Thursday, December 01, 2005

I Don't Know How

December 1st: AngelBaby's 18-month birthday. My uncle's 75th birthday (good god, that can't be right). An ex-boyfriend's 41st birthday. Also Blog Against Racism Day, I've been told.

Problem is, I don't know how to blog against racism.

I grew up in a liberal college town, but on the poor side of town, where almost all of the black people lived. At my elementary school, half of my teachers were black, and more than half of the kids. The principal was black. We learned about MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks and Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali. I actually didn't know that black people were a minority until I got into junior high and had only two or three black kids in my class. (I went home and told my mother they were segregating us, causing much consternation and confusion, fortunately sorted out before she tried to contact the school or the newspapers.)

But despite living in a mixed neighborhood, I can't really say that I mixed. The black kids wouldn't play with the white kids. This is how I remember it, anyway. I had friends who lived in all-white neighborhoods who would sometimes talk about how awful racism was, etc., and I hardly understood what they were talking about. Where I lived, the black kids were in charge, and they didn't let the white kids in. I don't recall this being hurtful; it was just how it was. Some of the black kids were pretty tough and would threaten to beat white kids up after school, but they never actually did, to my knowledge. I was called "honky" a few times.

My best friend in junior high was Chinese, which seemed like another type of white to me. My first sort-of boyfriend was also Chinese, come to think of it. My mom had a black boyfriend for a while. I liked him better than some of her boyfriends, for what that's worth. My freshman year of college I had a black roommate. I hung out with her some, but again, it was hard to mix. At the dining hall, she always ate with the rest of the black students. I was allowed to be there too, but I definitely felt out of place. We drifted apart after freshman year.

Twenty years later, I work in a very racially mixed institution, with an unusual number of African-American doctors and students (as well as Asian and East Asian and Spanish-speaking and white). And my family is a little mixed now: my husband's stepdad is African-American, and my sister's son (who was adopted) is Korean/white. Our son attends a mixed daycare; his best friend is biracial. I live in a mixed neighborhood, though not a very mixed block -- you have to go two blocks over before the ethnic makeup starts to shift, along with the house prices. And somehow now I'm much more sensitive about racism than I used to be. Maybe it's because most of my patients are black and poor. Maybe it's because I was in the minority as a child. But it's come to the front of my consciousness in the past few years much more acutely than it ever did before, and it makes me very angry, and I don't know what to do about it. I remember the OJ case, and how glad I was about the verdict for the sake of the nation, but how angry most of the white people I knew were. My husband and I have talked about adopting an African-American child, but I worry. I know I'd notice every time she was slighted in some way. And our society is still so very divided -- would she be essentially forced apart from us eventually?

I have been encouraged by the words of good people. But I haven't a clue how to blog against racism.


wst... said...

i think you just did. you have addressed racism and shown that white people that are raised in integrated or mixed neighborhoods survive it and thrive. i am writing from the perspective of someone from the deep south although here in central louisiana blacks and whites get along together well. i attended an all white high school and we never talked about going out and harming blacks or anyone else it never occured to us. we knew that was wrong and we were taught right from wrong. anyway i appreciated your perspective i hope i made sense lol i am going blog to blog and really enjoyed your post.

Orange said...

Interesting perspective, Dr. M. I'm glad you wrote.

If we adopted at some point, it would probably be a kid from foster care. Hell, we've already got two races represented in the household; wouldn't be crazy to add a third one.

Mignon said...

A family up the road has two adopted African-American boys and the parents were having trouble providing the boys with African-American role models that weren't TV personalities (this is an extremely white community). So they started taking the boys to some practices of the local college basketball and football teams and sort of 'adopted' a couple of the African-American players as big brothers to their children. I think this works well both ways (for the family and the older college kids), but I've always debated with myself about immersing a minority in the majority and what it does to the minority's identity... does that make sense?

Margaret said...

I think you did a pretty good job blogging against racism...without even trying.