Blog Against Racism Day

Today is Blog Against Racism Day. I was all set to write this post a few weeks ago, but then I saw an announcement on Bitch PhD about BAR Day, so I decided to wait. Here goes.

In second generation feminism, there was a writer (whose name escapes me right now) who wrote about her own transformative experiences as a feminist coming not as one huge realization, but as “clicks,” where a relatively small experience made her look at the world in a new way. “You should study teaching not medicine.” –CLICK – “Hey, why don’t you make the coffee before the meeting, and then you can help us out by taking notes.” –CLICK– …you get the picture.

When I was in college, for a while I had an African American housemate (I’ll call her Danielle). I had other black friends, but Danielle was the first one that I ever lived with–saw every day, first thing in the morning, last thing before bed, drunk, sober, high, whatever. Danielle had grown up in an intentionally integrated suburb in Maryland. The kind of place that hippies and civil rights veterans started, to prove to society that blacks and whites could live together in harmony, as long as they were all from the same social class. We all hung out on the roof in the summer, drinking until all hours of the night, we drove down the shore to celebrate New Year’s Eve, and went to see our other housemate’s band play in a variety of dives in the tri-state area. We did the things that ‘normal’ college students do.

Due to various vagaries in my life (financial, direction, etc.), I ended up taking a year off from school, so Danielle graduated ahead of me, and moved to Baltimore to work for an anti-poverty organization. She came up to visit most weekends as she was dating my brother, although their relationship was starting to flounder. At one point, she called me to ask if I would come and spend the weekend with her. I said, sure, hopped in the car and drove down. We hung out at various dive bars that were interchangeable with the ones we hung out in at home, and she introduced me to a guy that she had started seeing (which my brother knew about). On the last day of my visit, she took me to the Lexington Market.

She took me there because she knew I would be the only white person in the market, and she wanted to explain to me why she was going to stop dating my brother. She wanted me to know what it felt like, to her, to constantly be in places where she was the only black person, where she was having to constantly interpret for the whitefolks that she was hanging out with (or to pretend that there were no differences in her life experience). Obviously, there was no way that spending one afternoon in an environment where I was the only white person was going to let me know what her life was like all the time. But the -CLICK- that I got that day was from seeing how important to her it was that I got just the tiniest taste of what her life was like.

In my own life, at that point, I had been crossing class barriers for a few years. I was a very smart working-class kid who ended up in a couple of very wealthy suburban high schools where people tended to make assumptions about my intelligence based on where I lived, or to express surprise that I lived where I lived, given that I was in honors classes. But what Danielle made me start thinking about that day was how much privilege I actually had, just because of the color of my skin. It’s not like I was unaware of racism before that day, but I had never thought about what it must be like to live with, day in and day out, for your whole life.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ arrest, which sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In honor of Blog Against Racism day, I’d like to thank Danielle (wherever she is now) for giving me that CLICK moment.

Advertisements

December 1, 2005. politically motivated.

12 Comments

  1. Michael K. Willis replied:

    Excellent post. I must admit that I have too busy surf many blogs lately so I didn’t know about Blog Against Racism Day. Having many times been “the first real black friend” (the quotes are quite without acrimony or sarcasm)during my own life I can understand where Danielle was coming from. Thanks for sharing your experience (and hers.)

  2. kate.d. replied:

    funny, i posted about a pretty similar experience for BAR day.

    thanks for sharing!

  3. Fidget replied:

    very well written post. We are the minority in our neighborhood, I’m getting used to sticking out

  4. elise replied:

    I was in this situation only once when I went to buy beer with a white guy friend at a bar in Newark, NJ. (I went to my first year of college there) At the time I was too naive to understand what I was doing until everyone yelled at us and said “You did WHAT!!” There was an imaginary line in the city that you did not cross.

    Michael, (from first comment) I also remember “my first real black friend” and I have to thank him and you for putting up with people like me – at the time a country bumpkin from NH! Even when someone like me is harmless but ignorant the only way to educate is to expose them. So we need people like you!

  5. Jessica replied:

    That’s an interesting perspective. I’ve only had a similar experience visiting Taiwan years ago where I was among very few white people. It wasn’t bad, it just felt odd to be looked at simply because I was different.

  6. Christie replied:

    *very* well said 🙂

  7. Jessica replied:

    Awesome writing, Landismom (as always). Has anyone told you today that they love your blog? I do.

  8. newsucnuse replied:

    That was a great post – I love the idea of “click” moments, and that was a poignant story about you and Danielle. I have married friends who are an inter-racial couple and she’s definitely opened my eyes about what that’s like. She even started an interracial couple support group and when we visit them Xmas eve (they have a big party every year), it’s pretty cool to meet all their interracial couple friends and children. Gives me some hope that there are some winning battles on the racism front.

    Tracey

  9. Suzanne replied:

    Thanks for this post — I have so little experience being the “other” that I can only imagine how hard it is.

  10. MetroDad replied:

    Great post, LM. Growing up Asian-American in a predominately white environment, I find myself understanding both your situation and Danielle’s. I had no idea about this Blog Against Racism Day. Fascinating idea and I’m looking forward to reading some other stories. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your perspective.

  11. The Scarlett replied:

    Well written indeed. I guess I had a similar experience one July 4th on a beach in Connecticut. One of my friends suggested that a group of us go to public beach to hang out and grill. None of us had ever been but the idea of hanging out on Long Island Sound sounded great. After the fifteen of us hauled all of our gear to the beach, we became aware that we were the only white people. It felt like all eyes were on us expecting us to cause trouble.

    I enjoy your blog so much. You make me think.

  12. One year of BBSP « Bumblebee Sweet Potato replied:

    […] 14. Blog Against Racism Day […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: