I am a racist. That must be understood or nothing good can come of this tale I am to tell. It isn't fun to have to admit that but it is what it is. I'm not a Klan member. I want to believe I don't carry hate for POC like Donald Sterling and George Zimmerman. But I am still a racist and I realized that today when I was coming into work.
Let me set the scene for you. I work on the campus of a large university in Norman, Oklahoma. The campus has a main street that runs through it and several side streets. For those of you who know the area at all, I was coming from the east and turning at the first intersection by the football stadium. As I was waiting for the light to change, I saw two people cross the street. One of them was a black guy, very muscular with a lot of tattoos. For no logical reason I can think off, my first reaction was to lean towards my car door lock. As I did that I guess my eyes started to follow the guy as he walked across the street. And then he turned….and looked at me
All I could do was turn back towards the light. As it changed, all I could feel was a great sense of shame. I thought I was better than that. I thought I had gotten over my racist feelings I felt stemming from being home when three African American men robbed my house. I thought I was better than that. But I'm not. I may not have shot anyone or burn a cross or denied someone a job because of their race. But there was no denying the truth. For a split second, I had the change to be a racist or not be a racist. I choose to be a racist.
Why did I do that? I thought to myself as I continued the drive into work. He was just a guy, probably going to his class. He wasn't going to do anything, I thought as I got off the car. Yet, I reacted as if he was going to break into my car and rob me. Why? I thought as I walked up the stairs into the office. I can honestly say I don't know why I did that. It happened so quickly and felt so natural, like wiping a piece of hair away from my face. I hate that it felt so natural.
So why am I writing about this? I could keep quiet, keep this to myself and no one would ever know. The guy may post something online about it. He might even be a poster on one of these blogs, maybe even someone who reads GT. But that doesn't concerns me. I don't need to say anything
The reason I am saying something is twofold. First off, it's not the other guy's job to talk about this. It's not the job of the oppressed to tell the oppressor they're doing wrong. The one with the privilege needs to know that they are doing a bad thing and call themselves out on it. So that's what I'm doing, calling myself out. Because racism is not just insults or murders or slumlords kicking out tenants, It's thought and idea and belief, the belief that you need to act differently around someone of another race, creed, color, identity. The "Other" those of us born with privilege see every day but can never truly identify with. But what we can do is choose to behave better. And that leads into reason #2 of why I choose to post this.
Sadly, white people and people of privilege don't listen to the oppressed as much as they should. I will say that yes, not all are like this, and I'm not saying that because of a stupid internet meme but because it's the truth. So I am writing this because I hope that in some small way, I can help move things in a positive direction. If in some small way I can help someone realize that racism is more than just huge media attention grabbing things like Twitter rants, or old white women losing tv shows. It's actions we take every day, maybe without realizing it. It's a lock of a car door or a glance behind the back as we walk down the street. Seeing someone and double checking the locks. We need to stand back and ask ourselves, Is that me? Do I do those things? It's not fun or easy. But it is necessary to help make the world we live in better for all people.
That is really all I have to say. Tomorrow I will get up and try to be a better person and change the way I see the world. I probably won't be perfect at it. But I will try. And I hope all of you with privilege do the same. Be it white, male, or whatever. Because while it may take a lot of time, if we all do our part to change how we think and how we act, others will see it and respond in kind and perhaps, the world will become a better place.