Projects

rickEarlier today I was walking with someone I know. He was bemoaning the number of minority kids in his son’s junior high class, and said, “I feel like he’s going to school in the projects.”

This was at approximately 8:30 am. I’d just returned from Los Angeles via red eye, and my mind was apple sauce. I was exhausted and nonexistent and beaten down and … and …

I’m fucking pathetic.

I am the uncle of two bi-racial kids, and I said nothing.

Many of my closest friends in the world are African-American, and I said nothing.

I grew up in a town where my best childhood friend had crosses burned in his yard, and I said nothing.

Why did I say nothing? I’d like to believe it’s because of the exhaustion—but, truth be told, I simply wimped out. I knew I’d see this guy again and again and again, and I didn’t love the idea of future awkwardness; of weird stares and passing silence and all the accompanying weirdness.

Well, I’m calling bullshit—on myself. The next time I see this person, I’m saying something. I’m telling him that, just because we’re two suburban white guys doesn’t mean I share his crap feelings; that when you look at black kids and make assumptions—you’re looking at my family and friends and making assumptions, too. There is absolutely no value is staying quiet; in not speaking up; in choosing safety over awkwardness. Hell, it’s the awkward moments that quite often lead to  the greatest change. Someone has to be first to sit in at the lunch counter. Someone has to defy his/her parents and march. Someone has to quit the Boy Scouts; befriend a gay child; turn to Mom and Dad and say, “You’re a bigot, and it disgusts me.”

Well, my inaction disgusts me.

It ends here.

10 thoughts on “Projects”

  1. Totally agree I’ve named two of my sons after my army roommate who’s as upstanding an quality of a man as there is. I still an always will consider him my best friend he taught me a lot bout life in a short period of time an yes he’s African American . But I agree don’t assume cause I’m white that I share your racial thoughts or agree with them by any means . But yea I’ve not said shit when approached with someone’s thoughts that I don’t agree with an felt like shit afterwards glad I’m not the only who’s felt that way

  2. I live in the city and I always laugh at the self described white suburban guy who is offended by racists. Tell me again why you don’t live here, tell me the makeup of your kids class. Until you can save the sanctimonious position on race and class.

    1. Ooooh, Mike, you live in “the city.” Very tough; gives you an edge. Look up New Rochelle, tough guy—specifically, look up its demographics. My kids go to one of the most diverse school systems in America. And you know why I moved here, jackass? So my kids would have a front yard and a place to ride bikes, and also so my kids would grow up in a diverse place. I was raised in a town that was 99% white, and I fled from that nonsense as quickly as I could.

      Put different: save the sanctimonious position yourself. Because you don’t know shit about me.

  3. Why do feel the need to tell him how you felt about his comments.

    What if he went home and thought of saying something to you because you didn’t agree with him.

    He is who he is. And now you know how he feels about race.

    Does this mean you cannot know this man anymore? Do business with him anymore? Have any kind of contact with him any longer?

    Move on or interact with him as you have been.

    Telling us you are going to preach to him about thinking more like you do is something I don’t get at all.

    To act as if he doesn’t know how he should and should not be acting regarding how races interact in this day and time is something I don’t get.

    That man is who he is at this point.

  4. We’ve all been in that situation, especially with older people who grew up with different protocols. Best way to handle it is to put it on yourself – “if you don’t mind, that makes me uncomfortable.” That doesn’t quite beat them up but also delivers a message and hopefully gets them thinking.

  5. Jeff, the best thing you can do is ignore him. by responding to him, you make him seem to have more importance in your life than he should. Your “bitching” at him won’t change his views in any way.

    You should be happy in the fact that you are a much more enlightened human than he is. the fact that you are teaching your kids that diversity is a wonderful and beautiful thing is something that more parents need to do.

  6. I agree. It makes us uncomfortable, but let’s shift that feeling to the person spouting the slur or comment. Let them know that they don’t have an audience for such crap anymore. It can come in something as simple as shaking of the head in silent disapproval, or a comment like “that’s not cool,” or “that’s crap,” and then move on. The reality of it, is we’ll only be doing them a favor, and help them realize that it’s not an acceptable comment. I believe this happens a lot. And it’s something we can all pitch in with to better things. In the past it may have come when a joke or stereotype was too easily told, and once people stopped laughing in faux support when they were uncomfortable and instead braved disagreement, or even simply not smiled and offered some sort of silent disapproval, then these jokes moved out of the accepted society norm. They still are uttered, no doubt, but the more people who don’t support this kind unkindness let it known, then racisst and bigots will have fewer and fewer venues to utter the shit. Let them know, the audience for their comment has moved on. They are now the minority.

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