Saturday, April 7, 2007

Just to be clear

I am not stating that there is no such thing as racists or racism or institutionalized racism.

What I am stating is that all white people are not, by definition, racist, and not all white people have gotten to where they are in life because of racism - in point of fact, probably most white people have not, for various reasons I've already discussed. Sorry, not everything in life is about race. But sometimes people have filters on that try to shoehorn everything into race.

I saw one example of this when I was in high school. I was in an almost empty classroom after school, working on something (science experiment or something, I forget exactly now) when I heard two male voices in the hall yelling back and forth at each other, saying some nasty things to each other - not nasty in explicit terms, but more in the personal terms of someone who knows you and knows how to aim the barbs where they hurt, yet still sound like you are joking. I heard this and commented out loud, somewhat absent mindedly that "they must be brothers." The other person in the room with me took instant offense, and accused me of making a racist statement. At first I looked at them like they were insane, because I did not even understand how what I said could be racist. Because I said what I said because, though I did not recognize the voices, the personal nature of their back-and-forth reminded me of the sort of teasing one gets from one's siblings. Then a few seconds later it hit me that they must have thought I meant "brother" used to mean "African-American male" - which did not even occur to me at first because it simply is not a word I EVER use that way - to me a brother is a sibling, period, though obviously I know of the other meaning, since it is long established. I just never (and still never) have ever used it that way.

Of course, despite this, I could not convince this other person of my meaning. Not that I tried particularly hard. I knew I said nothing racist, race wasn't even on my mind. I really did not care what the other person thought of me because I knew I was right and they were wrong - and given that only I know what is in my head, and that nobody is a mind-reader, there is really no way this other person could have been as sure of their own version of what I said. But they persisted anyway.

So now what is my point? I'm sure it is obvious by now. It is that one can see racism even where absolutely none exists if one is looking for it.

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