still are fighting racism and we have a long way to go.
Racism is not as blatant anymore. They don’t necessarily call you a “burnt hot dog” to your face. But they do organize themselves under pseudo names like “the alt-right movement”. They do continue to push the narrative that White Americans are suffering more, due to the large number of immigrants and other minorities in this country who have taken their jobs, or are taking advantage of government assistance programs of which their taxes are paying for. They do ignore you when you walk into certain businesses and establishments. They do stare at you for no reason other than your skin color.
With the situation happening in Charlottesville, VA, it should be a wake-up call to all Americans. But more specifically, that call is simply this… “White People, We Need You!”
No issue of bigotry, hate or racism is solved in a vacuum. It requires the people who are being oppressed to be supported by the people who are not being oppressed. It requires the people who are on the receiving end of hate, to be supported by the people who see that same hate happening and know that it is wrong. It takes a village…
While I was disheartened to see and read President Trump’s initial response to the actions in Charlottesville, it wasn’t at all surprising. Now, this isn’t the post to dive deep into the character of the President of the United States, but from where I sit, I didn’t expect him to say or do much. I wasn’t shocked at his initial response…I just rolled my eyes and kept it moving. After all, he would be ostracizing his base, and Lord knows he needs that support.
But what I do expect, is for my white friends to stand with me and other African-Americans and minorities to fight racism. We will never be able to eradicate this, but we can minimize it, in hopes that in the long-term it will not surface to this level again. I am not asking for you to get on the front lines of a protest and go face-to-face with a white nationalist. I am not asking you to post anti-racism messages across your social media networks. But I am asking you to take a stand, and help shed light on issues that will affect us all. I am asking you to recognize that racism is still alive in our society. I am asking you to put yourself in my shoes and think about being in a world where the majority of people you encounter on a daily basis don’t look like you. I am asking you to picture your family member(s) being gunned down simply because he or she looks scary. I am asking you to open your eyes and see me for more than just a black face.
I’m human, just like you.
Please white people…we need you!
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thanks for sharing your perspective, this is a fantastic post. I especially agree that we should not expect much from Trump and that we will not eradicate racism with one action. You provide a simple yet powerful call to action. We need all people, especially whites, to take a stand and just recognize that racism exists. I’d like to add that people should recognize that racism exists on an individual level in the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens, AND on an institutional level in our schools, judiciary, etc.
Check out my latest post on Charlottesville and the rest of my political vibes https://political-vibes.com/ I would greatly appreciate a follow if you’re interested and I would love to respond to comments
Gathan, your story had me in tears. You have done an amazing job putting into words your thoughts. All of mine are still jumbled in my head. As I write this, I’m still having a hard time articulating my anger, frustration, sadness, fear… I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened, I only see the pictures circulating online. I want to bury my head and pretend it didn’t happen. Not in my lifetime. We are passed this. Right? No. It happened. I should speak up. What do I say? What should I do? I was brought up with a value system that accepts people for who they are as a human being. So maybe the best thing I can do is go back to my roots and continue doing what I’ve always done. Listen to all sides. Have a civil conversation. And at times agree to disagree. But don’t judge people on their intelligence, color of their skin, socioeconomic status, etc. Be kind to one another.
Always on point! Phi V
I’m with you.
Almost a year now, and no one has commented about this story. I find this heartbreaking. I am not African-American. I am Aboriginal-Canadian, not quite a half-breed, my mother was full white, my father more aboriginal than white. I look white, so have never in my 68 years known the feeling of racism aimed directly at me. But I have seen it aimed at my aboriginal brothers and sisters, and it sickens me. And this is where it all starts to connect to your tale–when I stand up for my red siblings, I am called names that might be something like Uncle Tom might be to you. I don’t know for sure, but they are not fit for gentle company.
However, when you say you need the support of whites, I wonder if you do not know the real story of Stephen “Bantu” Biko in South Africa, the real hero of ending aparteid in South Africa. His story is an amazing one.
“Black Consciousness in South Africa” is an amazing read, if you can get a hold of a copy. I can tell you no more, you have to resd it for yourself. I recommend it very highly. Reply to this comment after you read it, please. I would like to hear your opinion of it. It is credited to Steve or Stephen Biko as its author.