Sunday, May 2, 2010

Am I a racist, or have I just been conditioned?

I have a "conservative" associate that I talk to some times.

We argue about politics most of the time we talk. However lately we have been arguing about race relations here in the land of the free. He is a white dude that was married to a black woman. He has a very beautiful teenage daughter from his 19 year marriage, who is currently in college. He refuses to see the problems we have in this country concerning Black and White race relations. He says that I see race because I have allowed myself to be placed in a box by ignorant people. He says I have been conditioned to a certain way of seeing things and that, he says, is the problem with people in AmeriKKKa. He says that he only sees people instead of color, so he does not acknowledge racist behavior.

I think he is full of shit, except for the part about me being conditioned. You see I have been conditioned and I just figured this out a couple of days ago......

The other morning as I was pulling into my gym's parking lot I noticed a very attractive white lady coming out of the entrance of the gym. I have seen her before, so there was nothing unusual about this. I parked my truck and proceeded to walk into the gym. I passed the lady and we did not acknowledge each other.(Although as we passed I did turn around to admire her frame as she walked away. What? I told you that the woman was very attractive. And I am a very healthy man.)
Anyways....... Again this was not unusual because we have never so much as smiled at each other before.

Anyways... As I was approaching the entrance to the gym I realized that I had left my membership card in the arm rest of my truck, so I turned around to go get it. The White lady had reached her car and by coincidence she had parked right in front of me. Now I could have walked right next to her and made it to my truck, and I do not know why I did not. But what I did do was go around 2 other cars so that I would be no were near her and I waited until she was in her car before I opened my door and got my card out of the arm rest of my truck. I did all this with out thinking about it, like it was routine.

Why did I go out of my way just to avoid contact with a very nice looking woman?

As I think about my answer, I recall something similar I do and I do not realize that I am doing it. Whenever I am on or getting on an elevator and a white woman either is already on the lift, or is getting on the lift, if it is only me and her, I subconsciously try to get as far from her as possible. I get into the corner and I do not try to initiate any contact that could be considered "hostile".

But the tripped out thing is; if a white man is on the elevator or if it would have been a white man in the gym parking lot, I would have walked right up next to him and dared him to say something.

Why am I like this?

I know how some white people view a man that looks like me. I am the very definition of the term "Big Black Buck".  I am 6'2" tall. I weigh 228 pounds, which is not "fat weight". I keep a bald head. I am also dark-skinned. I am the type of black man that "fits the description" of damn near every black criminal in Dallas. So I know that if the white woman I have talked about even whispers something that could be considered by a passerby as "help me", I am going straight to jail. Whether I did anything to her or not. That is the country I have grown up in. I will be considered guilty until the lip-service I have to sell my house to afford to represent me gets me acquitted, if he gets me acquitted. And if I don't get acquitted I will have to register as a sex offender once I get out of jail, which in essence ensures that my "debt to society" will never be paid.

So I have been "conditioned."

But does this make me a racist because I know how my country views and has historically treated people that look like me?
Does it make me a racist because I can feel the hostility that some people have towards me without them having to say a word?
Does it make me a racist because I refuse to deny and ignore my feelings?
Does it make me a racist because I can see through the coded words and I see the blatant disrespect that is being shown to the President of the United States by "conservative" white people like my associate?

Or am I essentially in a "box" that society has placed me in and I refuse to or am too scared to venture outside of that "box?".

I do not consider myself a racist. I have no ill feelings towards anyone, and I try to treat everyone I meet with respect, until they prove themselves unworthy of that respect.
But I do know and have experienced racism.

So am I racist or have I just been conditioned?
I am leaning towards the "conditioned" aspect of it all, but what do you think?

19 comments:

Moi said...

I think we all have some racist tendencies, some so deep we may not even know they're there.

However, dodging some white person's potential racism doesn't make you racist. You don't want to have to deal with any potential toxicity and don't let anyone tell you you're a "racist" for refusing to potentially be treated in racist manner.

Inquiry: why bother arguing with that dude you mentioned the beginning? You don't have to. So why?

Anna Renee said...

Its easy for your white friend to "not acknowledge racist behavior" because most likely he's not the recipient of it. I agree that you're conditioned--toward self preservation! I dont believe we black folks "allowed" ourselves to be "placed in a box by ignorant people" We have been forced into that box and ignorant people are manipulated to keep us in that box. I think your friend is disinguenuous! If he truly only saw people and not color, he would see injustice and not try to dismiss it. So he probably cant relate to his wifes struggles as a black woman, or his daughters as a biracial woman. When these type of folks try to make it seem as simple as "we allow" racism, then they are not interested in doing the work on their part to change anything, and on it goes. This can be a real issue in a black/white interracial relationship. If I had a white man, he would have to be able to acknowledge racism, white imperialism, white priviledge, and then deal with all of that in a realistic way before I could truly have a relationship with him--not telling me I put myself in a box!
Im sure the issue of racism is the unbearable burden for white people, but trying to make it black peoples fault wont relieve them of that burden!
As for you being racist, no. Realist, yes.

Reggie said...

I have friends like your "conservative friend" and we have similar conversations. Whenever I hear someone tell me that they don't see color, I'll usually go ahead and tell them that I think that they're full of shit. Color is an identifier, just like height and religion and accent and weight and hair type.

If you're conditioned, then I suppose that I'm conditioned too.

I'm 6'2 and I weigh about 185 and I keep my head shaved too. I'll never forget the day that I was walking across the street in New Orleans wearing a suit with a trenchcoat. As I walked across the street in front of the cars (since the light had just turned red), a Caucasian woman in a Mercedes looked up at me and made eye contact and screamed. Yup, she screamed and two rednecks in a pickup truck next to her started laughing. I was embarrassed, but I'm not sure why. I didn't do anything except cross the street. But I also suppose that I've done nothing at all when I'm driving down the interstate doing 60 and I'll look over at someone in a car speeding next to me and they'll reach over and lock their doors.....as if I'm the goddamned Flash.

Yeah, we're conditioned alright. I guess the only difference in you and me is that when I get on that elevator with the Caucasian woman........I'm instantly mad about the whole goddamned situation. Yeah, we're conditioned alright.

佳安 said...

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義珊 said...

若有人問你成功時會不會記得他 試問若你失敗時他會不會記得你..................................................

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...
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Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Red, from a sociological perspective, this is a very valuable post.

It illustrates the common, every day decisions black men make to survive. This form of low impact stress is subtle, and accumulates over the years, which is why I think blacks, and black men in particular, are more likely to develop high blood pressure, even when you eliminate factors like weight and diet. This leads to heart disease, strokes, and early deaths. In other words, racism has been killing many of us slowly.

Your coworker may be married to a black woman, but he sounds psychologically attached to denial. Yes, one can deal with others as people first, and overlook their ethnicity, but there is something peculiar about the person who is blind to abusiveness by others. This is what racism is: a form of abuse.

"He says that he only sees people instead of color, so he does not acknowledge racist behavior."

Fine, let's use his own words and and thinking, using dogs as an example.

"I like dogs and deal with each one on an individual base. Most are friendly enough toward toward other dogs when taken on a walk. Because I like them, though, I don't notice that some dogs are aggressive toward others."

That statement is illogical.

You can use that with him, but I doubt that he'll be able or willing to transfer it to his own world view, which lets "his people" off the hook.

Racism has conditioned him to think illogically, using denial to avoid harshness of reality, and perhaps, white guilt. Either that, or he's a liar.

This illustrates why you and so many other blacks have been conditioned to avoid certain social situations, because illogical people (of any race) are unpredictable, and often not safe to be around.

Ms. Camile said...

I'd lean toward conditioned. But hey, I have my own behaviors that would seem "racist" or better yet prejudice, so I may not be the judge. I feel that every person has their "thing" when it comes to race. Idk. Touchy subject...

Carl said...

Thank you for this entry. You may also be interested in this multicultural magazine!!.

Dirty Red said...

Moi,
You are right. I don't have to argue with the dude. But sometimes his opinions about shit is so fucked up that I have to say something. Besides every time we talk, I learn something from him. I think it is very valuable to my everyday education to talk to someone with whom I have nothing in common. It helps me understand this madness we call life.

Anna Renee,
I agree. If I were to date a White Chick, she would have to understand exactly how I feel about things. And vice verse. However I could not date a White chick that goes out of her way to act "black." I tried that once and it does not work. I would need to be with the whitest white girl I could find. I mean, if the chick listened to Britney Spears and Lady Gaga before we met, I don't expect her to change to 50 cent and Keisha Cole just to accommodate me.

Reggie,
And to think that you got that reaction from a White woman and you are an Al B Sure looking ass nukka. LOL. Imagine if both of us were crossing the street together. She probably would have jumped out of her car and ran down the street screaming rape.

Kit,
You hit it on the head. My blood pressure is high and I work out 4 times a week and I hardly ever eat any fried foods. I don't eat exactly what you call healthy, but I don't eat chitlins and hog mawls everyday either. I guess being Black is what is causing my blood pressure to be up huh?

Ms. Camille,
You are right. I know I have my prejudices. But I do not let that effect the way I treat people. At least I try not to anyway.

Network Guru said...

Interesting post....If I had to truly think about it, I believe it's all about WHERE you were raised instead of how you were raised. Behavior like this just screams southern boy to me. Being born and raised in California I never had to avoid contact from anyone who I thought would have a problem with me or my color...I don't apologize for being a big black man(6'1" 200lbs) and neither should you..

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

"I guess being Black is what is causing my blood pressure to be up huh?"

No, it's the constant, low grade stress from subtle and overt racism that adds up over the years. I could add, unless it runs in your family, but chances are, they had the same environmental stress.

I also think Network Guru's comment is on the money.

Tony said...

I've had the same conversation with many a conservative White person in my day. To identify and articulate a racist act or comment in their minds is TO BE a racist. This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. To point to slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation as 300 years of hindrances to Black success is to be a "racist". Paul Mooney says it best. To be a Black man in America is to be the goddamn Boogeyman. I don't like it, I didn't create that paradigm, but I'll be damned if I'll stop pointing it out when I see it.

Ms. Camile said...

Yes! I constantly have to take note of why I treat certain people. I sincerely have a love of people from all races, backgrounds, religions...but I even surprise myself with where my thoughts can go! But this was a great post! I'll def be doing a self evaluation.

Constructive Feedback said...

Dirty Red:

Do you always place your own self-worth into the hands of other people like this?

It seems like you have certain views that you seek to mandate that all other Blacks must adopt in order for them to be Black folks in good standing.

Now when I upload the picture of the 80 year old Black woman in Atlanta who opened her door to two Black males who asked to use her phone and they robbed her - would this ONE INCIDENT be enough to defien ALL BLACK MALES?

Alee said...

Sad but true. By the was thanks for commenting on aleesperspective.blogspot.com

Joanna! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joanna! said...

First of all, a white person who does not recognize and work to combat racism is condoning a the system of oppression and therefore, part of the problem. And he DEFINITELY has NO BUSINESS marrying a Black woman or raising a Black child.
Colorblindness is a joke. If you proclaim to "not see color" than you are also not seeing racism, not recognized systemic racism, and allowing it to continue unabated.
And prejudice does not equal racism. Power is required to enforce racist ideology. In this world, the only racist system is that of white supremacy.

Unknown said...

I stumbled on this topic by accident, but after reading it, I realized I may be able to contribute. Whether or not the author's sentiments come from a "racial conditioning" as he believes, I can tell you that I have the EXACT same conditioned response within me as well. The only problem is I am white. I am 6'2" 215 lbs and have blonde hair and when I am placed into a situation such as the one described, I also get an awkward feeling and look for ways to remove myself from the situation for the comfort and sense of security of all parties involved. I can't tell you how many times I have purposefully avoided or gave extra room to a woman in a parking lot, elevator, or otherwise isolated place? Is this conditioning? Perhaps, but certainly not from a racial point of view. We have been conditioned to believe that no one can be trusted and in many cases this may be justified. The fact is, there are whackos out there and I do not want some woman thinking I am one of them, even if it is completely unjustified. So I accommodate, much like the author does. I do this because I am NOT a whacko, much like the author. The last thing I want to do is cause harm to an innocent individual, even if that harm is only a fleeting perceived threat of vulnerability. Just my two cents.