Excerpts of Erynn

a blog about… nothing in particular and everything at once

Warning: Contents Under Pressure March 19, 2010

This is a rant I’ve had brewing for a while and it kind of came to a head yesterday in my… well… in my head. I got quite a shock yesterday when I was cruising Facebook and there was some really hateful speech on a friend’s page about racial issues. Four-letter words and foul epithets I thought only people of generations past used. My friend was describing a strange dream she’d had where she was driving down the road and a couple of white cops pulled her over and told her in no uncertain (or polite) terms that there would be no <n-word>s in their county. She wondered if it meant it was time for her to move. There were two comments, one of which used a four letter word and an offensive pejorative for white people. The other comment said she needed to stop eating white foods like milk, tortillas, & crackers, implying they were somehow evil because of their color (note: the commenter was clearly joking, but still… I found it offensive and inappropriate). The whole exchange really bothered me and for hours I could hardly keep it off my mind (a chattering five-year-old did help some).

My friend who posted the dream is an intelligent, loving, proud black woman with one of the most contagious smiles I’ve seen and I’d love to get to know her better; we just never seem to find the time. The fact that racial issues–and that kind of racial issues (the kind I thought died long ago)– are so present in her mind that she’s had a dream where someone would speak to her in such a disparaging and inappropriate way… I don’t know what to say… it just really left me unsettled. On top of that, I’d expected to see comments telling my friend not to worry or asking if she’d had some run-ins with bigots lately… but to find one angry and report-able comment and another that implied all white things needed avoiding due to some kind of taint? Really?! Is this where we’re at? STILL??? It makes me unspeakably sad. Angry. Disappointed. Shouldn’t we be beyond this by now?

I’m not so naive as to believe that there isn’t racial injustice. I know there are ignoramuses out there who insist we’d all be better off if we were just one color, one culture, all united in hatred against anything different. But they’re wrong and I think the majority know that.

It’s high time for us to move past black, white, hispanic, etc. It’s even time to stop pretending we’re all the same and have no differences. My friend with the strange dream knows black and white are different and she embraces the unique culture that is found in black communities. There are some really positive things in the black community that I think we as white people could learn from… IF we would stop pretending we’re all cut with the same cookie cutter, just different colored dough. It’s not the case! I’m glad that for the most part, we’ve moved beyond seeing our differences as a negative, but we’ve moved on to pretending they’re not there. That’s not healthy either. That’s ostrich behavior (you know… burying your head in the sand). We are different. We are each endowed with unique qualities and strengths. When will we learn to share them? When will we learn to learn from each other? When will we learn that God knew what He was doing when He made different cultures, races, and languages? At the tower of Babel (the Biblical account of the origin of different languages), God made it plain that He didn’t want us all to be the same; didn’t want us all to be in one place, all homogenous. He wanted us spread out, embracing our uniqueness. What is it going to take for that to happen today?

It’s time. It’s time to move past “can’t we all just get along” to appreciating, embracing, enjoying, learning from each other. The only way I can see to do that is to talk about it. Talk about our differences. Share them. Ask about them. On that note, I just have to give a shout out to my friend Gabryl, another proud black woman I’m glad to know. I grew up in the suburbs of Denver and never had much interaction with people outside my race. When we moved here to Oklahoma, I was clueless about a lot of things to do with black culture. Gabryl has always been there for me to ask whatever question I want to ask. She never looks down on me, gets offended or shames me for wanting to know even though I’m pretty sure some of my questions have sounded kinda dumb. I love that we have different backgrounds that we can share– LOVE it. It’s because of people like Gabryl that I think we really can do this thing! We really can do more than just get along; do more than just tolerate each other.

So here’s my suggestion… put on a courageous face and ask a question you’ve always wanted to know of someone who’s of a different race. Be gentle. This is a new thing for a lot of people. Start with something like “You know, I’ve always been curious, but never been brave enough to ask…” Take one step. Make the world a little better with one step at a time. Move us in the right direction.

Note: I hope I haven’t offended by saying “black” rather than using the supposedly PC term “African American.” I don’t like that term. I don’t think it’s accurate and I don’t think it helps. Not all black people are descended from Africa and not all Africans are black (did you know Charlize Theron is African?). If we’re going to embrace our differences, let’s figure out what they are rather than assume we know.


5 Responses to “Warning: Contents Under Pressure”

  1. ErynnLeighan Says:

    Thanks for your comments, guys. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who isn’t satisfied with things as they are. Maybe we can actually make things better. :o)

  2. Christie Says:

    Go Erynn!! I am also tired of all the hate and bigotry. I’m amazed at how prevalent it still is even at the high school level. I agree too with not saying “African-American.” People seem to have forgotten-or just don’t want to acknowledge-that most of the slaves that began the black race in America were actually from Haiti, not from Africa. Add that to what you already mentioned and it’s completely inaccurate.
    It also bothers me that so many people still look down on couples where one is black and one is white. No one considers white/hispanic, white/indian, etc. as being wrong…for the most part anyway. It’s all very frustrating…
    As a side note…we’ve got a girl at school from Africa who is just as white as I am. What difference does it make??

  3. SuSu Says:

    Some years ago there was general disruption on college campuses all over the country due to the lack of credible information and history concerning blacks, Hispanics, women, and other groups that had contributed to the US being what it is. Classes, studies and degree programs were created practically overnight to accommodate the demand for information. Students suddenly found Black Like Me, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, The Second Sex, The Silent Spring and The Other America on the required reading list. Eye opening information for those who were open minded enough to read it.

    For as long as there have been people, one group has blamed their ill fortune or the bad weather on the existence of others who were different somehow. It is so much easier to blame others for one’s misfortunes than to take responsiblity. Ignorance, superstition and xenophobia are all fueled by lack of understanding and close-mindedness. “I don’t need to know about Those People — they are bad, nasty, different and if they did not exist, things would be fine.”

    The way out is open-mindedness, education, experience and understanding that different is not bad; it’s just different. Don’t know how to accomplish a change except to model it and promote tolerance, curiosity, and education in our kids — ALL our kids. However, since no one has to prove they are good parent material before they have kids, it is unlikely that every parent will agree on what children should be taught in this area. The only thing to do is to be a good model of what qualities you, as a parent, think are important and foster those characteristics in your little ones hoping they will pass those things along to their kids.

  4. Aimee Lemus Says:

    This was interesting to read…thanks :) I was raised in a very racially diverse place, but live in a place where there is only one black child at the elementary school…so different! I agree with you and think it is crazy the things people post sometimes when many are reading…like on FB.

  5. Rachel Says:

    I am so with you, Erynn! I HATE that people sweep the ethnic differences under the rug as though we’re all EXACTLY the same! We can agree that Hispanic people are not EXACTLY the same as “whites”… even if they’re born & raised in the USA. Why is it just a horrible crime to say that Black people are different? We all have different, yet AWESOME cultures, traditions, etc that would be great to spread out & share, but people are too scared to try. I had a friend a few years ago, Levy, who was awesome like Gabryl. I could ask him questions that I was always too afraid to ask anyone else. He was always willing to sit, chat, and share his life! I loved that! More “whites” need to be willing to ask the questions; more “blacks” need to be willing to share without feeling attacked by our curiosity…AND VICE VERSA! People just assume that they don’t want to know our traditions & stuff… but I would guess that they are just as curious about us as we are them! The phraseology “Can’t we all just get along” would be a great thought, if it didn’t just mean to accept things… it also should mean to integrate…if that makes sense…. Anyways,…. I guess I just wanted to say you’re not alone in your thoughts & feelings!

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