My clubbing buddy and I were talking a while back, and racism came up again. If you remember, she’s that symbolic senior who took a freshman under her wing. My clubbing buddy said this to me when I told her of my plan to move back here, at least for a while, “you’re crazy. Just remember this country is racist as hell.”
I knew, of course, and I appreciated her comment. I’ve been around racism all my life. While my father, who was no saint, always drove home the point that you don’t discriminate against someone because of cultural heritage or religion, (and he really was the least racist person I know), other relatives were rating nations by status very openly. I hated them even before I realized this, and I don’t claim them for a variety of reasons but still. I’m not a saint, I hate Germany and my mother’s birth place with a passion. As a matter of fact, I can go off on a lot of people, but I just realized that I never used color or heritage. There were a lot of epitaphs, b****, s***, w****, and some male equivalents though. But when we first moved to America, and I found out that most people there have different ethnicities like me, I started asking everyone, regardless of color, “what’s your ethnic makeup.” After being exposed to Germany, where everyone was Swabian for generations (even the ethnic Germans who’d just moved back to the land their ancestors had left 700 years ago were Swabian, though they sounded nothing like them) America was heaven on earth.
My clubbing buddy knew this, she knew I’d lived in America, she’d been there herself. And I’m not saying racism doesn’t or didn’t exist in America, because it does, it’s all around us, but Germany was even worse. And still that was nothing compared to my mother’s home country. It always surprises me how casual it is, how natural that white is always right attitude has always been. People use the N word so liberally, then act all surprised when you point out how hurtful it is, then become indignant and start in on how that expression “has always been around.” I might have found a new way of getting people to drop it. Instead of saying it’s hurtful to the minority, I tell them that that’s ok, but when I hear someone use the n-word (or other slurs), I just immediately see them as ill-educated and stupid.
I used to say that I don’t associate with racists, but then a friend of mine who’s Roma, pointed out to me that if she lived by that standard, she’d have precious few people to talk to.” And then I realized that there were a lot of people around me, some whom I love dearly (even in my mother’s country), who are pretty anti-Semitic and racist, who vote for the far right, who have populist tendencies, who are authoritarian, and who have helped those around them without asking for anything in return. And how do you deal with that? Because those people are kindhearted in many ways, except when it comes to those who look different, from them, from their norm. Bryce Dallas Howard said of her character in The Help that initially she couldn’t fathom how she’d play that kind of person, then decided her character thought her actions were best for the community, she was acting out of love for her town.
Again, I’m not condoning racism by any means. But perhaps knowing the core of their problem, something that goes beyond the casual, they feel threatened by someone of an “inferior” race. I’d still love to know why having a biracial president, who was in essence a Cross-cultural Kid (considering his father was from Kenya) and had experience living abroad among “our enemy, the Muslims,” was such a huge problem. I liked the President, I really did. And that was long before I found out he was one of us. I don’t have children, and I could still identify with Michelle Obama on what she said about her daughters having chores. And to me the Obamas were the perfect family, still are as a matter of fact.
We like to stick things and people in boxes, like to view things from opposite ends. And granted, it might keep us safe on the surface, but is it really all that? Shouldn’t there be at least a little bit of fluidity? I’m asking because I once managed with a good friend of mine back in Finland. He kept using the n-word, and when I schooled him on it, he at least dropped the n-bomb. Baby steps, I reminded myself. All in due time.