The reality of race

I read in the paper this morning that crime is rising in DC with the heat-wave with 14 homicides in 2 weeks. I wondered how Baltimore's crime wave was doing, as 8 homicides in a week is not too unusual. Things have seemed quiet despite the heat.

I was coming back from working on a report at an all-night dinner. Sometimes I just need a new venue to get work done. I was sober, but tired. I always worry about hitting someone. Despite being one of those annoying pedestrians myself, who always walks out into streets with oncoming traffic, I still as a motorist get nervous. I was driving along a road that is a major thorough-fare in town and there were several groups of young men along the road. I was more worried that I might hit them...untill I saw one making to through something at my car. I though maybe it will be an egg, I can wash that off. But it was a rock or a brick. It hit my car. Thankfully, it didn't hit the window. But there is a nice dent and some serious scratches...I thought do I call the cops? Well, I don't think little punk-asses should be doing shit like that, though its better than other deviant activities...so I called the cops. Its only the second time I have had to do that (for a non-work related incidence). I guess I should feel good that I have had so little crime in my life...but you call, you give the location, the cop automatically thinks it s a place about five blocks from where it was cause that would be normal. Then he asks me to describe the persons..."where they black or white kids" Part of me hates to contribute to the amount of black men getting harrassed by the law, but damn it don't be throwing shit. But my white guilt rears up and says what might happen now? What if the cops do go and harrass them and they stop for tonight and eventually move on to more dangerous things. But the rest of me says, "Well, if that had gone through one of my windows, it could have caused an accident or injured a passenger if I had had one."

I am not the typical white mid-west kid. I have seen rascism from all sides. In college I sat with my "other minority" friends while African-American kids said we don't want them piggy-backing on us, there needs to be special attention given to the African-American students on this racist campus. I was deemed a "good enough" white person to get the blessing of my friends to educate others on race. A blessing I don't take lightly. My cousin has spent six years in jail, there are conflicting family stories about whether he was really involved in drugs or whether it was planted on him, because it isn't easy to be a young black man in our society. Either way he is another young black man who now has to go through society with a felony, which is always concentrated on more than how hard he is working to support his children and enrich all of their lives.

Or there are the forms of racism I have seen from the "white guilt liberals" to the "righteiously bigotted." My first year in college I was finally able to put my finger on what distinguises Northern racism from Southern rascism. In the north we hid behind smiles and fake nicetities and in the south they are real proud of it and don't hide it. So you know where you stand in the south, not in the north.

I wrote this to a friend several months ago, but somehow it seems important to include tonight:

What is funny though, is I was able to come home early today and take a walk. It is beautiful and spring flowers are everywhere. I was listening to an italian tape...and there was this group of middle school boys walking home from school, they assumed I couldn' hear them, so they were saying things like (and they were all black) "hey whitey" "whitey" "hey, white girl you ain't got no ass" I thought for a second about flipping them off, or asking them if their mama's would approve or that it didn't matter that I have no ass cause there is a beautiful Kenyan man who has the hots for me. But I just kept walking with my head held high. Now some white people would have been scared of a group of black boys, I wasn't. I was just sad. That they felt the need to see if they could get away with saying things like that to me. That they had to uphold racism...that they have internalized because of white people like me (college educated, middle class whites).

The same racism, the more insidious forms that are so lodged in our collective memories and deepest self-concious are the worst. The young men tonight were acting out for the same reasons. It may have just been fun and to see if they could get away with it. Or it could be like the kids I used to work with, what else did they have to do. The are smart and ignored and kids like that should not be left at loose ends, because they get themselves into trouble.

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