Friday, January 28, 2005

On Racism, Part 1

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?

7 comments:

klo said...

I agree with you in most parts as the worst kind of racism is the sublime, almost invisible kind which takes over your senses before you are even aware of it. What allows me to state this so assertively? Well, as a Gibraltarian, I have experienced prejudice for wanting to be recognised for my nationality and ethinicity. As a woman in a male dominated society, I have felt the need to continously assert my femininity just to be able to get what I want as opposed to being accepted for what I am. Last but not least, for having a hispanic surname which by hearing it people automatically assume you are poor, dirty and in need of pity or they need to speak English, let alone be able to write it! I used to rage a lot. I still do if you catch me off guard. However, I learnt that the only way you can overcome this awful sentiment is to prove those racist idiots wrong. Every one has their own method. It doesn't really matter how you do it as long as the end-game results in less ignorance, more education and a little more humility. Ten years ago my sister, a highly qualified doctor and consultant, had patients refusing to be treated by her. Now, these same patients pay her loads of money to do so. Irony. Sweet irony. Now if that isn't overturning racism, what is? LOL

Bo said...

Ah sexism...I haven't even touched that porcelain egg yet. Women of Color...we so rock!

cackmandu said...

Bo i must say that I did enjoy this posting. I am new to Blogville and haven't been happy with what I have seen. I guess I see a lot of people with agendas and lame stuff to say. I happened across your blog the other day when you first posted, "On Racism, Part 1".

I had thought long and hard about what you had written. I was meaning to comment as soon as I was home. Life happens and I found myself busy. So, I have a chance to drop you a line. If you ever visit my blog you'll see that I am opposite in what we write about. I beg forgivness now for my ramblings...I tend to just wander sometimes.

First off I will tell a bit about myself. I am a 27 year old white male living in Maryland. I am in the Navy and not sure I am liking it. I am originally from Minnesota.

Since I have read your post it seems like all of these racial themes have popped up in my face. I would like to share some of them and comment on a few things. I have read for the past 2 days on Yahoo news that they have arrested 3 people now in connection to this murder. Which is great if you ask me. You had asked, "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?" What you say is true. But do you honestly think it wouldn't be a big deal if this had happened to a black woman in the same situation? I find that hard to believe. I think you are onto something there with the "bad" people that were killed. Thats not news! Thats Darwins theory at work. People don't wanna hear about the bottom wrung of society being killed. Who cares? People like you and I am sure lots more. I think the TV and newspapers pander to the middle class and above be it white or black.

I do think that being a racist isn't "in" anymore. It would be better if people did let you know what they thought instead of a person wondering of so and so is racist. I'm not convinced that it's as bad as you make it out to be. Maybe I am dillusional because I am in the military. I have to be honest when I say growing up I had 1 black guy in my high school. So joining the Navy was insane for me. I was surrounded by blacks, hispanics, filipino you name it I was with them. It was a culture shock but you get over any hang up you have because you work with this person(s) everyday. When on a boat all you have is each other. (insert navy gay joke here) So there is little time to get hung up on skin color. I have met a lot of great black people and a lot of lousy ones as well. I can say the same for whites.

I could never judge a man/woman by the skin of their color. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Now can I say bad racially rude things if I have met them and don't like them. Sure I could. Would I? Who knows?

I have a black male and Puerto Rican female with a child living above me. Their first day mmoving in me and my wife had to call the police on them. They guys dad was bombed out of his mind and was threating to kick his daughter-in-laws ass. Wonderful! So then this big man (Hubby) just leaves his wife and daughter. Thank God for the police showing up and making him give his wife $40 for the next 5 days he was gone. Oh yeah, and half of thier belongings were still outside or up on the landing upstairs. Great guy! Me and my wife feeling bad for the wife offered to help move the rest of the stuff inside. Not a problem! Except that there were 2 big couches as well. Long story short my wife invited this woman and child into out house without knowing a thing about them. All of their gear was moved inside within an hour. She was very gracious and thanked us. Since then she has been a witch. Her husband has yet to say thanks for being more of a man than I am and taking care of my family when I abandoned them. They are loud and NEVER take their cute daughter outside. I even had a flat tire and the husband walked right by not offering as much as a "hello".

Am I supposed to this guy has had these "paper cuts" and move on? That's why he is hiorrible This guy is in no way a benifeit to the community and more importantaly his own family.

I am half Polish. Should I walk around with a chip (paper cut) on my shoulder towards Germans/Austrians? My grandparents were in the concentration camps. You know the ones that they would tell you to go shower and you would never come out again? They would starve them, put them into slavery and help out the war cause. Luckily they were part of the liberation to free them and millions of others.

I do see the and acknowledge the leaps and bounds of the black race. It's a very gross and distinct part of this country's history.

I think you should applaud the black kid that wants to be a playwright, a skateboarder, an attorney, a journalist, a cello player. And help persuade the kid that wants to be a rapper, pimp, gangster or athlete. Everybody has something to contribute to society and its up to that person to do it.

Please no more excuses about these paper cuts and why white people get treated the way they do sometimes when interacting with a person of color. There are a lot of other people and races that have gone through horrible degrating times in the history of the world. Blacks aren't the only ones that had something happen to them. Do research on the Indians. They were shafted big time.

Here is some suggested reading for you and anybody else that comes across this stuff.

-You must go and buy this book (at least go to the library) 'BY THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN THE ILLUSION OF INTEGRATION AND THE REALITY OF RACE' BY: LEONARD STIENHORN AND BARBARA DIGGS-BROWN.

-http://www.free-times.com/archive/coverstorarch/middleclass.html
a bit about the book

-http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050201/ap_on_re_us/fatal_robbery

-http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20050202/ap_on_re_us/fatal_robbery

http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues05/feb05/indelible.html

Just some things to read and look over. Yes, I do own the book I suggested to. YOu may want to read it as well. Will help you see and think about things.

Smoov said...

You do know that Jewish is not a race, right?

cackmandu said...

Ahh how true the Jews aren't a race but an ethnic/religious group. I warned of my ramblings and loss of thought. Please forgive me.

EYEBOYZ said...

This is cackmandu I am posting under my work blog. I have kept my co-worker up to date on what I am seeing and reading in Bloggville. He just asked why the Scott Peterson trial was so high profile? I'm sure that hundreds of couples kill their spouses daily. You never hear about that. Is this because Lacy was white? They weren't super rich and were by most accounts "every day" people. What are your thoughts on this Bo?

Smoov said...

For clarity:

Cackmandu, you didn't refer to Jewish as a race, Bo did in her original entry. My comment was to her. You bit about hating Germans/Austrians was on target with racism.

And I have often wondered why the Peterson trial is so big in the media and my theory is because she was an attractive white woman and he a white man.