Do not adjust your television.

I love when someone perfectly articulates something that’s been careening around in my brain but which I haven’t been able to get hold of tightly enough to turn into words.

That bit at the end about why he finds it insulting when people say things like, “I don’t care if you’re black, purple or orange,” that is a thing I’ve been trying to help people understand forever.  Kids used to say that to me in high school, in college.  People still say it to me.  And it always leaves me with a sour feeling, and I’ve never been able to explain it as cleanly and simply as Jay just did.*

I feel the same anger when people say this “I don’t care if you’re black or orange,” crap as I do when people talk about Americans magically becoming “post racial.”  What do people even mean when they say that, and can they really believe that our entire country has fallen into that rabbit hole?  When there can be people making t-shirts showing my president as a monkey (did you miss the Curious George/Obama shirts? Lucky you), when a politician can make what he wants us to believe he thought was a joke about an escaped gorilla being a member of my first lady’s family, when the white descendant of my first lady’s white ancestor thinks it would be fun to sit with Mrs. Obama and share stories about that shared ancestor … when all this (and so much more) is possible, can it also be possible that anyone believes we’ve “moved beyond race,” as someone said to me at a meeting recently? I don’t want us to be “post racial.”  I would, however, very much like us to be “post racist.”  Think we’ll ever manage that one?

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Check out the rest of the slices of life over at Stacey and Ruth’s.

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* And by the way, when is Jay finally going to wake up and realize that he is my soul mate?  I’m just saying.

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6 thoughts on “Do not adjust your television.

  1. molly

    I am always grateful to you for linking me to Jay. I hesitate to write about race, since I am white and middle class.
    A woman from Haiti once said that in the US all the white people want everybody to just forget that slavery happened. Well, not ALL the white people, but a lot of them/us. That a bunch of people were kidnapped from their homes and taken to another land so far away that they could never go back, and then really believed to be animals of a different species, treated like farm animals and worse, bought and sold and used in every possible way, for a LONG time, is not something you can be “over” or “post”. It is a historical and present-day fact that we have to integrate into what our present reality is.
    I try to be as humble about my own racism as I can. I think that is more respectful than pretending that I have “gotten past it” (and so should you — that’s always the hidden message, isn’t it?).
    In Italy, journalists always ask the survivors of violent crime if they forgive their assailants. It’s almost a sacred Catolic tradition to ask this horrible question. I never feel good for the victims who say, yes, they have forgiven.

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    1. Please don’t hesitate to write (or talk) about race, Molly. That’s what we need more of: open, honest conversation is much more important than the insulting fantasy of being “post” anything.

      I really liked this comment: “I think that is more respectful than pretending that I have “gotten past it” (and so should you — that’s always the hidden message, isn’t it?).” That is definitely the hidden message. I might not like the message, but if people would just say what they are really trying to say, we might get to the open, honest conversation faster.

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  2. “We are post-racial” equals denial. Period.

    I love they way you put it: “I don’t want us to be ‘post racial.’ I would, however, very much like us to be ‘post racist.'” The difference between the two is immense.

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  3. Yes, I also would like us to be “post racist”! I participated in an interesting activity while attending the California Reading and Literature Project. We had to write a list of words that describe how we perceive ourselves: woman, sister, etc. I didn’t note my race, but many of my friends did. We had candid discussion about it – I didn’t note it because I am Caucasian and I don’t have people saying things to me such as “I don’t care if you’re black, purple or orange!” Thank you for a powerful and thought provoking post!

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    1. I love hearing that people are really talking about these things. We’ve been so trained to move past the conversation starter by giving a little nervous laughter and changing the subject. I’m glad you and your friends and the others in the project were willing and able to talk it through!

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