The Not So Secret World

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

One day at work a fellow supervisor wanted to show us a funny cartoon somebody emailed him. It wasn’t funny. I said it wasn’t funny. I suggested it was rather racist. They stared at me. They didn’t ask me why I thought it was racist so I proceeded to explain exactly what my perspective was. Silence.

It was a busy night at work, the day shift person left and my colleague and I did not have an opportunity to discuss it further. I was disappointed that my colleague who I rather liked did not see where I was coming from. I should know by now not to have expectations about how people will behave or react. We ate lunch together and she asked me if I was angry with her and if I thought she was racist. I responded that had no idea if she was or not. She told me I was being overly sensitive and that “black people were not going to like me more if I took their side.”

Another night I came upon the nurses station and conversation stopped quite abruptly. I suggested it was an interesting coincidence that I suddenly appeared and they all became engrossed in paper work. A nurse piped up and said,”Well, we all know what you’re like and I don’t want to get busted.” She then admitted she had made an anti-semitic remark about her dentist. I asked her if she had attended diversity class, she sighed, rolled her eyes and said she would go in order to avoid being forced to go. She went on to clarify that she “had no problem with Jews” but she did not like this dentist. I asked her the obvious question,” Why didn’t you just say you didn’t like him, and why go to a dentist you don’t like?” She told me I was “too hyper about race and that other stuff” and that I needed to relax. I decided to continue the conversation in private so that I could tell her that she was full of bullshit,and that she was trying to skirt being accountable for her own words.

You’re too sensitive. I did not mean it that way. You’re trying to stir things up. You’re trying to promote bad feelings between people. You aren’t from here. You’re taking up for “them.” You’re reading too much into it. You don’t understand. “They” use those words, why can’t I? It is the way I was raised. They. They. They. You. You. You.

One day, a friend who is also a manager went to a meeting. They discussed a leadership conference they were all going to attend and asked whether she should pay by check or cash. A white colleague at the meeting said,” Maybe we can pay in food stamps.” My friend, who is black looked at a mutual colleague who is also black and they stared at her open mouthed. The meeting was ending and nobody else seemed to notice. She met with our director who was puzzled not comprehending why my colleagues were offended. My friend called me. She was furious and wanted to take it further but was a newly hired manager and concerned about being perceived as a “trouble maker.” She asked my opinion and I thought that she should go up the chain of command and explain why she believed the comment was racist. She met with the VP of nursing and was met with defensiveness. She was told by the VP that she personally knew that individual and there was absolutely no possible way that X was a racist. My friend explained that she was not interested in making personal accusations just providing an “educational” moment about how such comments could be perceived. The VP praised my friend as young “bright and intelligent” leader who had “much to offer”. In other words: shut the fuck up and be glad we promoted you and quit insulting my friends. She received an informal apology but no hint of admission that the comment may have been racist just a “sorry I hurt your feelings” moment. I asked her if there was anything I could do to support her, she sighed and said listening was enough because I caught enough “shit on my own” when I spoke up.

Don’t cause trouble. You misunderstood. What can you gain by this? We have more important things to talk about. We have bigger problems. What do you mean we don’t have diversity? Things are better now. I know what I am saying sounds terrible but I can’t help myself. Oh, you know what I really meant.

One day a colleague started waxing nostalgic about the 1950’s. Well, I said, I wasn’t around then but it seems like the 1950’s weren’t so fantastic if you happened to be something than Caucasian. She went on to say that the “blacks who worked for her family were well taken care of” they had housing and clothes. What about equality I asked, what about the opportunity for the same level of education, housing, and work opportunities as white people had? What about being free from persecution and hate? Oh, she said you’re just being silly.

Things were better then. People knew their place. We were happier. They were happier. Everybody got along just fine.

Deny. Deny. Deny.

Quit being so angry. What does being angry solve? Why do you have to ask so many questions? Can’t you just be happy the way things are. That is the way things are. I have nothing against the good ( fill in the blank ) just the bad ( fill in the blank) if they would all just ( work harder, dress differently, act differently) we would all just get along fine. I can’t help what happened in the past. I can’t change the past. I had nothing to do with (fill in the blank) so why do we have to bring it up now?

History doesn’t matter.

Deny. Deny. Deny. Make it all go away.

Where I am, right now. Not a victim of racism myself. Not silent. Often wrong. Often unaware of my own privilege. Often dismissed.

What I will not do is stop trying to learn.


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  1. There you go…..

  2. Hard to address.  You’ve done an admirable job of trying.

    We must all work to recognize and de-fuse our own racist tendencies.  And:

    What I will not do is stop trying to learn.

    are words to live by.

  3. … a woman and a man of color running for President of the United States, issues of race and gender are coming to the forefront in political discourse (most, sadly, having to do with supporters of each campaign flinging nonsense at each other and the media doing its usual bad job of covering same).

    I will also not stop trying to learn.  There is some excellent writing being done by people of color (if you go to the zuky website, there are many links to other great sites dealing with this issue).  Shanikka (who I usually don’t agree with on political issues) wrote a brilliant diary at Daily Kos that illustrated how this new vanguard of writers are breaking down the conversation and challenging all of us to think differently — to listen to what they have to say and get over our own preconceptions of what racism is.

    The ills of racism aren’t only about poverty and prison, that kind of stereotype, as your essay so ably shows.  It’s about our entire society and how white folks benefit from their majority status and are too often unaware that others do not.

    Great essay, undercovercalic.

    • pfiore8 on January 13, 2008 at 02:13

    because the problems are so much bigger than that word. racism is only part of it and sometimes it gets used as an umbrella term.

    it’s gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, age, weight et al

    • pfiore8 on January 13, 2008 at 02:15

    and keep this conversation going.

  4. The other side to this is my white anglo-saxon family which through no fault of our own has been adversely affected by PC crap, not once but three times.  I did recognize there might be many things I could do to help.  It’s when the people you extend a hand to stab you in the back.  That is when I stop.

    • Tigana on January 13, 2008 at 06:12

    Several of the commenters on this thread hid comments I made when I asked why an Israeli utility, Megaphone, was permitted to be used by a white supremist group. One FP said I had spit on Christmas.

    After my hundreds of comments and free pro-peace and social justice comments and diaries, not one person came to my defence.

    Yiddish is my second language.

    I don’t come here much any more.


    • Robyn on January 13, 2008 at 06:12

    We have more important things to talk about. We have bigger problems.

    I can’t tell you how many times.

    Unfortunately, they have stopped listening by then.  They won’t hear me say, “Yeah, you have more important things.  All I want to do is change the world.”


    PS:  Last night someone told me that trying to have fairness is impossible in this world, so we should choose a different goal that we can reach.

    We should only bite off what we can chew.

    I find that depressing.

  5. …good.  One long snarling arc, not without melody.

    I’m Ms. Abruptly Stopped Conversation.  At least there’s this: you don’t have to hear it nearly so often.

    • plf515 on January 13, 2008 at 13:43

    (all three of them) have largely been a crock of crap.

    They would probably be better if you had been leading them!

    • OPOL on January 14, 2008 at 16:32

    And I quote…

    “It all comes down to whether or not you really believe in equality.”

    Dennis Kucinich

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