Heed them.

May 17, 2012

Black People, A Memorandum.

 Pictured Above: Ramarley Graham

I've been fascinated by Black People since I was a child. Since I first saw one. My initial vague impression was that they were strong. Perhaps because they're over-represented in most popular american sports. Perhaps because of some more mysterious in-born bias. I often wonder what black kids think about white people without knowing anything about them or history. According to this preview of the documentary 'dark girls,' and some studies, it's more or less that black children think white people are 'pretty' and 'smart.' I'm flattered.

Youth and innocence is lost quickly and spectacularly. As soon as I learned about american chattel slavery I had a knee-jerk reaction. I thought 'I didn't put anybody into slavery. My family is poor. My ancestors arrived after slavery.' I felt defensive about it immediately. Some people never outgrow this and turn it into some collaboration of bad ideas called 'conservatism.' Conservatism's modern position on race, as espoused by both Radio-godfather Rush Limbaugh as well as many politicians, is that they advocate a 'colorblind society.'

Fortunately, I did outgrow that knee-jerk response and my position became more nuanced. When my family moved from a trailer-park in Jessup, Maryland to a larger house, we had the opportunity to move into a mostly-black part of Baltimore city. I wanted to move there(when I was 9), but my father refused, saying he didn't want me or my brother to be bullied for being white. At the time I thought that was possible, but improbable. We moved instead to Towson, a highly but not entirely white suburb of Baltimore with the 'best' public schools in the United States.

My interactions with black people were mixed as could be expected. I made 2 black friends in my youth. One moved away, and one never wanted to spend time with me outside of school, I suspected because he didn't want to introduce me to his other black friends. When I was 14, 3 black kids attempted to steal my and 2 of my white friends bikes- directly from us. The kid who approached me was a lot bigger than me. I froze, and I was the only one who actually had my bike stolen, while the others fled. Many of my white friends said that they 'wouldn't blame [me] for being racist.' After all, it was typical racist rhetoric/reality of the "Nigga stole mah bike!" variety. But I didn't become a racist. I read about crime, black people, robbery, and got a new bike and was more careful in the future.

During high school I was in the 'academic' or lowest-level classes because I hated school. These classes contained most of the black people in the school. I tended to think most of them were funny. In gym class, some black students referred to me(and anyone else, white or black) as "that nigga ____." I never decided how that made me feel, but I noticed how it seemed to equalize every one. That's the appeal of the word, I'm sure, it's dual dehumanizing/equalizing power.

After high school I worked delivering pizzas in my own neighborhood, which was half rich and white and half poor and black. My coworkers were mostly black. This experience, more than any other, informed my opinion of black people. For one, I wasn't afraid, even though sometimes white people told me I ought to be. About half of black households didn't tip me at all. The other half tipped about as well as white households. Young Black people sometimes tipped extraordinarily well and were amused to see me in their 'bad' neighborhood. One Young Black guy ordered lunch from us every day and signed 50-100% tips on what all the delivery drivers assumed to be a stolen credit card. When our white manager brought up the idea of turning him in, many drivers said they would quit if she did- and she didn't. My black coworkers showed no ill-will towards me and we got along fine.

One time I delivered to a rowhouse in the middle of the day in the Black neighborhood. As I left the house, A black child approached me(maybe 10 or 11 years old), his friends were standing way further back from him. He said "Yo, lemme hold 10 dollars." I told him No, and kept walking. I was shocked as I walked away, and he somehow he managed to reach up and punch me in the side of the face. I looked over and saw him running away. I did nothing. It didn't even leave a (physical) mark. I wondered about that kids future most of all. Off to a great start.

On 2 occasions young black men swarmed my car as I drove into an Apartment complex at night. They were shouting stuff and I was too freaked out to notice what. On both occasions I managed to maneuver and get away(on one occasion revving up and acting like I was going to run one of them over.) Both times I thought I was 'set-up' or the order was fake, but it wasn't. Just attempted crimes of opportunity, I guess. I successfully delivered both orders without incident 10-20 minutes later. It was my job after all.

One time I delivered pizza to a home at night while no cars were driving by. Across the street I saw 2 young black men looking at me as I approached the house. I made the transaction, and thought about asking the homeowner to watch me all the way back to my car, but I didn't. I hoped for the best, and as I went back to my car I was approached by the 2 men. One said "Don't move." I didn't. The other one had a knife in his hand, and reached into my right pocket and removed some(not all) of the money in my pocket. The other one slapped me and they ran away. I went to sit in my car. I thought about not even calling the police(I don't like the police) and taking the $20 loss or whatever it was, but instead I called the police. They ended up taking me to the station and having me write out a detailed account of what happened. The response was pretty fast. They never caught the guys. My black coworkers joked around about "getting" the guys and talked about times some of them had been robbed, on-duty or otherwise. I kept the job for 2 more days and then got another one in a better neighborhood.

When I was living in North Carolina, 2 years later, I made friends with black and white people pretty equally. The south is funny like that. It was there I first heard the terminology 'dirty' or 'clean' to describe whether a particular black person was 'one of the good ones.' Despite this, one of my friends was one of the 'dirty' ones, complete with a juvenile rap-sheet for robbery. We were friends for about a year. We made music together. I helped him record a lot of music. Then, after he stole something from my roommate, we told him he wasn't welcome back into our home. Later, our house was burgled, obviously by him. Me and my roommate pooled resources and I left North Carolina.

Since then, I haven't had any confrontational experiences with black men. I live alone and work with all whites and latinos(coincidentally.) To this day I've never been the victim of crime at the hands of a not-black person. Since those encounters I've mentioned here, I've begun to consider myself something of a lazy activist. I've had a particular interest in hearing what black activists are interested in and care about. I agree with almost all of them. They have the same qualms with the United States, the police, and society that I do but from their own perspective. Why can't we be friends? Ya'know?

We're facebook friends at least. Violent crime, and property crime, is down all across the nation(to extremely varying degrees, if you don't count police misconduct, and I do.) I've been following the Trayvon Martin case with compassion and skepticism. With all the new information coming out, and Florida's existing laws, it doesn't seem to make the best 'pet case' for the injustice faced by black males in this country. The Extraordinary incarceration rate, NYPDs 'stop-n-frisk' madness, and the case of Ramarley Graham make better ones. But I suppose you have to fight for justice wherever people are paying attention at the moment.

All of my experiences are true, and informative to me, but anecdotal. The only thing close to a 'conclusion' I can draw is that White people and Black people(and all people) are indeed, different. That doesn't mean, of course, that you should treat them differently. In particular it doesn't mean that society should treat them differently(and it does.)

What got me thinking about all of this is that yesterday Republican Maryland Delegate Patrick L. McDonough warned of "roving mobs of black youth" at Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and urged Governor Martin O'Malley to institute some kind of police-lock-down until "order" could be restored. I had to laugh. I'm sure his rhetoric and announcement were informed by the St. Patrick's day beating, robbing and stripping of a white tourist perpetrated my blacks, who have since been arrested.

 There's this idea that some black activists have espoused that black people can't be racist. I'm not so sure about that- but you always have to consider the individual. The motive of the St. Patrick's Day incident seems to have been 1. To act as crazy and stupid as possible and 2. to post a video on "World Star Hip Hop.Com." These perpetrators are the scum of the earth. Black or white- but they're certainly black. I have a problem with what delegate McDonough said because it's silly and irrelevant at this point in time. Not because he mentioned black youths. I'm more upset, like usual, by the emasculated play-book response by the liberal media(yeah, the liberal media. maybe I am a hick.) Who claim that simply because he mentioned blackness- he's a vicious racist and bigot. I mean, from context clues, he is a racist and bigot, but not because of what he said.

If your mirror conservative-liberal Obama-flavored 'post-racial'(Read: 'color-blind') attempt at utopian society is one in which every mention of race is 'racist,' then I'm not interested in participating. Race ought to be talked about. It's a thing. And it's not going to be solved after one 'national dialogue about race' that people tend to propose whenever there's racial tension. It's an ongoing process. We ought to be interested primarily in societal institutional racism. Policing people's words and thoughts will get us all precisely fucking nowhere. The only thing I hate more than racism is the allegedly 'anti-racist' response in all it's stark cowardice, ignorance, and lack of insight.

No comments:

Post a Comment