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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Speaking of Racism

When I was in the 9th grade, I lived in Memphis, Tennessee. I attended East High School, which was 99% black. In fact, I think there were four white boys in the whole school. There were no white females. I recall the day I entered my first class - I got there after the year had started - and saw a sea of brown faces looking at me when I came in the door. I'm sure that my eyes got as big as saucers. I may even have looked at my hand to verify that I was visibly different from everyone else.

That year totally sucked. I was in a fight an average of once a week. I lost almost all of them. Once I even had my head kicked into my locker door as I was kneeling in front of it putting books in. I never knew who did it. Why did it happen? Because I was white, as evidenced by the "white m-er f-er" I heard after my skull bounced off of the locker. That's what most of those fights came down to. I was different, so I was a legitimate target for attack. Throw in that I was short and skinny, and hey, why not go after the small white kid? I know what racism feels like, which may be a big reason why I react so poorly to evidence of it.

I was reminded of this last night when I saw something in a movie that I had never seen before: racism by non-whites in a film. The movie was "Friday Night Lights", and it is clear that the coaches for the all-black Dallas team are racists. There is even a black referee who makes a clearly incorrect call in favor of Dallas, and while we don't know if he saw the play correctly, the white referees were afraid to contradict him for fear of looking racist. What is the single biggest evidence of the Dallas coaches' racism? They believe that they will not get a fair shake if they don't have black coaches. They think that white referees will be racist.

If you want a simple definition of racism, it is this: believing that a group has a deficiency, ANY deficiency (including the deficiency of being a racist) because of their 'race'. I had never seen racism on the silver screen by anyone but whites before, and I think it is a credit to the writer of the movie that the scene was there.

The fact is that no one is inherently different in any significant fashion (beyond their racial pysical attributes) because of their race. This is evident in the clear fact that anyone, of any race, can be a racist pig. We are all equally capable of sin, because we are all fallen humans. Racism ignores that truth, and is reprehensible in anyone. Those who do it around me are likely to see me forget my committment to peaceful engagement.


  • Bravo Hammer,

    You were able to transfer acts of racism from a group and place it onto the individuals...a great step. Did you start from that position? Or did you have to think your way to it? Not many of us start from there...and it appears even fewer are able to think their way their way there.
    When I was 11 years old, my parents moved to Marion, OH. It was sheer misery for a boy from the "holler" with an accent so thick it could have been spread on toast. The second day I got there, I was at a near-by park, swinging on a swing, when 2 black kids and a girl came along. The bigger kid told me that it was his swing and that I better get my "a**" out of I did, and went to another swing. Then he told me he wanted that one too. Long story shortened, I wound up fighting the two boys at once. At one point, when I was on top of one of them (the other one on my back gripping me in a headlock) the girl dug her fingernails across my face. I wound up getting the crap beat out of me...but the worst thing was the resentment it left me with. For some reason, it bothered me much more that the girl had jumped in than it did fighting the two boys. Heck, any kid from Kentucky back then knew you were just gonna have to fight sometimes and it won't always be a fair fight. But I had never even seen a girl fight before...and never me...and never with such hatred. It shook me.
    I'm afraid I had to actively think my way to the point that I realized racism is not confined to any one "race" any more than it defines individuals within that "race"...difficult to do, though, for a scared 11 year old boy in an alien environment.

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 3/14/2005 08:48:00 AM  

  • I am glad that you still have an open mind. I wouldn't wish that on anyone in order for someone to understand the effects of racism. Myself being on the other end of the spectrum being the big black girl in the sea of white children.

    I was never beat up, but I was never included in things. I was talked about and teachers expected less from me. Since I ended up playing by myself a lot, I was sent to the school counselor in elementary school because they thought that there must be something wrong going on at home. Did anyone no one ever asked me, nope, outside of school my life was great. Enough about me.

    No one person's experience is worst than the other, it all depends on how it effects them. I am glad you are writing to promote awareness and for people to take responsibility for their own actions.

    By Blogger Special Lady, at 3/15/2005 03:37:00 PM  

  • Special Lady,

    You're right that no one act is any worse than another I think. Although I never overtly acted in a racist manner as far as I know...picking on or making fun of ANYBODY was actively discouraged (active as in a keen willow switch about the legs :) in the Hunley household...the incident did leave me with feelings that I'm sure moved me to act in unconscious ways that could be considered racist. In my case, it was based in fear and people react to fear in different ways...anger, withdrawing, avoidance...etc. Then I heard Mr. Pryor describe the chill he got when he heard "yeeeeee haaaaa" I realized this was true for all humans.
    And this gave me a little more tolerance (not condoning) toward those who do act in a racist manner regardless of who is doing it.

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 3/16/2005 10:17:00 AM  

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