Thursday, July 12, 2007

Passin' It On About "Whiteness"

Yesterday, I emailed someone at the new school at which I'll be teaching starting next month. My contract is for only one year, with the possibility of that being extended. But in spite of being a resident of the state I'm in now for eighteen years, I'm ready to move on, so I'm pulling up stakes completely. This means, of course, that I need a place to live in my new community, which happens to be in a state that has, shall we say, a less than stellar reputation where the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" is concerned. In fact, well, let me just leave it at that for now. Something tells me I'll be re-visiting this issue many times over the next year.

Anyway, I emailed this person, who is a friend of a friend, asking for help in locating a rental. She responded warmly and I was suitably pleased enough to be honest about what I was looking for. I started with the obvious stuff about my good credit and lack of pets and then added that I was looking for a small house to rent in a racially-mixed working class neighborhood, adding that I'm a sociologist and prefer to live in a diverse setting. There was no immediate response.

Now, I know she could have gotten busy. She was at work, after all. And I know that she might be looking around to help me out before she responds. But later, in the early evening, I made four phone calls to listings in the classified ads, none of which were returned. I didn't mention on the messages any of the details I told my friend's friend, needless to say, but as the evening wore on, I began to mull over the possibility that this situation may become problematic in various ways for me -- not to mention, problematic for others because of me.

This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but I've been trying to put a positive spin on this ball to prevent myself from running into the street with my hair on fire. Probably, I'll hear from my friend's friend today. Or not. I will, I know, find a place to live. And other people who are not horrified by me. But, in the meantime, I've decided to post links to a few internet offerings that are related to "Whiteness." Keep in mind that I don't see "Whiteness" as a heritage (where do "White" people come from anyway -- Whiteland?). I also don't see "Whiteness" as irrelevant (as long as White males have virtually every bit of the real power globally, how the hell could it be irrelevant?).

I'm going to open with this post by Tate Hill at Urban Knowledge. I was originally routed to Urban Knowledge by Rachel, who stays on top of this blackface stuff pretty well. Yes, I said blackface. You thought that was a thing of the past? Think again.

Next, we're going over to visit dna at Too Sense to read up on the way Rudy Guiliani has decided to swing the Southern votes by hiring rampant racists and having the media look the other way. Slick. But scary.

We'll follow this up by viewing an old Night Flight video from the eighties, but still SO apropos about what's important to White males invested in the current status quo, at least so far as we can tell. If it ain't so, puh-leeze show us something different!

Lest we imagine that White folks don't get opportunities to change the way things are, this article reports a "Unity Party" some people of color in Atlanta organized, but the guests of honor didn't show.

And finally, CNN recently called it funny that a White man tried to avoid jury duty by claiming to be a racist, homophobic liar. The judge asked the D.A. to look into criminal charges for the guy because he was obviously lying. My take: just because he admitted he was trying to go home does not mean that he's not all that stuff he claimed to be. I wouldn't want a racist, homophobic liar on my jury if I was on trial and I've known more than a few White folks who were all those things.



Cero said...

But: I have lived in four states: two west coast, one Midwest, and Louisiana. Louisiana is far and away the least racist of the four, in my experience. Here, people of different races actually have conversations with each other outside of school or work, and that is something I saw for the first time in the U.S. in Louisiana. However, in most small towns you will not find a racially mixed, working class neighborhood with decent housing ... although you may find decent housing in a border zone. Racially mixed and working class, that is or was available in New Orleans. Anywhere else, I would be concentrating on getting a decent place at a decent price, in any neighborhood. Best deals will be in all or mostly Black neighborhoods, that is where I always look first.

Cero said...

P.S. Small houses in good shape and not too expensive and yuppified in working class mixed neighborhoods are findable but you have to pound the pavement to get them ... people do not give up those rentals, and they pass them on to friends, and put up for rent signs but do not advertise in the paper, etc. It is a tall order, a lot of work to ask someone else to do, a lot different from asking about the relative decency of a given building. Every such rental and purchase I have made around here, I have found by driving around and asking people.
If someone asked me if I knew of such a place, I would not respond quickly, either ... I would put it on my list of things to keep an eye out for. If you want to rent by mail the key is either a decent apartment complex or the house of a faculty member going on sabbatical ... thence to keep an eye out for what you really want. You are talking about small towns and a city which has just been devastated by a major hurricane. Times are not easy here and housing is not as easy to find as it might be.

Also: we are not all savages here, and there are many people who are conscious about race. If you come in with this attitude that you are superior and so much more conscious because you are from the racially enlightened Florida, you will not make friends. I am in fact already laughing at the idea that Floridians are so much more conscious.

Peacechick Mary said...

I live in a totally unmixed neighborhood because I "inherited" it. It is totally boring and irritates me to no end. We even have one neighbor who USED to fly a confederate flag until he got a lot of flack. I had some friends over who not only were poc, but they had children. I was snubbed by some neighbors after that, but others warmed up. So, there we are battling stupidity on a daily basis.

Changeseeker said...

Well, I haven't actually said where I'm headed, as yet, cero. And I realize the truth of what you say here, especially how the best stuff about communities are always things you have to find out on your own after you get there. And let me hasten to add that I'm not at all feeling superior, just a little bit forlorn (I'm feelin' ya, Mary -- you're talking about exactly the kind of thing that's got me edgy).

I've lived in eight communities (in Illinois and Florida) in the past 25 years or more and always in a racially-mixed working class neighborhood. No matter what the reasons are that I wind up doing otherwise, I'll be less than happy. Not miserable, but definitely less than happy. I am genuinely uncomfortable in a room, a workplace, or a neighborhood that is all "White." A village near where I'm moving to was listed in census data as being 97.6% White. I cannot even imagine such a thing. And living in that kind of an atmosphere would make be feel as though I was supporting the system as it exists. I've made it a point to live my life for nearly three decades in such a way as to make it instantly plain to people that I reject racism as much as I possibly can.

Nevertheless, I am aware that at least part of what's got me all worked up is that I'm operating blind here. I know there are people everywhere that I can find to be friends and allies with. I've already scouted the letters to the local editor where I'm going and found some bright, outrageous, and funny folks I could relate to. They're also about to make the whole town a wifi zone, which is very cool, I think. And the school I'm going to is ten times as big as the one I was at last year. But that doesn't change the fact that for a while at least and maybe a year or more, I may be living in a situation that I see as a constant indicator of overt, unapologetic racism. The fact that institutionalized oppression against people of color is everywhere in this country doesn't make me comfortable with going from a heavily mixed neighborhood to one where everybody looks just like me. And I'm feelin' it. It'll work out, but I'm human, right?

And you'd better believe I'm just as concerned that they won't like me as that I won't like them. I really don't know how to shut my mouth about race and besides, I'm dealing with the old first day of school jitters. Sometimes I think we never grow up. :^D

Changeseeker said...

UPDATE: My latest information (from the very kind person I had emailed who is absolutely on the job of helping me find a place to live) is that the town I'm moving into is so small and so diverse, there ARE no all-White neighborhoods any more. Which is probably why there are outlying villages in the region (such as the one I mentioned) that are 97% "White." They'd be the ones with a "problem" who got the heck outa Dodge as things "got out of control." ;^D

I'm feeling ready to move now! YAY!!

(And thanks to cero for keeping me focused so that my edges didn't unravel while I was waiting for the news.)

Anonymous said...

change, I'm feeling much better after that last post than the one before it. Yay!

I can't contribute too much to the discussionas i have lived in a diverse community (save college) since I was 12. Like you change, It is pretty much a prerequisite for me.