Nice little twist on racism from Debra Dickerson:
- I’m the only person I know who routinely admits to being a racist. When I redeemed my Mother’s Day spa package, I was assigned a lovely young black woman as my aesthetician. As we chatted, I found myself searching for words. Eventually, I realized I was trying to find a way to ask about her credentials. In 20 years of spa trips, I have never had a black aesthetician, and I have never thought, let alone asked, about one’s competence, even when they disappoint me. It appears that I, too, think black people are stupid, uninformed, and graceless. Criminal, too—day before yesterday, after finalizing the details of working in a public housing complex, I dreamt that night of herds of rapacious, animalistic blacks robbing, assaulting, and generally terrorizing me there. (Birth of a Nation was more subtle.) So, counting yesterday’s incident, which I will recount shortly, that makes twice just this week that I was a racist.
….One reason for bigotry’s maddening intractability is that a determination—however knee-jerk, superficial, or unthinkingly made—that something or someone is racist ends the discussion, as happened with my friend. The verdict is “guilty” and the only punishment is forfeiture of the right to consider yourself a decent human being. Better to be a necrophiliac than an admitted bigot. Yet if we are to evolve on the issue of race, the notion that you, or someone else, is racist ought to function as the beginning of the attainment of full humanity, not the proof that you’ve relinquished it. Realizing with each incident that I was operating from a no-longer-quite-subconscious script about race allowed me to recognize, and then confront, the hateful notions I have internalized about blacks. Worse, it allowed me to see that having experienced racism had helped turn me into one: It turns out that I have a problem with whites, too.
Yesterday, I watched a white man park his truck in my driveway and walk off down the road without even a glance to see if the owners were about so he could ask permission. The sense of entitlement and ownership he exuded pushed every race-, gender- and class-based button a black girl from the inner city has to push. Guys like that have been pushing the world (read: me) around forever.
….Everybody loses when societal goods are distributed on the basis of race, even those in the front of the bus. Bigotry is just plain stupid, but as long as the price of examining one’s prejudices is expulsion from the human race, we’re never going to be able to quash it.
When I realized that I had internalized the world’s loathing of blacks, my first response was, counterintuitively, relief. Finally, I have proof that blacks’ obsession with racism isn’t crazy. If I secretly think that many poor blacks are animalistic and stupid, you’ll never make me believe that lots of other people don’t, too. My lasting response has been chagrined amusement to realize that I hold such ridiculous, illogical notions. Most of all, acknowledging my own racism has given me a measure of compassion for how difficult it is to retain one’s humanity in such a politicized and inhumane world. I’m black and I make my living thinking about race, but I still wasn’t immune to the insidious bigotry in our world. How much harder it must be for those with far less time to contemplate and come to terms with these vexing social issues.
It’s not bigotry per se that hamstrings us in the struggle to achieve a just society. It’s our inability to talk about and think our way through our preconceptions. We have to learn how to forgive each other, and more importantly ourselves, when we’re stupid. [Slate]
Nixon visits China, Clinton reforms welfare, Dickerson wants to actually talk about racism witout using it as a bludgeon. Interesting idea.
Now poor people on the other hand …