“Now you know,” she said to me
April 6, 2017 12:14 PM   Subscribe

This is an article I happened upon and read expecting to roll my eyes a lot. Which I did, because really, do we need another line of though from anyone white about race?

Turns out that we do, that the journey from ignorance to enlightenment, even a bitter one, is worth hearing again. Because sometimes we need to be reminded of the complexities of race in America, the struggle to see and understand these problems aren't easily solved. But sometimes people can find something else and that's alright too.

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:40 PM on April 6, 2017 [36 favorites]

I can't say I liked or enjoyed it but I appreciate what the author is saying. While she doesn't use the term "privilege" that's what she's talking about. That's what makes stories like this one important. White people like me need to be reminded constantly of our privilege. We need to have it thrown in our faces from every direction until we can't escape the barrage. We need to have it explained to us in small words so we can't pretend we don't understand. We need to tell each other and not rely on our token black friend to do it.
posted by irisclara at 1:35 PM on April 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

A really good read- thank you for sharing it. I almost didn't read it because I thought it could be a "I didn't know and now I do know so that's all taken care of," article. Or a "we're white so we should feel bad/you're white so you should feel bad" article. Because those types of articles make me feel bad about myself and bad about other people and just generally socially awkward and helpless, and there's only so much those feelings can do to make me a better person before they make me just want to avoid thinking and go hide in a hole. This article made me want to keep thinking.
posted by Secretariat at 1:40 PM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thanks for this. If you posted it, I figured it must be worth reading. The detail about the milk is interesting, and makes the bond she struggled to build even more poignant.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:00 PM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

This was beautiful, thank you.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:12 PM on April 6, 2017

Thanks for posting this. One strength of the article is she references black thinkers, writers and activists, instead of acting like she invented knowing about racism, as many white 'anti-racist' writers seem to.

I felt a lot to connect with here: I'm a white woman and I work primarily with people who are at the economic and social bottom. Here where I live, Oakland, that means primarily African American folks. Everyone I work with is chronically ill and homeless, and chronic illness disproportionately impacts black Americans, and homelessness disproportionately impacts black Americans. Everyone I work with is poor - I'm part of a safety net health system, and of course poverty disproportionately impacts black people here too.

As a white person, and someone with a middle classish background and experience, it is very easy for me to not see the reality of anti-black racism. Everything is set up for me to avert my eyes, and even though I grew up in a fairly integrated context, have black friends and coworkers, seek out black media etc, it's still so easy to not see what's really going on here. In my life it would be easy to be a clueless white liberal who knows racism is bad but doesn't get it's pervasiveness and toxicity. The way it gives white people a huge head start and boost in the world.

In my work, pretending things are OK finally becomes impossible: I can't help but see how my clients are actively exploited by landlords (recently with deadly consequences), check cashing companies, credit card companies because they have no access to safe or ethical services. When I hear their stories, older people who used to work give me the story of how they worked for industries that have now left Oakland and often left the county. I have seen over and over black clients lose a parent or older family member who had owned a house, or had some connection to resources, and when that one connection to resources passes away, my clients loose their housing and become homeless. I can't not see how redlining policies that have been illegal for decades are still harming the next generations who don't have relatives who are home owners. Even if I got fired tomorrow and my parents died suddenly and left me nothing, I know I'm connected to a network of resourced people who could loan me money, let me stay with them, etc. For my clients, there is no option for them to plug back into the system, to get a job or buy a house. It is impossible.

Anti-black racism works on all levels of our society. Of course even rich, famous or otherwise successful black people are targeted by police, always under suspicion. I believe racism on some level poisons every interaction we have, because it's so entrenched here. But again, as a white person I do have the option of not looking. But for me in my work the worst impacts of racism are glaringly bright here at the bottom edges of poverty and I can't look away.

So while I come at this from a different experience than her, I connected with this author's experience and appreciated reading it.
posted by latkes at 4:00 PM on April 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

I am usually pretty dang impressed with bittersoutherner stories. Good points here.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:43 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm coming back to this, I read it earlier and it stuck. I have always lived in diverse areas, have friends from a variety of backgrounds...but having a biracial grandson opened my eyes to things I hadn't really seen.

At the playground I'm looking at a grown man who is up on a climbing feature with his kid. It seems either weirdly childish or over protective. Then I realize he is watching my two year old grandson, anticipating...trouble? it's all he could see. And my happy little two year old is sweetly pretending to be a train going across a bridge, too young to even do much interactive playing. and this grown man is continually on guard as if...I can't even imagine.

Yeah, it's a thing that I am ashamed to never have fully taken in to my consciousness before. But just typing this has me angry, so much so that i feel my breathing change. Fuck all the racists.
posted by readery at 6:37 PM on April 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

Thanks for sharing this.
posted by colfax at 4:37 AM on April 7, 2017

As an addendum, I have seen racism for years, but it didn't hit as viscerally. I remember seeing a guy park his car in front of my house and start to walk away and see my African American neighbors sitting on their porch and walk back and put a steering wheel lock on. It was annoying but the person was obviously a fool, can't he see that there are families here, this is a neighborhood? Your car is in little danger in a place so populated. You could almost pity his ignorance.

But when it comes to one of mine, a child I have a fierce love for...I don't know how to deal with the anger. I am ashamed that it didn't register as strongly before.
posted by readery at 10:09 AM on April 8, 2017

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