Friday, August 25, 2006

Am I a Racist?

Something happened to me this afternoon while at lunch that has been weighing on my mind all day. While driving back from lunch, a coworker and I were discussing travel to other countries and she said "My husband wants to go to Asia but, I don't know why, I have a mild distrust of Asian people". This prompted me to blurt out, and I have no idea why, that I am afraid of black people.

The silence in the car was horrible. Not only did I just say something that could be taken to be extremely racist, I also caught my coworker off guard. I knew she didn't know what to say but she turned and said "Really?" I came back with, "Well, only black men. I am not scared of women or children", and we then discussed how the African American male has perpetuated an image of violence with music and actions.

Now please don't take this post as a commentary on how black people are bad. That is not what this is. It is actually a look into my fear, and during the ride back to work something came to mind as to what might have caused me to feel this way.

I am not really scared of black people. At least not in any general sense. If I were walking down the street and a black male was coming my direction, I would not run screaming like a baby or, less dramatic, cross the street. However, if a black male that looked like 50 cent were to be coming my way, my actions might change. This said, I will now explain what I think may have started this "fear".

In the sixth grade, I knew a kid named James Williams. He was black and lived in my neighborhood. He was an underprivileged kid, at least compared to me and he lived two blocks from my house. Every day, we rode the bus to and from school. I was always dropped off at the bus stop early so when the bus arrived, I got on it fairly quick. James did not. When I got on the bus, I would go to the back and sit in the seat that only held one person. We all know that seat. The one that was coveted above all others.

One morning, I had gotten seated and was minding my own business when James got on the bus and told me that he wanted the short seat. I told him no, as I was already sitting there and was quite happy in my seat. He and his brother, Ray, proceeded to taunt me about giving him the seat and I still refused. As we were waiting for the other kids to get on the bus, James stood up, came over to me, and tapped the top of my head with a text book. To this day I can remember the feel of that book hitting me on the head.

After the first tap, he said "Get up" and I stood my ground and said "No". He dropped the book again and this time it was harder. It never hurt, but when you are twelve and everyone is watching, pain is the least of your concerns. I told him if he did it again I was gonna stop him. And he, of course, dropped it a third time. I jumped at him and we tussled. Not fought, just tussled. He jumped on my back and help my arm down and I was about to slam him into the emergency release bar for the back door when the driver ran back and broke us up.

We stayed separated for the rest of the ride and were taken to the principal as soon as we arrived at school. I do not remember what James' punishment was, but I was given three days of In School Suspension(Turns out I liked it though so it really wasn't a punishment). I despised James and his brother from that day forward.

The irony of the whole situation is that I(a white kid) was defending the seat in the back of the bus from a black kid. That hit me today. Up until then, the social humor never occurred to me. James was exactly the kind of guy that I am "afraid of". Not necessarily afraid of the person, but of what they can do. Hell, I don't know. I guess I never really let go of the anger I had. Not only because of how helpless I felt, but also the stereotype that I formed without even meaning to.

I know that I am not racist. I don't feel that a person's skin color is their defining factor and I know that it, in no way affects their ability in any way. I guess that I just have an issue that needs to be acknowledged and moved past. I hope that by realizing where the problem started, I can make sure it isn't an issue. Funny where a conversation can lead.

That is all,


3 Ripples in the pond:

Thomas said...

So what else did your co-worker have to say about Asians and black people? Just curious.

Also, I obviously think that you are a racist and will ask you when you go to pick your white hood up at the dry cleaners... Whitey!

Trinity said...

Hey Smart Ass, I already feel bad enough about my stupidity without your asshole-ness.

Thomas said...

For someone who doesn't care if he offends or not, you sure take offense pretty easily....