Monday, February 26, 2007

Am I the Racist Here?

Reading books written by black authors, especially female ones, disturbs me more often than it doesn't. Because while some black authors are content to wholly blame whites for racism, many black women writers point also at the malice in the hearts of blacks.

Maryse Conde, in Crossing the Mangrove, ignores almost entirely (for the first couple of chapters at least) the racism of whites, concentrating on the fury of malice produced by the black community. And what disturbs me is I find myself murmuring, "You're right about the malice." Especially during Mira's commentary on the males of her community, and the defiant, hateful way they look at her because they are ashamed of their own nightly fantasies regarding her. A man cannot respect in person a woman whom he has debauched in his head. Because I am a white girl, friendly and full of smiles, I meet this same brand of malice more often than I ever meet genuine friendliness. It is a basic racism combined with a powerful imagination running in the wrong direction, and so I politely do not mention it (because then I would be called a racist for noticing).

But it never quite seems to fade. Black men cannot be colorblind around white women--if they are ugly, then they are spurned because they are ugly; if they are beautiful, they are spurned for beauty. If they are average, like myself, there is only a sliver of hope. I cannot win with them. Some black women I can converse with just as I would any other woman. I find in them the same freedom I feel in my own soul, and so rarely am allowed to be free that way. Talk with them is no sweeter than with any other kind-souled person, but the memory of it is bittersweet, for I wonder as I remember what it is that keeps others from being that way.

It is clear that the tension between the black and white races is still strong in pockets, a nasty surprise for people who aren't expecting it. I dislike it as intensely as I dislike drugs, elitism, legalism, or fanaticism of other sorts. I think people who fall deep into those waters are accepting a craziness that is slimy and putrefying. If I think like this, can I truly be as nice as my words? Is the willingness to bridge the gap with friendly or sweet conversation on my own part enough? Or will I be damned for noticing, and resenting it. After all, hate and racism are just resentments which have been let run free too long.

It is one thing to be insulted or shunned by someone who is not much different from you--it's almost amusing actually. It is entirely different to be insulted (even if the insulter is merely using their eyes and tone for it) by someone who (a) is doing it because he sees a vast difference between you and (b) sees no need to translate that into an ambassadorship, i.e. a reason to act well instead of shoddily. It is almost the same as the rude treatment one receives in a foreign country, as if by speaking to someone you have entered a world not your own (even if it most certainly IS your own, and you weren't raised very differently or far from each other).

I was bullied, threatened, and robbed by black and white girls alike in school. I see that kindness or roughness is the same coming from either race. There was only one exception: Doogie Golatt. He was everyone's clown, and for some reason didn't feel the need to be anything but devilishly teasing and sweet to anyone else the whole time I knew him. I'm sure he had his moments, but I never saw them. We weren't that close, I was too far behind the line or something.

Maybe that's what they're trying to tell me. Stick to your own people, stop expecting so much. But ironically enough, that IS racism!!
I wonder if we will ever graduate away from these inadvertent messages of punishment and snobbery. And's nothing new you know. People will hate themselves, no matter what you say or do.

Even I hate myself sometimes. Maybe Heaven is as simple as not ever hating yourself. Don't you think that streets of gold are incomparable to the promise of never hating again? Hate's this disease that begets itself.

It's all very well to say what hate is. How do you get away from it?

Well. I get away from it through the joy of others. Pam certainly shares joy enough.

I get through it with gadgets that delight me with their delicate, clever uses.

I get through with music that brings me back, brings me back to moments I didn't know I would treasure quite this much. And every time I remember them, I imbue them with more happiness than before.

I get through it all with your smile, or your hand on my shoulder, your arm around me briefly in hello and parting.

I get by on the jokes of my family.

I get by on my father's smile, which is so beautiful.

I get through on my mother's delight in little things like a cream or candle that smells so very good, or a new recipe.

I get through it when my brother and I prowl each other's rooms at night when the world is down to us, and even sleep is avoiding us. I get by on the conversations he shares with me in a heartsick way sometimes, and though we are cast down, we are cast down together. We brush each other off, and realize that we're not so far down as we were. Somehow.

I get by on the green woods around my house, and the midnight gaze of stars.
I recover surrounded by books I have read, who promise to be just as wonderful or horrible whenever I like. I get by on books I haven't read yet who promise a new adventure, once I can't stir myself beyond the room or into a textbook.
I get by on submitted a finished bit of work, and knowing that I've done the best I had to do.
I get by in my soft, sweet-smelling bed, and the steady gazes of felines support me with their enigmas. I get by on calendars which assure me that, as far as they know, there are other days coming, with nothing written on them, no certain future lying in wait, but a misty one that slides in around me and enfolds me in its coolness, touching my skin in the morning with newness.

I get by on the abbey, and her bells and beauty. I don't allow myself many visits, and it has only grown more precious over the years.

I get by on illustrations of children's tales, on silly rhymes and the way my mother reads them. They live with her breath.

I get by on cinnamon, and spice, and everything nice. On ice-water and red wine, on my dad's barbeque and my brother's grin. On the way my mother cocks her head to the side, then props her head on one palm when she's thinking about what she'll say next, or just digesting what someone else is saying. Or when she's had more than one glass of wine, the way she looks at candleflame as if it were showing her all the happy things that got her through, and maybe some sad ones too.

And I know I'm not alone, which is much different from how I felt living an hour or three away from my family, in the world of concrete that is the city. An ocean of grey, and the green that desperately pushed its way through here and there enough to make you turn your eyes away in pain. I'm not alone, and my needs are honest ones. And I remember the God I loved, and tenderly draw myself into the things I loved about Him, in the hopes that one day I won't need proof, that clever satire won't pull me so easily from good things. That I'll find the balance between divine law and human understanding.

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