Understanding

BreakfastThis one’s not gonna be all warm and fuzzy. It’s not even going to be middle-of-the-road, and is highly likely to not be diplomatic. I will work to keep my commentary – for that is what this is – coherent. It will be difficult; this is one of the most divisive subjects we face in this country. It does boil down to haves and have-nots, except the have-nots tend to have more melanin than the haves. If you wish to comment, you are welcome to do so. If you wish to provide your point of view, whether it agrees with mine or disagrees, you are fine to do so. If your comment is full of hate, full of anger, full of offensive language, it will be deleted. If you can’t play nice, then you need to leave the playground.

Let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Walk into a restaurant. One with a hostess. Let her know how many in your party. She seats you and your group, and you view your menu. Your server all but ignores you, until you actually flag him down. You finally get your drink order taken. Your glasses sit with nothing but ice in them before you can get your server’s attention. Finally he takes your meal order. Eventually your food comes out, cold, wrong. He does not treat any of his other tables, whose occupants happen to all be White, that way. You leave a poor tip. Your server complains to his co-workers about how it’s true Black people are poor tippers.

It’s spring break; college is out for a week. You’re not going to Cancun or the Bahamas or wherever like other classmates, you’re staying home. You meet up with other friends who are also staying home. You and your friends walk into a mall. The stores are a little more high-end, so you dress accordingly. One member of your group wants to get new shoes, so your group walks into a shoe store. Near the register, a cluster of sales people are standing or sitting around, talking. They see your group, they watched your group from the moment it walked in. There is no acknowledgement other than a mistrustful stare. Your friend starts picking up shoes she’s interested in, clearly and loudly showing her interest, giving the staff an opportunity to do their jobs. They do not.

You’re older, an office professional, wearing work clothes into the mall. You’d like to buy a few new dresses for work and for going out. You walk into a nice store that sells clothes in styles you like. You look around, wondering what you might try on. The salespeople are commissioned, and actively single out customers to encourage them to buy clothes. There are three sales people. Two of them are actively with customers. The third is idle, watching the door. She sees you, but writes you off as not a potential customer. She continues to watch the door, and approaches another customer who walked in after you. One of the other salespeople, a young one who hasn’t been there that long, approaches and helps you, just like she helped her previous customer. You return to that store a month later, after having spent a few hundred dollars, and the salesperson who first ignored you recognizes you and decides to help. You refuse her help and go to another salesperson who has not ignored you. She has decided you are an uppity n****r^, just like all the other ungrateful n****rs that come into her store.

These are not hypothetical situations; these have happened. I personally witnessed them, either as an observer, or an unwilling participant.

A professional sports team has various people singing the national anthem before games. Sometimes they’re famous public figures, sometimes they’re just local people. A little boy born in Texas, wearing the type of outfit you might see in a mariachi band comes out to sing, and the twitterverse explodes. Some tweet because he’s an adorable and talented little boy. Others because they decide he shouldn’t be allowed to sing our national anthem, calling it UnAmerican for this child, this American boy who’s father is a US Navy Veteran, to sing among Americans.

And in case you’re wondering, no, it wasn’t just the White folk jumping on that one. Everyone needs someone to hate, they say.

A month later, another professional sports team has someone singing “God Bless America.” This native-born New Yorker is mainstream, has had hit songs; his personal life was the object of scrutiny for a few years because of who he was married to. Two years prior, he actually sang the national anthem at Game 6 of the NBA finals, to rave reviews. Not this time. Once again, this Mexican is singing our song, destroying all this country stands for.

Just about every nation, every nationality, every culture, every religion is represented to some degree in this nation of immigrants. Both sides of my family have been here for centuries, some even before we were a country. Even if I were a naturalized citizen, though, how would that make me less American, and unworthy to praise the country I voluntarily became a part of?

Then there’s the Cheerios commercial featuring a family. A little girl is asking about the health benefits of Cheerios. Her mother tells her it’s good for the heart. She immediately runs off to help her father while he’s sleeping, by putting Cheerios on his chest where is heart is. The commercial is posted on YouTube, due to popular demand. Within hours, the video receives so many negative and outright racist comments, they have to disable the feature. The problem? A White woman and a Black man, married, with a child. A child who is obviously a combination of the two, or at least appears to be.

For some of these commenters, the marriage itself isn’t a problem; the problem is they dared to breed. No, that’s not just White people, either.

“You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

– Barack Hussein Obama

The president held a surprise press conference yesterday, in relation to the justice department’s look into the George Zimmerman case. He did not criticize the trial, the jury, the outcome. It went the way our justice system goes. What he did was try to explain the difference in perspective. The response? Oh, some of the things I saw friends linking to made me despair. I don’t mean disagreement, that’s fine. Well-reasoned arguments are always acceptable, whether I agree or not. Outright willful ignorance, that I have a problem with. Someone actually commented that Barack Obama couldn’t have had the same experiences, because he was raised by his White grandparents, and went to predominantly White schools, that he graduated from Harvard. How could he possibly know what he’s talking about?

I wasn’t aware that security guards and salespersons asked what school you went to before deciding whether to follow you or shun you. I had no idea that all I had to do was tell a server my mother was White, then my service would suddenly clear up. I didn’t know that you could tell the cops you were a well-regarded, world-renown college professor at a very prestigious Ivy-League school, and they wouldn’t arrest you for breaking into your own house, causing a ruckus for being arrested after showing your identification and proving you live there.

Oh, wait, that DOESN’T work.

The people who feel most threatened by this are those who want to maintain the status quo. Some just think things are working fine and you shouldn’t rock the boat. Those are the same people who millenia ago though it was a bad idea to use fire for heating and cooking. The more vocal ones realize that if everyone is finally treated equally, their lives of privilege will be over. And yes, having White skin is a privilege in this country, no matter your socio-economic status.

I am angry. It looked like things were going the right way. Then the current president was elected, and the fear and hate bubbled to the surface. Reviled by Blacks for being an ‘Uncle Tom,’ and by Whites for being, well, Black, some decided he was the most divisive president we’ve had. That’s just not true. His presence only shows the rot that has been eating away at the fragile peace we had in racial relations.

I know the world isn’t fair; it never will be. The playing field will never be level. There will always be haves and have nots, brilliant people stuck at the bottom because of their skin color, gender, religious preference, accent (that includes all the southern varieties). There will always be people who have no idea how lucky they are, who believe anyone can do what they did. There will always be people who have to be right, and people who will not listen to any other point of view. We’re all that person from time to time. Just recognize when you’re in denial, when the evidence clearly shows you are wrong, you have been misled. It’s not easy, no. The world will be the better for it, though.

_________________________________________________________

^ edited so this doesn’t trigger a nanny-meter about inflammatory language.

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