By now, most of you reading this have figured out that there is no particular rhythm to what I post. Sometimes I'll update you on the nuances of my life, other times I'll post something that is silly and fun, but most of the time, I use this as a personal journal to keep tabs on my own thoughts...how very egotistical of me. This entry (and maybe a couple of others in the future) fall into the last category.
I'm gonna write about racism...I've addressed this topic in a lot of my personal writing and poetry but I tend not to share my thoughts too extensively because I think I possess a sometimes harsh, almost militant opinion about the state of racism in this country. But then again, if you are reading this at all you know me well enough to know that I can be quite contentious, ballsy, and incorrigible when pushed. As my friend NG likes to say, "I've never seen Bo get anger but I already know I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that wrath." Damn, I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of my anger!
So, what sparked this sudden need to pontificate on the state of racism? Yesterday, around 3am, a 28 year old, actress/playwrite from Brooklyn was shot and killed in what apparently was an unsuccessful mugging. The incident occurred on Ludlow St. in the LES. According to newspaper reports, two young men approached the victim and her fiance shortly after they left the bar Max Fish and asked for their money. When the fiance refused and pushed his way through the two young men, he was pistlewhipped by one of them. The young woman, NOT a native New Yorker, rather then turning over her money and running away (isn't that what you would have done if someone pistlewhipped your fiance and asked for your money?) proceeded to taunt the two assailants and said "What are you going to do, shoot us next?" (This was her fiance's account of the events.) One of the assailants then proceeded to shoot the woman. The bullet entered her body about two inches from her heart. She died soon after.
Now, you're probably wonder how this heinous act of violence could get me so riled up about the state of racism in this country. Well, if you notice, I never once stated the race of either the woman, her fiance, or the two assailants but I bet in the minds of many of you the woman and her fiance were white and the assailants were black. You'd actually be correct. That was the racial composition of the individuals involved. The thing about all of this that is upsetting to me (other than the loss of life) is that this news item was splashed all over last nights 11 o'clock news and again on the front page of nearly every newspaper this morning. It even got its own newsline on the front page of the NY Times website. I understand that violent crime is down in the city and that incidences like this aren't normal occurrences on the LES (well, at least during the past 5 - 7 years) but my hypothesis is that if the victim was not an attractive, white, upper-middle class woman who died in the arms of her white, good-looking, upper-middle class fiances it would have never made the 11 o'clock news, let along the front page of nearly ever newspaper. Dozens of people, most black and Hispanic, died over the past couple of days. Some were violent individuals whose days were numbered but many were innocent bystanders. Why aren't their stories on the front page of the Daily News? Several homeless people died over the past several days, frozen to death by the arctic temperatures we have been experiencing here in the city. There stories, at least to me, are far more tragic then this one woman's. Those homeless men lived lives of complete destitution and their lives ended in the worst possible way - cold, hungry, and alone. If anything, up until the moment that the poor woman died, her life was relatively happy and healthy. She was loved by a good man, they had a happy home, her career was moderately successful, and her childhood in Key West, FL seemed tranquil.
Racism is so pervasive in this country and so much of it is invisible. To some extent, I think the state of racism in this country was much healthier back when people openly walked around in white sheets. At least you knew where everyone stood and you knew what you were fighting. Racism still exists in today's society but has become so uncool and unPC few people will admit to their bias. Actually, I think a lot of people are probably unaware of their subconscious racism and bias. And that is the scary element of modern day racism. Few people consciously acknowledge their racism and yet they continue to unconsciously act on it. When you call them out as a racist they will vehemently deny their bias and refuse to change. Their unconscious racism festers and they continue to discriminate and treat people poorly without acknowledging their nastiness.
We're all just a little bit racist. Hell, I'll be the first to admit that I'm a racist. But at least I admit it and I try to intellectually not act on my biases. I may unconsciously act on my racism, but I try to be uber-vigilant when I'm in a situation where this may occur and I try to stop myself if I do find myself doing something discriminatory.
Here's a little case study (yeah, can you tell I'm a consultant and I went to business school!):
I'm basically the rainbow coalition when it comes to dating. No one is off limits (and no jokes about how I don't date Asian men! That's another case study on racism). However, I know for a fact that I am highly suspect of white men (hey, I went to business school. cut me some slack.) I know I go on hyper-racism watch dog mood whenever I date one. I'm looking for anything that might hint at even a whiff of unconscious racism. I'm not this way when I date black, Hispanic, or Jewish men. Only when I date your typical WASP (or there about). I know it affects how I behave and that I shouldn't be this way, but sometimes I can't help it. At least I'm aware of this bias and I try to change and I try not to hurt anyone in the process. That's the best I can hope for.
As someone who has spent the last 8 years (oh! I'm getting old) working in the field of change management I have learned one important thing...When trying to initiate change the first step requires making the invisible visible. Take all the invisible barriers for change and make them visible. How many people in popular media today is asking themself whether the coverage of the young woman's murder was racially biased? I doubt many are. What kind of sussurus (!!!!) does this news coverage plant in the minds of our communities? That the death of a white woman is more important than the death of 12 black men? One can never know for sure. The next time you meet a person of color and they have a chip on their shoulder, think back to all the small papercuts that may have created that sustained level of hurt and anger.
Or maybe I'm just crazy?