The Making of a Racist
Since I am starting out by telling you that I am a white, middle-aged male, you can assume that Paul is writing this. Lee could never be confused for a guy. More importantly, Lee is Hispanic, making her the minority group in the racism paradigm. I, on the other hand, am the proverbial ‘Man’ that has been keeping people of color down. If you are reading this and thinking that I am writing in jest, I am not. I know that I was trained to be a racist. As a youth, it was not a tiger whose toe was caught during a game of ‘Eeny Meeny Miny moe’. Long before the N-word lost its five extra letters, it sat innocently in this child’s game. Those same African-American toes where synonymous with Brazil nuts. To say that I have never said the n-word would be a lie and would assume that I have never had cocktail mix.
My indoctrination was subtle and natural. The Ku Klux Klan was absolutely bad and African-Americans or Mexicans where generally nice people. In California, where I grew up, a Cuban or a Haitian simply fell under one of these categories. This is one of the primary places where the ignorance laid. For the longest time, I thought that all people of color spoke with one voice, held one belief, and saw the world through one eye. This belief planted the first seeds of fear in my Caucasian soul. My intellect knows that there is white (and male) privilege but that fearful part in me still worries that if I acknowledge it then this single-minded machine that we call ‘minority’ will take it away. I can enumerate many of the ways that being white has helped me but cannot imagine my life without this aid. Even now, the topic brings a little pit to my stomach.
Somewhere along the line, I figured out that there is more than one kind of racism. I did not need to burn a cross to be a racist. Maybe it was my Hispanic wife with her skin the color of nonfat milk or my coffee colored daughter that gave me a little glimpse of insight. I realized that there is a difference between being a bigot and being racist. Bigots are easy to deal with. They are ignorant jokes that are effortlessly called out. Racists are more ingrained, more institutionalized. (Without getting off track, see Trump who seems to be able to be both a bigot and a racist.)
So that we are clear, I have no illusion that, with 600 or so words on a little relationship blog, I can make centuries of wrongs go away. I cannot wave me magic pen and make everyone see with unconditional eyes. I would never devalue the struggle of those that do not share my privilege. I am writing this for me; my step one in a metaphorical twelve step process. I acknowledge that I was bred to be a racist, that this reaches deep into my bones. So now I am committed to changing my little piece of the world. If I can waive my privilege by standing with those that do not have it then I will. I will teach my children the value of everyone without the need to devalue others in the process. Like everyone trying to transform, it is my time to give back. It is my time to mentor those that have hit rock bottom. That is what these words are trying to do. I write them to reach out to others that have been taught fear and see the need to change. I hope that enough of us read them.