Race with Us? Really?   8 comments

This is a 2015 post that I decided to rerun because it somehow feels timely. I also ran the companion piece “On Being a Racist.” Lela

 

Pouring my coffee over her head occurred to me!

In case you don’t know, Starbuck’s has decided to instruct the rest of America on race relations in this country. In doing so, they’ve managed to lose my business for a while.

RACE WITH US!

It’s what was scribbled on the side of my husband’s coffee cup last night. It was also scrawled on the side of his friend PJ’s cup. We ran into PJ and Susan in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble. Susan and I talked quilting while PJ and Brad discussed how the early spring is messing up their snow machining. The guys got coffee and the gals got coffee. Susan is Athabaskan Indian. I’m part-American Indian (but white people don’t usually see it unless it’s pointed out or if I’m with someone for them to compare me to and see similarities). Brad is Irish-American, I think PJ is German-American – blond and his last name could be German (okay, I never thought to ask).

The problem?

Susan and I had no such missive on the sides of our cups!

RACE WITH US?

It is not just white people in this country that need to have a conversation about racism. I’m a tribal member. Trust me. Reservation Indians are the most racist group I know personally. The Tanana Chiefs Conference just called for a 100-year plan that includes (in my opinion, but Susan agreed with me) some highly racially-oriented ideas. My black-nephew-in-law took the election of Barack Obama to start having a race conversation in which he has decided all “white” people are racists who need to be confronted about what he supposes is going on in our heads.

Kind of like Starbuck’s.

Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a day when a man might be judged by the content of his character not the color of his skin. I thought we were there when we elected Barack Obama. That would seem to have been a pretty clear indication that blacks at least were welcomed into the circles of power not just by the elites, but by the voters. Sadly, I was mistaken. This has been the most racially-divisive presidency since Richard Nixon.

These days having “white” skin immediately means you need to be educated about race relations by bigots with dark skin. Brad and PJ, two white men, need the conversation. Susan and I apparently do not. The message I got was that if you’re a person of color, you’re exempt from this race conversation. Or maybe it’s that if you’re hanging out with a person of color, you don’t need that conversation. If you are white and you have friends who are white then you clearly need the conversation. For the record, PJ and Brad are married to BIA-recognized tribal members and have children who are BIA-recognized tribal members.

So now you know why I wanted to pour my coffee over the barista’s head.

I resent the insinuation that if I am not of a certain racial group I must be a bigot. Until this conversation started coming up every other day, I personally hadn’t thought much about racial issues for a long long time. That’s right. I’m an American Indian who had not thought much about racism. Why? Because I don’t experience a lot of racism in my life. That may be because I don’t go looking for it. The world is full of rude people of every skin color. I don’t assume they are rude because they are racists. I assume they are rude because they are human. Maybe ignorance is bliss or maybe I only encounter racism when the person is truly being a racist, when I can’t avoid the reality.

Like when the Starbuck’s barista scribbles “Race with us” on the side of my husband’s coffee cup, but not on mine.

And, by the way, overt racists are (in my experience) almost always people of color. White people got it knocked out of them a long time ago. Maybe there are still racist thoughts kicking around in their heads that come out when they drink heavily, but for the most part they don’t say it and they don’t act on it. Reservation Indians and certain communities of black people, however ….

If we want to have this conversation, let’s invite everybody to the table. Let’s be honest about racism in America and admit that while white people have learned to keep their heads down and their mouths shut on the subject, people of color feel their skin color have been given a pass on their own racism.

RACE WITH US?

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Posted January 6, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in racism, Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

8 responses to “Race with Us? Really?

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  1. Things need to change for sure. I’m sorry for your bad experiences. I swear if we ever met, I’d never stab you, not all Puerto Ricans like knives. Hahaha but seriously,

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    • I hope things do change

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      • This is Lela. I think things were changing for the better and I have all sorts of hope for the future.

        I grew up in Alaska, which had an anti-discrimination law by 1946. So we all grew up in the same schools and living wherever we wanted. We were all friends.Some of the adults, coming from the Lower 48, brought their racism with them, but generally they let that go after they’d been here a while because they got to know people of other races.

        And then the Civil Rights movement came in and suddenly we couldn’t be friends for several years as those distant events affected a state that had already moved beyond that point. Even in high school, white kids (or blue-eyed Indians like me) were skittish of setting off black hostility by anything we said or did, which meant we really couldn’t be friends. But time passed and as an adult, we returned to being comfortable with one another. Until Barack Obama became president and suddenly there’s barriers again, mainly erected by bigots of color who insist that racism is the sole property of white “privilege” and doesn’t apply to those of us who are of another race. This time, white people had the temerity to object.

        As individuals, we’ll get over this and move on. Eventually, that will work it’s way into society … if we let it. But I think that conversation where we all acknowledge that racism is not a monopoly of the white race would go a long way to hurrying that along.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree! I’m a light skinned green eyed Puerto Rican, married an Irish man and even Spanish people talk badly about me not knowing I understand. If I bring up the sound standard I get put down and told I’m biased. It is as if we have to live in fear of upsetting anyone of color. My husband gets harassed more than me, but it’s more because of the nature of his job, which thank to Obama has made it seem as if it’s full of only corrupt people. In truth, I get afraid especially when I’m with my children, because here they will hurt children and you can tell who will and who won’t by their attitude. Of course I’m not saying it’s everyone, just the people I have encountered. And it fits need to change.

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      • I have had similar experiences. I’ve heard it on the Res with my cousins, who think I should agree with them because I’ve been out in the world and so must have encountered bigotry every day, but bigotry has to be fairly overt for me to recognize it. I do challenge their prejudices. I let a lot of it go out in the world, but on the Res, especially among my own tribe, I don’t take crap. Some of the elders are now telling me, now that I’m middle-aged, that they always liked that I walk in both world and that I don’t worry about upsetting people when I think they’re wrong. I wish it were that easy to challenge people out in the world. But maybe this time … there are white people standing up this time and some people of color are agreeing with them, so there’s hope.

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    • Lela told me I should read this and it’s going to look like she’s replying, but this is Brad.

      I absolutely know that. It’s been 45 years since that incident and I’ve come to realize that her territory had been threatened by us bussed-in white kids. She acted on her own racism.

      I think things change when we get to know one another and quit saying it’s all about one race’s racism. There’s bad apples in every group. If we acknowledge that instead of just beating up on one group we’ve decided is “privileged”, then we are able to come together instead shouting at each other from our segregated camps. At least, that’s what my lovely wife believes.

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  2. *double standard

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