The following comment popped up on a year-old post last night. I have decided to re-print it here because I suspect that it speaks for many people that look like me in this country. Since the writer chose to write this much, I am publishing it all, out of respect for her expression of obvious frustration. This is what One Voice That Matters wrote:
"I guess I must live in a different world than most of the people on these sites. I have no tolerance for people of any color abusing others. I also think that what is fair for one is fair for the other. KKK, skinheads, Aryans are scum. Every now and then they try to surface here. but I know there are 'black' sites that are just as racist, promoting racial violence also.
"I live in a 100% 'white' town.There were never any slaves or plantations or anything of that type of life in this state. Most blacks came here with the Indians and many blacks have roll cards from the Indian ancestors. No 'black' people choose to live here; it is a basic farm and ranch community with very good people. Most just go on with life's daily chores and rarely think about the 'outside' world. Yes, the community is aware of the violence in the big city and most are glad we live where we do.
"North of us is a community of black people and they are basically the same. Farmers and ranchers, good people. They come into our town and shop and we buy produce, cattle, etc., from them. Yes, there is racism from both sides from time to time, but we respect each other as humans. I have no problems with who I live around. I would rather live around those good people in the black community than white trash I know. I usually find that if a black person respects you, they are your friend for life. My mother taught me that long ago.
"My mom tells a story about when my grandmother had a new baby, mom and her siblings were all too small to wash clothes. Their neighbor lady who was black came over and washed all the clothes for the kids. She brought her baby over and mom took care of her baby. Mom said that Granny would do the same for the neighbor. She didn't know what prejudice was as a child. My mom and dad's parents were reeeeallyy poor and so was everyone around them. Everyone helped each other and no one thought anything about it. Mom worked later years with many of the black children she played with and loved all of them, they in turn loved my mom like a sister. I had the privilege as a teacher teaching their grandkids. They were well mannered good kids with ambition to be achievers like their folks. On days they did not want to do the schoolwork, all I would have to do is say Grandma's name and all changed!
"It seems the larger our closest big city gets, the more racism we see. Most of it is coming in from the outside: gang activity with the teens. In some ways we have all lost out with traditions from the old days when times were hard. From the way things look, we are all going to be poor again like the 30's and learn to respect each other like my mother's generation.
"I do not understand slavery or abuse in any culture. I see post[ed] that 'all white people are the same.' No, I am not. Just like all black people, [C]hinese people, [L]atinos are not the same. It would be like saying all dogs are the same. They all have 4 legs and wag their tongue.
"I could care less about Hollywood, New York or what rich people do. I am sad when a child is killed of any color, when someone is disrespectful of the elderly or the unfortunate. I have respect for people with pride in themselves and what they do for the good of the world, no matter the color. My family history is rich with people of many nations and colors. They left me to make a better world for all they believed in and died for coming to America for their chance of a dream. The one I live.
"No, I am not 'rich' in material things but count myself a millionare in the life I was chose[n] to live here in this wonderful nation. I have been discriminated against as a woman, [for] my age, my looks, my lack of wealth, my accent, and, yes, even my color! Even sometimes [for] my intelligence and savvy by hard line men who didn't want to deal with a smart woman. I know that the 'rich' white majority [that] runs this place could care less about me unless I can pay taxes. My one vote won't swing any election and I will never be in a position of 'power' to run this nation but maybe if I can change enough lives in the classroom and build a dream, my one voice will not be wasted."
And this was my response:
I'm a little surprised to find someone commenting on a post about a topic not being discussed too much anymore -- and long after I posted it. I can't help but wonder how you got here, One Voice That Matters. :^)
In any case, I haven't time to write as much as you did.
However, I would suggest several things for you to consider.
First of all, my definition of racism and yours are not the same. If you'll read this post, even older than the one on which you commented, you'll see what I mean.
Secondly, there ARE no states in the U.S. that have not shared our history of racist and ethnic oppression. Pick up "The People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn and you'll likely find plenty there. Or you can tell me the state you live in and I may be able to suggest some other sources. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps an up-to-date list of hate groups in the present, if that interests you at all. And if you look up the prisons in your state, even a quick look at their population statistics will demonstrate how different life is for people of color wherever it is you live. Unless, of course, you're prepared to argue that people of color just do more crimes because...well...they're just like that. But I don't think you would even think such a thing, let alone say it.
You write about how beautifully everybody used to and still does get along in your state, but I wonder what the people of color (African-American, Latin@, and Native American) that live there would have to say about that. I doubt that you know. The fact is that individuals can have loving relationships across "color lines" in this country, but the color lines are the result of White control or they wouldn't exist at all. And anyway, individual loving relationships don't change the institutionalized nature of the oppression against people of color here.
I've never suggested that all White people are the same. But I have written that, because the default position in the U.S. is White Supremacy, all people in the U.S. who look like me are infected with the disease of racism, whether we recognize and acknowledge it or not. Most of us don't admit it. Most of us don't even realize it. But, just like Prego, it's in there. Tim Wise' book "White Like Me: Reflections on Race by a Privileged Son" is very good on this.
Finally, you write that you're trying to change lives in the classroom. Yet you don't seem to be very in touch with the extraordinary and peculiar psychological, emotional, and economic violence that continues to do great damage to people of color from coast to coast in this country (and even beyond its borders). Unfortunately, what this means is that your students (all White, from what you say) are very likely going to wind up with the same old mindset White folks in the U.S. have always had. How could it be otherwise when you yourself have no better understanding than you do?
You sound like a well-meaning person. And teachers know how to learn stuff. Your responsibility, should you accept it, is to get the information you're missing, so you can help us go somewhere new in this country. Before it's too late.
Thanks for writing. I believe you're seeking to learn something already. And if you seek with your heart open, you'll find.
The poster featured above is available from the Syracuse Cultural Workers Collective.