Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hint Hint, Yourself

On This Week, Sunday, May 4, 2014, Kareem Abdul-Jabar was one of the guests discussing the Donald Sterling issue.  In the May 19, 2014, Time Magazine, much of what he said is repeated in "How To Tell If You Are A Racist."  A man whose claim to fame is that he is so tall, with such long arms, he can practically stand flat footed and dump a little round ball through a hoop, gets on the round table and in a major newsmagazine where he has the opportunity to set race relations back about a hundred years.

I had earlier posted my opinion about the issue in my blog,  I will not simply regurgitate that article here.  I will try a new way to say what I've been trying to get across for over a decade.

You see, as a seventy-five year old, I've seen a lot of happenings that a young person would not have experienced.  I dealt with some of these issues in my novel, Changes, which was published in 2004.  The basic thesis is that political movements embarked upon for a good cause can sometimes have unappealing side effects.  They do not negate the importance of the movement, they just leave some complications in their wakes.

For just a moment, let me use an example that has nothing to do with race so you can get the gist of my point.  Before the women's liberation movement, men in service positions had treated women with some remnant of respect, more so than their own husbands.  They opened doors for us, they called us "mam", they let us have their seat on buses, etc.  After the women's movement there was an angry, belligerent undercurrent -- a why don't you stay home in the kitchen, you don't belong here getting your car repaired kind of attitude.  In fact, if I called to get price quotes for repairs, when my husband took the car in, he got the repairs at a significantly lower rate.  You follow me?

Now to the part that deals with racism.  Interactions that I had with black people were far more natural and just plain fun before the Civil Rights movement than afterward.  While Martin Luther King and the Kennedys were marching in the south, getting blacks the right to sit at the front of the bus and eat in "white" restaurants, some were deciding that people in the north were even more racist than those that wouldn't eat with you -- in fact, preferred to lynch you.  Say what?  Some of those people from the north were down there marching with you, trying to get your rights changed.

I think you know that people in some walks of life are more at ease with each other than people in others.  There seems to be a lot of good interracial interaction in the sports world, Hollywood and among upper level media.  Much of my world has been in Education as a university student, a faculty wife, a school psychologist, and a day care teacher.  That world is very similar to the three previous ones.  But there is another level of interaction that is not this good, and I can almost hear you saying, "what's good about it?"  Although there is no doubt that there is racism at all levels, it is worse where there is less thought and less ability to cope with somebody different from oneself.

I agree with those who say that racism is still alive and well and growing strong.  I just disagree with who is the most racist now and how it is exhibited.  Blacks always tell us we don't have a say because we don't know what it's like to be black.  Neither do blacks know what it's like to be white, or honkeys as some of you still call us.  We do have some experience now about what it's like to be passed over by black supervisors who hire their own kind.  We know what it's like to deal with hate and rage.  We have been threatened with plenty of violence.  Our children have been beaten up in school halls and bathrooms.  Groups of black teenagers thrive on encircling us and taunting.  And if you ever should read this, my guess is you will instantly think it's what we deserve for what happened to your race, even if we didn't ever do anything to you.  Hint, hint!!! 

We know what it's like to be on the receiving end of that smart-assed umhumm even when we are in the most innocuous of conversations.  We have experienced the young teen graduate who spends his first paycheck on a Mohawk and decides he's going to date the white colleague who is a mother of three, all older than he.  When she declines, he lashes out in "black" rage, never even understanding there might be too big an age gap.  Plus, he is so full of himself he can't imagine her preferences might run more to Sidney Portier than Mr. T.  We are told by black males that we don't know what we are missing and we are subjected to black women telling white men that if they ever go black they will never go back.  And yet the next time someone makes a statement that can be taken two or more ways, upper level blacks scream racism and the blacks on Main Street get madder and lash out more.

I've tried several ways over the last couple of years to suggest that people think things through before screaming racism.  There may always be an alternative reason why people do and say things.  It's extremely frustrating to never be able to get through the racial dome of paranoia that surrounds blacks, as well as others from minority groups.

But there is some comfort for minorities to view all complicated interactions from an "it's racism" point of view.  One never has to take a look at oneself and figure out what is wrong with his/her own behavior.  It's just always the other guy's fault.

In respect particularly to the NBA scandal I refer you to my last article.  Keep in mind while reading it that I have never -- and will never meet Mr. Sterling.  I had never heard of the Clippers.  I haven't watched a pro basketball game since 2006.  I am simply saying, again, that screaming racism over every troubled situation is a racist act.

I don't know how many black people really want good interracial interactions. Maybe most, maybe none.  But I do know that if we ever have them it is going to take a lot of work and give and take from all of us. 

Think how offended you feel when I suggest you are racist, too.  Then consider that is our reaction to your name calling as well.

Just as the depths of the oceans determine how the winds blow, so does the celebrity level reaction determine how the tensions affect Main Street level interactions.  With each backlash you create, the longer it will take to effect a lasting, peaceful relationship.

And let me suggest Kareem Abdul-Jabar is not a racist.
In his own mind.  Just whites are.

This author has heard his quote as black, white, pink or purple and she is saying you are, too.  I do not pretend to hint!

All those people mentioned in his article may or may not be racist.  I do know that he and others threw out all the years of this man's life over a very short recording that was a quarrel between two friends who had had a falling out. 
I agree racism is not dead.  I suggest you go home and look in the mirror and see if you can be honest with yourselves.  And remember while doing so that now you not only do not recognize any past success, but you are spouting micro aggression and situational racism.  If you acknowledge success or even progress, you lose a lot of leverage in the relationships.  You have us walking on eggshells, which family therapists recognize as a way of seizing the power.

You see, I prefer to evaluate people on an individual level.  I'd love to see my friend Vera, whom I last saw in Florida.  I frequently wish I could see Shirley from long ago.  I'd like to talk to Bernadette again.  But all those people won't mean anything to you.  So, let me use celebrities.  I've no interest in meeting Abdul-Jabar.  I don't think we'd like each other much.  I'd love to meet Gayle King and maybe Stedman.  But lately Oprah seems to appoint herself the world's foremost authority on everything, even turning 60.  Been 60, done 60.  I'd love to meet Whoopie Goldberg.  Sherri on the same panel impressed me with her choice of a mate.  Do you get my drift?  I may or may not like you based on your personality, not your race.  Oh yes, I'd be honored should I ever meet the President, his wife and girls.

I don't like all of you because you have dark skin.  I don't dislike all of you for that reason either.  But you can really get my dander up with your genuinely bad attitude, which I see a lot of anymore.

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