My friend Tim and I used to start every story about events that happened to us by no fault of our own….by saying “There I was minding my own business….” The other person immediately knew that this story was going to be quite on the entertaining side of things and probably be a comedic tragedy of some sort.
So, there I was in the dermatologist office waiting room…minding my own business. I was flipping through Family Circle or some such “women’s” magazine that I would only read if I was in a doctor’s office…waiting for the nurse to call my name.
In the background I can hear CNN spinning and weaving its particular slant on the news stories that it decided were going to be the “top stories of the day”. I am ignoring it as I often do because having worked in the media I know that most of the story line is simply reporter dribble anyway.
On comes the “TOP Story” about Obama’s preacher. Now I am not one to discuss politics. Do I have my opinion…Yes…do I want to hear yours…not really…but if I have to that is ok. As long as you realize that it is YOURS, and do not spend the time telling me why mine is wrong. That being said, I am not here to give a long drawn out opinion of Obama and his campaign. Nor am I here to justify or crucify his pastor for comments made. That Obama and his preacher and the subject of racism was on TV, is simply the background information to this story.
In the waiting room with me is a woman of color and her husband. I would say “African American” but those who know me well…DO know my opinion on that particular phrase (which happens to be that it is a title only given to those who deserve it)…and this woman was about to find out the same!
****Also I want to take moment right here to say that I abhor racism and bigotry of all types, I have friends of every color and socio-economic background…and I am only racist towards “Trash” of all colors and socio-economic backgrounds…and towards bigots****
So this woman, who just so happens to have darker skin than mine begins to give her opinion re: the story on television to her husband. How that it is about time that racism was brought up as it has never gone away, and needs to be brought to light, and that “white” media was slanting this story (nevermind the FACT that the person reporting was also of black descent). She went on to say that if we really wanted to know what he said that we needed to listen to the entire sermon and not just the snippits that we were given on that point and that point alone I was in agreement. I do believe that if one has to have an opinion especially on such a controversial topic, that the more educated one can be the better.
So on and on she goes talking to her husband and just bashing white people right and left. I am quietly sitting there pretending I am not listening to her.
Her husband gets called back to the office leaving just her and me in the waiting room. I put down the magazine and accidentally catch her eye as I lean over to put it back on the table. She says, “So what do you think of all of this.” Having not listened to the sermon and in truth not really paid attention to the media storm around it I let her know that I really could not give her an educated opinion on the subject. That was, in her mind, the wrong answer. Actually I think any answer I would have given her would have been the wrong one to tell the truth.
So she says “You know as a young WHITE woman you need to take note of this, racism is strong and active in our country. People are judged by their color of skin and their socio-economic status and are forced down by WHITE conservatives to stay right where they are. Civil rights are just a theory that our government would like us to believe exists. Then she goes on to tell me that why she clings to the title “African-american” because “her people” were stripped of their culture when they were taken from the shores of Africa. And how down through history their titles have changed from Nigger, to Negro, to Colored, to Black to finally something they could live with…African American!
Now at this point, I have just about had it. Because she has just done to me exactly what she accuses White people of doing to her. So I say, “I am not trying to be disrespectful to you at all. But I have a couple of questions for you, first of all why is it that I am ‘white’ and you are ‘black’ but Asians are called Asian and Mexicans are Mexicans. Why aren’t they “yellow” and “brown”? ” She thought that was a good question. Then I said and “Why is it that you looked at my age and the color of my skin and made an automatic judgement on me?”
I was just getting started…in a very calm voice I said….”Again, not meaning any disrespect at all…however, since you took the time to disrespect me I just thought I would set a couple of things straight. For your limited information, you looked at my skin, my clothes and my current location and made a judgement….I actually was raised in Africa…and though I hold an American passport, it is still the continent and culture that I call home. My family has lived there for over 25 years and we consider ourselves to be very “African American”. Until I moved to this United States I had no idea what color my skin was or my socio-economic status. I have sat in the huts of those who have nothing more than the basic necessities of life, yet because of their love for Jesus have much more that the majority of the people who are too lazy to work so suck everything they can out of government help here in the US. I never thought of myself as better than them or more than them. They work hard and put most of there “descendents” in South Dallas and other parts of our fair land to absolute shame! If an adult in the village told me what to do I obeyed. They were my elders, my equals. I have sat in the home of the brother of the President of Kenya and because I was child I served the adults just as the other children did. I was given no special privileges because of skin color, I was their equal. My best friends were black and brown and I was white. That is what we called each other not in a degrading way, but simply because it was fact.
Ma’am, racism goes both ways. You looked at me and made a judgement call. However, let me explain to you about my “lost culture”…I am American born white girl, who descendants are native American, Irish, German and who knows what else – I spent all of the formative years of my life in Kenya, Africa where I left behind half of my heart – I have lived in several states and in Hong Kong – where another piece of my heart was left behind. Please tell me what culture to put in front of the name “American” to identify me. So I mean no disrespect at all when I tell you that I have much more African running through my veins than you ever will, and that I very seriously doubt you would last more than two days in most of the places I have spent my life…”
At this point, I have not raised my voice, or stopped for breath…and as I stop now the woman has nothing she can say. She sputters out something like “Well you are a mutt of cultures aren’t you?” (please explain how that is not an insult)
At that exact moment the nurse, a beautiful African American woman graciously opened the door and called my name….