We Live in Two Very Different Worlds
We live in two very different worlds. In “my” world, I can relax and breathe comfortably most of the time. Walks in the dark generally aren’t scary. I’m not followed when I shop in a store. Driving our car is simple. I’m not worried about being stopped by the police, or if I am stopped, that my life will be in potential danger.
My father was a “victim”. He was 46 years old. His cancer shrunk the entry to his stomach so that less and less food could sustain him. He was afraid!
He tried to deny the walls closing in on him. My father struggled to keep working. He became too weak to carry his briefcase. Dad taught a class roughly 18 hours before he died in his sleep.
Many women and girls, and a lesser number of men and boys have survived rape and/or sexual assault.
Are they free of danger? Are they more likely to be victimized (again) than you or I?
Rape destroys a significant percentage of marriages within a short period of time. Rape causes survivors to defer or end college or trade school. Rape results in serious mental health issues that its survivors frequently face for the rest of their lives.
My life partner struggles with physical health issues far more frequently than I do. She also lives with her history of her abusive relationship while young.
She and many others live in a different world. It is different not (only) because they are sexual assault survivors and/or face daily physical pain. Being Queer identified and/or large bodied is important, but not most significant. It is very challenging to feel that they, as women, are too big. Their breasts and rear ends were too big they were young (as well as now), and always they should be losing weight.
Getting older isn’t easy.
These things matter a lot.
Being a Black person in white America is far, far more significant for (people such as) my life partner.
It “helps” that she is highly educated, lives in an upper-middle “safe neighborhood”, has excellent health insurance, and a great, though challenging job.
None of this takes away from the day-to-day life experience of being a Black Person.
I never heard “The Talk” growing up. We never gave “The Talk” to our (white) son.
Most white people probably do not know what I am talking about! Nearly all Black People do! My wife’s annual family reunions are a time to relax, and reminisce with each other. One year, the “elders” gathered their young people to give them “The Talk”.
On my Google search (of “The Talk”), the first five-six pages of listings are all about the television show of the same name. Finally I come to:
“Mommy, the darkest people get shooted and killed and sometimes the little bit lighter ones, too,” 4-year-old Quest McEwen mused a few months ago as his mother, Tessa McEwen, listened in shock. “So, that’s why I want to be good,” he continued. “Maybe I shouldn’t talk like this so I don’t get died.”
Quest wasn’t done fretting, however, when on a more recent morning, he worried aloud that he didn’t know “if Daddy’s dead,” because his father, Jelani McEwen, had come in late the night before following after-hours volunteer work in their Chicago neighborhood.
Like scores of black and brown families throughout the United States, the McEwens are struggling with the delicate-but-brutal balancing act of protecting their children’s innocence, while educating them about the realities of what it means to be black in this country.
For these parents and their children, “The Talk” has nothing to do with birds and bees. It is about surviving police encounters, being aware of your rights and learning how to live within a complex, systemic, centuries-old framework of race-based prejudice, violence and discrimination.
The killing of George Floyd shocked most Americans. For the first time, many white Americans understood a little more of what it means to be Black.
For Black People it shocked them in a different way. It reminded them of many, many killings, going back well before Trayvon Martin in 2012, Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, or Breonna Taylor, a little earlier in 2020.
Joe Biden’s recent election has significantly changed things in several important ways. We may no longer need to live with the xenophobia, brutality, and sadism of Donald Trump.
The election of Joe Biden has also taken the pressure off of White America. It no longer has to deal with racism in a deep, profound way.
Biden got the message. If he continued to defend busing, he ran the real risk of becoming a one-term senator. In 1975, Joe Biden stunned his Senate colleagues by throwing his support behind known segregationist Jesse Helm’s proposed antibusing amendment to the Constitution.
p.65 … In a later television interview, Biden told the Senate, “I have become convinced that if the US government didn’t come up with a different solution for school segregation than busing, “we are going to end up with the races at war.” Biden explained that the good white people he represented weren’t racist, but busing might make them so: “You take people who aren’t racist, people who are good citizens, who believe in equal education and opportunity, and you stunt their children’s intellectual growth by busing them to an inferior school and you’re going to fill them (p.66) with hatred.
MEDIOCRE: Then Dangerous Legacy of White Male America- Ijeoma Oluo – p. 65-66
After busing was dismantled nationally, the “other methods” of desegregating schools that Biden insisted were more effective than busing never materialized. Without federal mandate forcing integration, schools slowly segregated, and their funding followed. A 2019 report showed that nonwhite school districts received $23 billion less per year than their white counterparts. Even when controlling for income discrepancies, the funding was less, with poor white schools still receiving more funds than poor schools where the majority of the students were people of color.
Oluo – P.69
Joe Biden’s record on issues related to racism is decidedly mixed! His racist and sexist faux pax’s with later retractions are numerous. Biden tends to “go the way the wind blows”, rather than be a “trail blazer”.
Biden’s future policies and actions related to racism are going to be strongly influenced by the pressures he faces.
It is clear that actions related to words such as: “Defund the Police” and (to a lesser degree) “Black Lives Matter” are not likely to be positively focused, absent significant pressures from white people.
Clearly, “moderation”, rather than “radical action” is more likely to unify white Americans. Tokenism on racism issues is likely, absent major political pressure.
Black and LatinX People are used to politicians seeking their support at election time, only to disappear until the next election cycle.
Ending segregated housing and public schools are both critically important in ending American racism.
Richard Rothstein’s - The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America provides a detailed, damning portrait of long-term racist government regulations, laws, and actions.
Rothstein is very emphatic that simple “non-discrimination” solutions will not end racism. Rothstein stresses that what he prefers to call “remedies”, rather than “reparations”, are necessary to end racism. Ending racism includes stopping the generational passing on of huge differences in inherited assets, eliminating major lower lifetime earnings, as well as equalizing educational and residential opportunities.
The Supreme Court, with its common 5-4 and 6-3 divisions is not likely to open up to “remedies” in its upcoming decisions.
Cleary, Mitch McConnell – with either 50, 51, or 52 Republican senators, is not going to proactively deal with racism issues.
In the recent elections, Joe Biden received approximately: 46% of the male votes, and 43% of the white votes. Given that the Black male vote was about 90% for Biden, Trump’s white male support is huge, particularly among non-college educated men.
White people are not urgently pushing for us to deal with racism issues in a strong, positive way. Personal growth, rather than immediate activist actions, seems predominant in my local, activist white men’s group (see: www.OWMCL.org – for our national goals).
We, upper-middle class white people do not need to change and become active today in working to end racism. We do not face ongoing reminders of racism in our lives.
1. Scared that we will be pulled over by the police, while driving, and if pulled over, scared that we could be killed because of our race,
2. Afraid when our child may be in the “wrong place at the wrong time”, and as a result, could be killed anytime they leave their residence,
3. Facing Covid-19 illness and death in anywhere near the percentages that BIPOC are,
4. Living where a missed paycheck or two could result in us being homeless,
5. Facing mortality rates when giving birth for ourselves/our female partners or our newborn children at anywhere near the rates that Black women/newborn children face * - see below.
6. Needing to “translate” when talking with other (white) people, first putting them at ease, establishing that one is “like them” – before getting to the substance of what one wishes to discuss (as my partner frequently needs to do, particularly with white women),
7. Face situations commonly where one is seemingly “invisible” – see: https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2019/04/racism-jazz-fest.html - for example.
*Numerous studies show that
after controlling for education and socioeconomic status, African American
women remain at higher risk for maternal and infant mortality. Indeed, one
study showed that after controlling for income; gestational age; and maternal
age and health status, the odds of dying from pregnancy or delivery
complications were almost three times higher for African American women than
they were for non-Hispanic white women.21 Relatedly, another analysis, controlling for the same
factors, showed that college-educated African American women were almost three
times more likely to lose their infants than their similarly educated
non-Hispanic white peers.22
(Source: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/reports/2018/02/01/445576/exploring-african-americans-high-maternal-infant-death-rates/ )
In early 2020, I saw a newly posted Facebook picture. It was a 1968 rock band performance of fellow high school students. Comments were posted related to who was in the picture.
March 13, 2020 - Posted:
I was shocked! No one had commented about the large Confederate Flag. I showed it to my partner. The Flag jumped out immediately to her (also).
Now – 2020 - we white people are totally, totally unaware of our obvious reminder of (current) racism. We are totally insensitive to what we are saying to Black People! This is no different from the issues of Confederate monuments and other memorializing of slavery and segregation!
Rape won’t end until sexist violence is viewed as a “men’s problem, not a “women’s problem”.
Ending racism can’t occur solely from the hard work of Black and other BIPOC in the U.S. We need to educate our children, starting before they are old enough to speak. We need to confront the police and zoning boards in our communities. We need to (pro-)actively end the racist practices that are far too common today. We need to talk within our families, our houses of worship, our places of employment, and our schools, to bring about serious change.
I remain skeptical!
We need to deal with sexism, classism, homophobia and much more.
If we focus primarily upon sexism, Black (and other BIPOC) women will continue to doubly be hurt by both sexism and racism.
If we primarily focus on economic issues and classism (as Bernie Sanders often does), we will continue to have white men (and secondarily women) continuing to support racism and sexism, along with the classism/economic issues.
It is far too easy, to get upset at particular incidents and not to see that systemic racism is strongly prevalent within our own world(s). Where we primarily focus upon racism, we will also reach out and see the intersectionality with sexism, classism and homo/trans-phobia. Where we focus primarily upon racism, we will see how the environment and planet are destroying the lives of Black People, as well as ourselves.
We white people need to deal with our “whiteness”. We need to talk among ourselves about our racism and how we can end it. We need to listen to Black (and other BIPOC) People and learn from them. We need to learn how we can support their efforts to end racism. We need to build coalitions, working with BIPOC, but not leave primary responsibilities upon them, as we have done for four centuries oppressing and killing them.
We need to stop saying “but” through our inaction and our actions.
It isn’t easy, but it is very important!