Back when I was about seven or eight years old, I once went to the store with one of my relatives. My grandmother had just given me a dollar and some change, so of course, I wanted to go and spend it right away. When this relative and I got to the store, my relative said, “Okay, now you have to watch yourself in here, because they don’t like black people.” I said, “Who?” This relative nodded toward the person at the register. Now, as a child that age, my only concern was buying however much candy I could get with that dollar and change my grandmother gave me and then getting back to play outside with my cousins, along with letting them know very maturely that I had candy and they didn’t. I was a big softie though, so the bragging…I mean, mature informing didn’t last too long. I ended up sharing all my packs of Now and Laters with everyone. What my relative said at the store was confusing to me at the time, but the seed was indeed planted.
A few years later, I got a good sense of what my relative meant when I encountered a racist white man who lived next door to (or maybe a few doors down from) one of my aunts. His son would play with my cousins from time to time, but he didn’t like this, and one day, there was a problem. I wasn’t outside for the entire situation, but when I got outside, I saw this man encouraging his son to keeping hitting my cousin with a plastic bat. It was clear that his son was uncomfortable doing it, but as he continued, I approached to try and stop him. This man, this grown man, said to me, as an eleven or twelve-year-old, “If you try and get in the way, I will fuck you up.” I didn’t know what else to do but to call my father. The fight between my cousin and his son was done with, but when my father showed up, we were all inside and looking through the window, as we saw my father in the street and yelling at this man with people all around them. I don’t believe anything physical happened, but that was another time when I was told about certain folks “not liking black people.” Being older and having experienced or heard more instances of racism, I understood it very clearly. Of course, I asked “Why?” and no one was sure. I was only told to watch out for “them.”
By that time, it was more than clear to me as to what racism was, especially when I looked back at other much smaller instances. I’ve probably encountered that sort of thing at a much younger age, but by that point, it made sense to me as to what it was.
I’m not going to sit here and lie to anybody. I was hurt, devastated and ashamed, because for one, I didn’t personally help my cousin very much (by stepping in and breaking up the fight), but because it didn’t make sense to me as to how someone could hate someone else that much just from the color of their skin, and even as a grown man, how that hate can still be passed on to a child. One of my first thoughts was, why did this man had such a problem with his son playing with us? We always had fun and his son didn’t seem like he was being “forced” to play with us in some way. I think this got back to my mother and needless to say, I wasn’t over there very much more after that.
However, there was something else that puzzled me. By that point and soon afterward, I realized how many times I was told by someone that white people are racist. I don’t remember many people saying, “SOME white people are racist,” or hell, people in general. It got to a point that I briefly started to view nearly ALL white people as racist. After all, with the instances I remembered, what was the race of those who had the issues with me in some way?
Then again, I was an intelligent kid for my age, and something didn’t quite make sense to me. By that time, I was friends with quite a few white kids, along with my mother having white friends, so I often wondered if maybe the relatives and everyone else who told me this simply had bad luck and continued to meet racist white people or if they were just generalizing. One day, after I was told that I need to “watch out for racist white people,” I got bold and asked, “Why? My mother and I are friends with white people. Why do I need to watch out for them?” This was one of the first times a person actually had an explanation sort of thought out. He basically said that these white people were only friends with us because they wanted to be constant reminders that they were better than we were. Now as ridiculous as that sounded, there came those times when I would lose at a particular game to one of my white friends or they would brag about having something that I didn’t (they didn’t mention that I didn’t; that was me who acknowledged that part. They merely mentioned having whatever it was) and right away, I thought that other person might be right. Maybe they were friends with us to remind us that they were better in some way.
However, that was debunked pretty quickly when a few of our black friends did the same things. In some ways, they were even worse about it. Of course, that’s when I “learned” that black people cannot be racist. Not much explanation as to why they still boasted that they were better than me, but how dare I think it was racism. Shame on me. Yet a white person does it and that better be what I’m thinking; that it’s them being racist.
Being the intelligent child I was, something else didn’t make sense. First, white people were racist against us and didn’t want us around them. Now they want us around, but they’re still trying to be racist toward us. Even with some of the nicest white kids I ever met, I was told that they were only trying to “hide” their racism. Learning that there were MANY more white people out there than us, it was tough for me to believe that all of them were racist. Remember, it was never explained to me that some were; hell, I don’t believe the word “some” was ever even used.
That doesn’t mean I never later encountered white people who didn’t like me because of my race. Of course I did. I later found out that there were a lot of people out there who saw black people on the news after getting in trouble in some way, and they grouped us all together. That was very hurtful. I was the furthest person from those people who committed the crimes, yet at times, I was treated as if I was them. Girls turned me down for dates and I later found out it was because I was black. It was terrible. I couldn’t stand it.
That’s when I realized something very important: EVERY INSTANCE IS AN ISOLATED INCIDENT.
I realized that if I wanted those white people who I believed had problems with me because of my race to not look at me like every other black person, especially those who were in the news all the time, then it was only fair that I not look at all white people in the same way, based on what I was told.
That may not make sense to a lot of people, but if it was possible for me to understand that not every black person commits crimes, then surely not every white person was racist and didn’t like me because of my race. If one was possible, certainly the other could be as well, right?
I managed to figure this out as a teenager. Didn’t seem like rocket science to me. From that point on, I looked at every instance of potential racism as isolated incidents. Did some people still group black people all together based on what they saw on the news? Of course they did.
But I knew that I needed to rise above that. Despite what certain people have implied to me, every white person out there does not do this.
Fast forward to today, 2015, and me as someone who will celebrate his 36th birthday in less than three months. Now I understand that most people don’t and will not think the way I do. I get that. But this simple concept that all white people are not racist seems to get lost on a lot of people.
People, mostly black folks, do a lot of assuming on how my life has been all because of the fact that I married a white woman. I’m not going to spend any more time trying to “prove” my life wasn’t the way they think; I don’t owe anyone that explanation. I was able to figure something out as a teenager that is a FACT, not opinion. It’s not my fault that others didn’t figure it out themselves, but I’m done explaining. There is no correlation between my wife being white and how my childhood was.
My wife and I got married in 1999. I was born 20 years before that. So my wife is somehow connected to those 20 years? She was born in Iowa and I’m from Baltimore. Yep, I can surely see the connection. Please.
Ah, I get it…because of the fact that I chose to marry a white woman, I obviously didn’t experience “enough” racism from whites growing up; otherwise, I wouldn’t have chosen to marry her.
That’s interesting. I didn’t realize there was a certain “level” of racism I needed to experience in order to be legit within the black community.
Whether anyone wants to believe it or not, I’ve experienced my fair share of racism from white people growing up and even still in some ways today. For those of you reading who don’t believe that, show me a picture of yourself in a black robe on a bench and your law degree. If you don’t have any of those things, nor any proof that I haven’t experienced as much racism from whites as you think I should have experienced, do me a favor; sit down and shut up. I don’t have to convince you of anything.
Ah, but then there’s this. Have I experienced racism from whites? Absolutely. What about from blacks? Yep…from them also.
I’m not going to post the definition of racism because any intelligent adult should be able to look the word up themselves. For a good portion of my life, I’ve been told that only white people could be racist, but according to the definition and MANY personal experiences, that is far from true. When my mother moved us from Baltimore City into the county, she was called everything in the book, and this was not from white people. The black people who didn’t have what it took to make better lives for themselves put my mother down and said that she was “trying to be like white people” and a bunch of other nonsense. The same thing happens to me whenever certain people see that I speak with intelligence and I don’t carry myself as the black community says I should. I’m called “Uncle Tom,” “House Nigger,” “sellout” and whatever else. The people who say these things aren’t even intelligent enough to understand what racism truly means and I did as a teenager. So basically, I was smarter back then than they are NOW. End of story.
Racism will continue to exist and be around for a LONG time. I’m never going to be able to convince people NOT to be this way. When idiot parents raise their children to believe that “whites don’t like blacks” or “all black people are criminals” not everyone is going to have the sense that I did as a teenager and realize that there are way too many people out there for something like those categories to apply to ALL of anyone.
On top of that, there are a lot of idiots out there, and this is in ALL races. I also learned that when a white person is a jackass to a black person, there are MANY instances where that person is the same type of jackass to other white people. So is he or she racist?
No. He or she is just an asshole. An equal opportunity asshole.
If I got bent out of shape over every potential case of racism, I would never accomplish anything. These days, a person could make pretty much anything be about race, but I don’t do business that way. When I’m mistreated in some way, first I see how this person is to other people. If they treat others the same way, as foul as it might be, me being black has very little to do with it. It’s alarming how many people can’t figure that out or don’t believe that’s possible. Now if the treatment is a little different, that’s when it becomes an issue.
Even if it was the case, I learned another phrase a long time ago and this phrase is, PICK YOUR BATTLES. This means that first I have to be intelligent enough to understand if it’s really a case of racism and if so, if it’s worth fighting.
Before you say, “EVERY case is worth fighting!” let me tell you why it isn’t. If you’re on a Facebook page and a racist person is spewing out racist comments every chance they get, what are you truly accomplishing by going back and forth with them? Nothing. Knowing that you’re likely not leaving your phone or computer, it won’t change that person’s perspective and quite frankly, most people wouldn’t do anything anyway even if they did have the chance. Besides, what would you do if you DID see that racist person in real life? Do something physically to harm them? And what does that accomplish? It will “shut them up,” right? Provided they don’t kick your ass (which is very possible, as every racist person out there is not going to be as easy to fight as you might think), there will be someone else later on who will say or do the same things as this person did. Are you going to hunt them down and fight them also? Good luck with that.
When people are racist toward me, at this point in my life, they’re not saying anything I haven’t already heard, and this is blacks and whites combined. You can only say so many things before stuff is being repeated. I’m not getting angry, turning green and ripping through my clothes every time this happens. I have too much going on and just about every time, it’s not going to change that person’s perspective. Certain people were raised to be these ways. The further removed the person is from me, the less I need to concern myself with it. I simply will not use the energy to fight every single time, especially during those instances where I’m smart enough to know that it won’t lead to anything besides a whole lot of talking.
Not to mention, I have much bigger priorities. Many of the people who are racist toward me are so far removed from anything significant in my life that it’s in my best interest to keep it moving or to just dismiss them. I don’t need anyone to agree with that. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I stopped at every turn just to “fight” with some racist clown; again, whites AND blacks included.
If a kid called you a “doo-doo head,” most adults would just ignore that. Not to say that racism is comparable to that, but the brain capacities of those who are racist aren’t much bigger than those of the children who would call you a “doo-doo head.” I’m not stooping to that level every time.
Many people may see this as me just “giving up” or “agreeing” with white people when they are racist toward us. If that’s what you got out of this, then I don’t know what else to tell you, because there is MUCH more than that in here. I don’t figure many will agree, but remember, I don’t need you to. For much of my life, many black people have disagreed with my choices and yet, I’m still making them. So that tells you the pull you have in the decisions I make. The manipulation to believe and feel the way you want? Been there and done that. Try it on someone else.
The bottom line is that I know racist people exist. They’re everywhere. But I refuse to allow someone’s ignorance to stop me from reaching my TRUE potential in life. If that sounds like I’m “ignoring” it, then so be it. I also can’t reach my true potential in life by spending all my time trying to get simple-minded people to understand where I’m coming from on topics like this. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.
At the end of the day, I’m where I am because I DO get it. The truth is, I “got it” a long time ago.