My son in law is black. During a visit to my California house (he lives in Texas) I got my comeuppance. This is a story that led to me being quoted, “When you are white you don’t notice that the black is missing.” Here is what happened:
My son in law had never left his state, seldom had he even left his county and we are almost the same age. I am a traveler and have touched down or driven over almost every rock left unturned. In other words, to quote the amazing Johnny Cash, “I’ve been (almost) everywhere man.”
I have also lived in many places. If I counted right they number 27, plus about a year on the road in an RV. Through it all I have been white, I have never been brown, yellow, red or black. I have always been white.
The home I purchased was (and is) in California. In my area of California (unlike his area of Texas) I never heard the police having coffee and laughing about ni….s. I never went for a walk and had a man stroll alongside complaining about blackies. From this place of California safety I feared for my grandson’s life because he is also black (apparently white isn’t strong enough to change a racially designated color when you commingle and make babies) and was in Texas when Obama got elected. In his town, the white people blamed the blacks for the “rise of the Antichrist” something they firmly believed Obama to be. When the riots in Dallas led to injuries and the “Black Lives Matter” movement began to grow, I worried again. Watching the news I bit my nails and worried for my son-in-law and grandson. I worried for their lives. I asked them to come to California and stay with me. “There is no racism here,” I said.
Then I grew up. Turns out I am naive Canadian who relocated into the same town that held the Rodney King Trials. By not checking though, I never knew. Even when my black friend from Uganda stayed with me I never really noticed. Then one day we were out at the park and I saw it. He was the only black man. Apparently being white means not noticing the black is missing. I saw that, finally. But that is also all I saw.
Because I am not racist I assume you aren’t either.
But you might be, even if you live here. In fact, the racism runs deep. We are just more polite about it.
My son-in-law did visit. He was in awe of the beauty as he and my daughter drove cross country. He is a back yard mechanic and though he felt out of his element in my neighborhood he felt comfortable fixing my car. So that is what he did. He tinkered. Until …
My grandson said, “Some guy is out there yelling at dad.” And I said, while barreling toward the door, “Like Hell He is.” If you have ever wondered why people call me the Brain Broad you may have understood the Broad part that day.
This big old burly typical white-haired white man with a beer belly was yelling about how my son-in-law rolled (to avoid stalling) at the stop sign (in our area they call that the California Roll so it isn’t unique to black people). I simply put my finger in his face and said, “You will back off my property!!” as the word “Ni….” came out of his mouth. I spun on my flabbergasted (tall white and round neighbor) “Are you in on this?!!” He closed his gaping mouth and ran inside. I then continued to back the raving lunatic down the street. (He literally yelled while looking terrified of me and walking backward to avoid my finger.) Meanwhile with steady forward momentum and a strong pointing index finger I whisper yelled (much more intimidating) that he had no right to come anywhere near us with that kind of talk and attitude. I didn’t think about any of this, by the way. I just reacted and prevented and interceded. Because I should.
My son-in-law cried quietly on the couch. Gratitude can bring anyone to their knees. He cried because in his over 60 years no white person had ever stuck up for him like that.
And there you have it. The solution to the riots. If you see an act of racism and you are white remember your power. Step in the way and back it down the street. It is your duty to act. You have privilege and that is what it is meant to be used for.