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Chronicles my various personal experiences with racial bias and stereotyping while tacitlymaking the case for the persistence of institutionalized discrimination as well.....humorous, saddening, and intriguing at moments...all around good article to read
Come on man, You're Overreacting....What, is Everything Racist Now?."
I remember in second-grade passing a note, via my best friend, to this girl who I had a serious crush on. I hadn't yet received the gift of flirtation so the note was flattering (in that one line type of way) and to the point. It read..."I like you a lot." Do you like me?" Not wanting to overburden her I even provided a "yes" and a "no" box. It was genuis. But then recess and an entire class period passsed and I hadnt gotten a response. Damn, maybe I should have sweetned the gesture with more description. She had this ill pony tail that would swing violently as she made her way around the bases while we played kickball. Everyone admired it. I should have told her that. But clearly the bigger problem was with my firend. He had not been assertive enough, he probably didnt even deliver the note. So I chasitzed him for his shyness, reminded him that we all had to deal with girls at some point, and sent him on his way. This time I watched as he circled the classroom, passed my crush's desk, and then came back to me. Pissed, I was ready to replace him with a new best friend, one who had the guts to talk to girls. Sensing that I was pissed, as he reapproached the desk he let fly the truth....it was ugly, "man, I asked her already and she said don't like burnt toast." I dont remember exactly what I thought after he said that. I remember feeling hurt. I remember not liking her anymore. I remember she was light skin. I remember from that point on worshipping light-skinned women from a distance.
I remember in third, fourth, and fifth grade making fun of an african classmate of mine (that is, whose parents had recently immigrated from Africa). I would call him "african booty sratcher." I was not the only one. We all made fun of him. His house stunk. It smelled like Africa.
I remember being asked in middle school if my hair was really mine, why I never cut it and most perplexingly..."why i wore it like I was white?" I remember getting that question from a man passing me the other day, not through word of mouth though but through a look. But maybe it was just in my head.
I remember growing up and people telling me that I had "the good hair." I remember hearing my grandmother differentiate between the texture of my hair and that of my brother's (my second oldest). Mine was good. His was nappy and unmaangeable when not cut. I remember he got even.
Throughout middle school, I remember wondering when I would inherit the gigantic, mandingo penis that I was promised. My brother had gotten his. He didnt' have to show me; his stories of "late night smash action" revealed it ...."man I promise you fool, she couldnt take the dick."...."for real, for real she couldnt take the dick." Which girls in the neighborhood "could or could not take the dick?" quickly became the centerpiece of all-night conversations in driveways. Invariably, as I would learn, most girls couldn't. "Lil mama couldnt take the dick so I had to take her home early last night." "Yeh, I feel you, my lil momma couldnt take the dick either...I had her hollerin in the bathroom the other night; I had to put my hand over her mouth because her t-lady was in the other room" I remember not finding out if a girl could take my dick til I was seventeen. I remember she moaned like she couldn't but I also remember thinking that she was probably pretending. She could take the dick.
I also remember being asked by people in my neighborhood while growing up why I neither went to the neighborhood middle or high school. The word had gotten around. I wanted to be white. Respectful of my decision, the more conscientious ones greeted me as such..."Hey, what's going on, dude?"
I remember while sacking groceries senior year in high school having to unveil my 10 year life plan for concerned customers. "Oh really, so you're going to college." That's great....where are you going....UH (University of Houston), TSU?" Completely disinterested by this point I would explain how I was deciding between Stanford and Columbia...I really liked Stanford, but Columbia was offering more money. A six second pause. "Wow, great you mean the Columbia in New York, right?" She had made a good point; I should have been more explicit. So I remember freshman year never leaving campus without my baby-blue Columbia sweat shirt.
I remember this year on campus handing out flyers along with my comrades for a meeting on racism in Bush's America. I remember many people refusing to take a flyer, some in principled disgust, most out of apathy. I remember a comrade telling me one time that a woman on campus had asked him to clarify the connection between two phrases on a button he was wearing. The button read: "No to war, no to racism."
I remember two nights ago seeing an Orgo night flyer in my dorm elevator that read "this will teach you to mess with the Jews." Beneath the caption there was a photo of the recently deceased Palestenian activist Edward Said. There was an an x drawn through it. Beneath the photo there was a tally that read "Arabs 0, God 1"
I remember also seeing another flyer entitled "Who needs Ethnic Studies?" Copied on to the flyer was also a photo of Michael Jackson when he was younger, as well as a second, more recent caricature drawing of him with very big, exaggerated lips.
Last night, I remember going to Orgo night to protest these flyers. I remember climbing up onto a desk beside the ringleader and yelling, condeming, and asking people had they seen them. I remember many people yelling "get the fuck down from there"..."you're overreacting." I complied. As I remember, the ringleader had promised the crowd one more Barnard joke. I was told to wait til the show was over.
So maybe now I have a sympathetic reader out there who says, . "Ah, poor guy....I see why he was so angry at those Orgo night flyers....racism is something that is definitely alive and well in America." And then maybe there's another more ambitious reader who says, "you know what, we need to take action....we need more multicultural education, we need to teach black people and people of color why they should love themselves, why they should love their beauty and value their inteligence... we should teach whites why they should also love and respect people of color." And indeed, point well taken second reader, but wait, before we act just yet, there's more I want to tell you. There are more things I remember.
I remember hearing George Bush say that he was a "compasionate conservative," and a "uniter, not a divider." Then I remember hearing Bush say in January of this year that "Sadeum Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al-Qaeda." But then I dont remember hearing any evidence to justify that. I, however, remember hearing reports in the following months that arabs had been beaten up and harassed and that Bush was in the process of deporting thousands more.
I then remember thinking how similiar all this was to what had happened to the Japanese during World War II. Most recently, I remember hearing that Bush had asked for 87 billion to continue the war against Iraq..."the terroists shall not shake our resolve to bring peace and democracy," I remember him saying. But then I thought back and could not remember at what point Iraquis and terroism had become synonymous.
I also remember Bush saying earlier this year that "America's long experience with the segregation that we have put behind us and the racial discrimination we still struggle to overcome requires a special effort to make real the promise of equal opportunity for all." I then remember his petioning the court to have affirmative action dismantled.
I also remember hearing that Blacks, though thirteen percent of the population, comprised 50 percent of those in prisons. And then I remember hearing that 94% of drug offenders in prision are black and latino, though must drug users in this country are white. I also remember thinking "so why don't people of color just get a job or an education like everyone else?" Then a couple of months later I remember reading that Bush had cut job training programs in the inner city by 75%. And then I remembered that that affirmative action was hanging by a string as well.
And then after sitting down for a while, I remember just being confused. I remember thinking like what the fuck, racism isnt just bad ideas in peoples' heads. And then I remembered, right, the US didn't get out of Vietnam til it was kicked out.