Racism and Grieving

I’m sure most of you have heard of this video or even actually seen it:
I’m not going to put the video up because it disturbs me on many levels. But if you would like to see it click away but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Living in the south I have experienced the whole gamut of racism. From overt to covert but I will tell you now, it is alive and well in the south.

I used to think I saw more of it because I am white. I have found that most racist people assume that because I am white then I must be OK with it. I remember getting in an argument with a person (someone else’s guest) at a party at MY house because I didn’t want him telling racists jokes. He said, “What’s your problem? No one standing here is black.” Yep, that was his gauge as to if it was all right to tell a racist joke, if everyone in the vicinity is white, then it must be OK.

Now I realize I see a different type of racism because I am white. I am privy to the overt. But, African Americans and other minorities are privy more often to the covert. To be honest, as I’ve spoken with other minorities and in the research I’ve done I think the covert is the more sinister and damaging of the two. To be harassed at the grocery store for trying to write a check when the white person’s check before yours was accepted with no problem, for your little girl to come home telling you a little boy would not give her a valentine because she was black, to worry day and night as your beautiful little baby boy grows older and looks more like a man what will happen one day when he runs into a cruel cop, being smiled at less, being given less positive reinforcement, having people assume the worst in you and judge you on those assumptions. The list goes on and on.

These are everyday, day in and day out cruelties that many people that have never had to deal with them don’t have the empathy to understand. To not understand that none of us have lived anyone else’s life and for us to assume we can judge another’s life choices and actions is preposterous. Something that happened to a child when they were 5 years old can directly correlate to decisions that same person makes when they are an adult. They won’t even know why. How the hell can someone else who has lived a completely different life assume that they can judge; or more astounding, that have a right to?

OK, I am ending my rant with a story. When I first started teaching I was passing by a teachers classroom and I overheard her doing what sooooo many of my white neighbors in the south do, trying to gloss over the horrible southern history of black oppression. She said to a class that was 90% African American, “What is one thing that came out of slavery that was good?” She of course was talking about the desertification and political unrest of Africa and how the descendents of slaves lived in America. The greatest country on earth!! I’m getting a little sarcastic now. I’ll rein it in. I had the same kids in my next class.

When they came to me. I told them this story. 

There once was a man who had a wife and kids. Money was tight but he was a good father and he loved his children. One day this father was beaten to death in a back alley. He left behind a two million dollar life insurance policy. His children had so many opportunities open to them now that they never had before. Opportunities they would have had to fight much harder for if their father were still around. But even so,. . . . you know what you don’t do? You don’t walk up to these children and say, “What’s the best thing that came out of your father being beaten to death?” You just don’t do it.  

Finally, I use the loss of the African Americans genealogy, heritage, ancestry to the loss of a father. Even though it is woefully inadequate to describe what was taken from them it does help to explain my next point. Until racism in all it’s forms (overt and covert) dies out (and it IS SLOOOOOWLY dying out), until southerners stop trying to justify racism, or make excuses for it, and the myriad of other things that are done to gloss over our history, African Americans will never be allowed to properly grieve over their loss. Until grieving take place, healing never will.    

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One response to “Racism and Grieving”

  1. Dennis Cardiff says :

    I was in a bar in North Carolina when the topic of racism came up. One man said, “We’re a lot better than they are in Mississippi.” My son is white, my daughter-in-law is African American. They moved from New York to San Diego to get away from racism. We have a beautiful three year old granddaughter. ~ Dennis

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