On Racism: From a Middle-Aged White Man

"I need a break from white people." - Charlamagne tha God

I understand that race is a social construct and that individuals each have their own backgrounds, experiences, and surroundings. I also understand that more ethnicities and cultures exist in the United States of America than just black and white; we have Asians, Latinos, Native American, Indian, Middle Eastern, and probably a dozen others I haven’t thought of. I get it; I am educated, empathetic, and open-minded. But for the sake of my sanity, I want to write about the classic black and white race dichotomy.


I Am White

I grew up in a white family in Virginia and, I’ll just say, my white family has never been shy about sharing their unfavorable opinions about black people. It was weird, though. Growing up, I heard all sorts of bad things about how black people were “less than” white people. At the same time,  I also grew up knowing that I shouldn’t judge a person based on the color of skin, and really just that I shouldn’t judge a person for any reason. How did this happen? How did I hear the “because they’re black” reasoning all my life but not conform to it?

I think my mom and my Catholic-school upbringing put the simple principle of non-judgement in my head. I also have to give credit to the films and television shows I grew up with. I know media gets a bad rap, and the Jesus on the cross at my church was somehow always white and clean, but if you look at the big picture, the simple lessons that media’s stories and the Bible’s stories try to tell do actually get through on some level.

At least they did for me.

I’m Not Racist

At least, I don’t think so.

When I say that now, my mind immediately goes to Joyner Lucas’s incredible song and video, “I’m Not Racist.”  The song and video, which has more than 155 million views on YouTube, shows a southern-looking white man talking to a black man. He calls him the N-word and questions the stereotypes everyone knows, like selling drugs, saggy pants, and street gang life. Then he sits down and the black man explains himself and tries to get the white man to understand his perspective. At the end, there’s a compassion that wasn’t really present before and the two men hug as the song says:

Can’t erase the scars with a bandage.
I’m hoping maybe we can come to an understanding.
Agree to disagree and we can have an understanding.
I’m not racist.

Joyner Lucas, “I’m Not Racist”

Listening

I’m shopping around a screenplay that has a second act containing mostly a white man and a black teenager talking about racism, stereotypes, education, and life from another’s perspective. It’s a lot like the Joyner Lucas video. But some of the criticism I’ve gotten on the script, and why some are reluctant to move forward, is because it contains “stereotypes,” so I’m told. But that’s the point, I try to explain. Here, I digress, and I wonder, if the “I’m Not Racist” video were put out by a white person instead of Joyner Lucas, would it be as popular?

I am white, but I want to talk about race and racism. I want to acknowledge that black people are part of a culture I don’t fully understand. Why do I have a tinge of guilt for putting that acknowledgement out there? Shouldn’t today’s cultural climate be more like the video? I didn’t read The Hate U Give, but I saw the movie. I thought one of the most powerful parts was when Star said, to her white boyfriend, “If you don’t see my blackness, then you don’t see me”

The thing is, there exists a difference of culture. If I acknowledge this difference, then I am pegged as a racist, but I shouldn’t be. I guess I’m taking that chance here.

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