June 21, 2020. 104 days of quite simply an amazing jumble of strange, ominous, and possibly world-changing events. Oh, and the Summer Solstice, Father’s Day and my birthday🎂.
Am I a Racist? Well, I would hope not. But how do I know? Amy Cooper (the woman who calls 911 on African American male bird watchers) said she wasn’t a racist, but we’ll let the video speak for itself. I certainly don’t intend to be a racist, but I totally understand that we, as humans, are inherently tribalist, and will likely gravitate towards those that are more familiar to us. Logic would indicate that will include our identified race (yup, I’m a white guy). We are all part of many groups (or tribes), be it because of religion, nationality, ethnicity, locality, family, schools, clubs and who knows what else. Do I gravitate towards my tribal affiliations? Umm, yes I’m pretty sure I do (go Patriots, go USC, go Wolverines). Do I dislike those that are different from me, not part of my tribes? Not that I know of (unless you are an Ohio State Buckeye😳). But I bet there are tons of gradations that might or might not slip into tribalism, which can include a category that begins to look like racism. Have I been guilty of any of that? I imagine so. Hopefully not overt, but likely guilty of micro aggressions.
Micro Aggressions: “Brief and common daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental communications, whether intentional or unintentional, that transmit hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to a target person because they belong to a stigmatized group.” (Thanks Wikipedia)
How Do You Plead? Guilty: The place: The Marcus home. The Event: UFC fight Conor McGregor 🆚 someone I don’t even remember, but he was a black fighter. Audience: Mostly white friends, with a few black friends. The incident: We were all talking about who we thought was going to win and a black guy that I did not know said McGregor. I said something like “Oh really, I’m surprised.” He asked, “Is that because I’m black?” I think my response was somewhere in the very embarrassed vicinity of “hummana hummana hummana…”
Let’s Delve Deeper: Of course this is a micro aggression. Without conscious intention, I clearly transmitted a message that made him feel exposed in a mostly white group. Was it negative? It wasn’t my intention but I believe he perceived it that way. And for that I am truly sorry. So what would have happened if the friend was white and from Ireland and said he thought the black guy would win and I said, “Oh really, I’m surprised?” Would that be a micro aggression? I don’t know, maybe. Certainly if we went back to the time when the Irish were treated like second class citizens, it could have been seen as a very negative comment. But times have changed and, for the most part, animosity towards the Irish isn’t a significant issue. Assimilation has occurred over the years. Being Irish isn’t (generally) viewed as a negative stereotype. Among the white friends who were there were a mixture of Italians, Irish, Jewish, and who knows or really cares what else. Because the various white national heritages had generally been assimilated into that one quite obvious white tribe. But the black man was not in that tribe. And if he had any sense of separation before that, I added to it by carelessly pointing that out (jeez, what an f-ing idiot I am). And even if you include all the obvious physical differences amongst us humans (Asian, Indian, sex, physical disability etc. etc.), I think it’s pretty obvious that the least assimilated, most stigmatized tribe in America (maybe the world) is the black community (where you can understand why it’s necessary to point out that Black Lives Matter).
As a white Northern European male with a white (nearly pure bred Irish) wife, with friends from lots of different (but still white) backgrounds, issues of tribal differences seldom occur. But often, if they do, it can be a source of humor and good natured fun. It’s part of the human condition. Things that are different can be funny: silly foibles, stupid things people do, pratfalls, a “kick me” sign taped to someone’s back. The humor is organic because we see ourselves in it. If the humor is targeted at a different tribe, it might also be funny if the differences are innocuous (we Patriot fans have been the butt of many bad jokes, but you can bet your socks that we’ll make fun of Bills or Jets fans). I’ve been guilty of doing stuff like this for years. I have a pretty dark sense of humor and like to laugh. And I’m pretty sure I’ve slipped across the line of “funny” into “insensitive.” There are lots of lines in a lot of places that we need to be careful not to cross. And maybe we are entering a time when we (or at least me), can begin paying closer attention to them.
And I guess that’s the purpose of this rambling edition of my blog. Some self-reflection of what and how I may have contributed to the injustices we have all been (finally) hearing about in this strange, wonderful and (hopefully) pivotal time. And to listen to how I can do better so that, sometime in the future being singled out as a black man is as innocuous and unimportant as being singled out as a Bills (Patriots, Wolverine, Buckeye) fan. No big deal.
And that will take time and energy and conviction and perseverance and love. We cannot rest until that time is here.