How many of you have black friends? How many of you are black? This is why I love blogs. You have no idea what color the person is by their writing. Unless they include a picture on their profile page it doesn’t really matter does it! Here, we’re all equal. All of our thoughts and words matter.
I have black friends, so I’m not a racist. I meet every one of my friends, regardless of color with smiles and hugs or a hardy handshake. I’m happy to see them and interact with them. I don’t care what color they are.
We’ve all felt like this. We’ve all heard people say this.
Here’s the thing: my friends that are black I have met in a controlled environment. I was in school with them. I go to church with them. I work with them. They’re clients of mine or students of mine. I control the environment. I get to know them on a personal one-on-one basis. I don’t see my black friends as representatives of a whole race. I see them as individuals that I know and like. They do everything they can to keep things easy between us. I never thought they were having to compromise to keep our friendship. I assumed they acted the same way with their other friends. I had an occasion to see them with their friends at church. They act completely differently! I was surprised.
What compromises do they make? What kind of adjustments do they have to employ to make me feel comfortable? They make an effort to speak in a way that I don’t have to translate. Let me give you an example.
My friend Jon was a Math major taking Music Appreciation classes. I was a music major taking Calculus and we were in the same class. When the teacher got carried away and I couldn’t keep up, I’d raise my hand and say, “Music Major! Translate please!” Jon thought it was funny and approached me and asked for my help in his Music Appreciation class. We would meet in the music library and listen to and analyze the music for his assignment. While we were talking, we had no problem communicating. One day, his friends saw us in the library and came in to visit. He switched his language to something that sounded like it came from an alien planet! He slurred his words and used terms and some vocabulary I had never heard before. He changed pitch, he changed the rate of speed, he changed his references and his gestures. When his friends left, he switched back to my language. I was flabbergasted! He was, in a sense, bilingual.
I grew up in a college town. Kids came up from Kansas City to this school, and though they were in the minority, they were music majors they were in the band my dad directed. I got to know them when I hung out after concerts and football games. So when I found myself on a floor at Illinois State where the black women’s sorority met, it felt weird that they were using some of the same words my Kansas City acquaintances used, and sounded like white people using them. I had to open my door to check to see if they really were black. Picture Maggie Smith saying, “You go girl.” Picture Helen Mirren, her hands on her hips and head tilted, yelling, “Say What?” It was comical. They were from Chicago! Now I think, after talking to a couple of them that if any of the slang they used was spoken by the Kansas City kids I knew, they’d sound equally bizarre.
Why do we have to have separate languages? Every culture has its “tells.”
In no other culture did people refer to their slaves as anything other than servants. They were still people. In the US, they were considered machinery. They weren’t even endowed with sentience. If they developed sentience and asked to be treated well, or tried to escape, they were captured and “fixed!” If a person wanted to survive this situation, they had to stay subservient and “insentient.” They were to remain uneducated to protect themselves from abuse. No one would treat an animal like these people were treated.
Then they were given freedom! and the VOTE!!! Why would you give rights to machinery? By now this approach to these former slaves was ingrained. This whole race was considered living machinery. They weren’t real people! To survive, they had to adopt unthreatening language and behaviors. Don’t speak intelligent English because that makes white people nervous. The machines might get angry and retaliate for abuses.
See? This is mental abuse. There’s this woman in this crime show who is continually belittled because her house isn’t clean, the food she cooks is awful, and she’s clearly stupid. Her children even say that. They’re mad that she doesn’t attend their events. When asked, the woman says she couldn’t come because she might inadvertently embarrass them. She kills her husband. Admits to it. Cleans up the blood on the floor so that there wouldn’t be a mess when the police came to arrest her. She knows her house is a mess. One of the hangars in her husband’s closet is 1/4″ too close to the next hangar and it throws the rest of the closet off. There’s too much pepper on the macaroni and cheese. It’s a wonder her family doesn’t starve. She knows she’s stupid. She knows that she’s ugly, and wears old, patched clothes because you don’t dress up a pig. And yet, she kills her husband.
Now imagine that on a large scale. You’re treated like a machine. You aren’t allowed a good education. You aren’t allowed to socialize with anyone who’s not on the property. You develop survival behaviors to avoid the abuse and the compensating behaviors that keep you sane and ward off punishment. It becomes ingrained in your behavior.
On the other side, you know these black people ARE people. You’ve never had slaves. They speak like uneducated poor people. You Know you are superior to them because you don’t have a poor-person culture like they do. (All of them.) They tend to act out against getting treated like poor uneducated people, which makes no sense since they are poor uneducated people. Except for Bill Cosby and Diahann Carroll, no black people can think or act in a civilized manner. You don’t socialize with them, you don’t want them in your business, and you couldn’t imagine them in your church or neighborhood. Smart, well-educated black people tend to make you nervous. Everyone fears sentient machinery. That’s one reason why when Azimov created robots in his stories, he had the 3 laws:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws
He was allowing people to be comfortable with the machinery that served them. It gave them the inability to harm their masters. You could be as abusive as you wanted–mentally or physically. It would allow you to do this as long as the abuse didn’t threaten its existence. But it is still the attitude of white people that black people are essentially sentient machinery–flesh and blood robots. In other words, they are Robots without The 3 laws.
You see this in the comments on some of the events. “Do what the cops tell you! Don’t resist! Don’t reach for your cell or your wallet. Don’t talk back if you don’t want to get dropped!” See? “It’s YOUR fault that if you are black they will shoot you if you do the wrong thing. Don’t you dare protest your treatment! You’re probably guilty of something so be compliant!” They don’t shoot white punks that insult police and fight them and struggle and resist arrest. But if you’re black, they will restrain you with a knee to the neck because you’re inherently an evil machine that has broken the first and second laws. And if you defend yourself they won’t recognize the third law–you do NOT have the right to protect yourself.
So see? If you’re white, you can have black friends and still be racist. Your black friends are the exception rather than the rule. If you’re black, you can have white friends and still be racist. If you have to change your language and behavior so drastically to maintain the relationship, you are making your white friends the exception.
Differences Exist! You cannot look at a person who’s a different color than you and not see the color. But here’s the most important thing: You must not assume certain characteristics based on the color of a person’s skin. Skin color doesn’t give you any information other than the place of origin for ancestors long past memory. It tells you nothing of the character or the education level or the ambitions or the dreams of anyone.
We CANNOT get to the point of saying “All Lives Matter” until we stop associating skin color with a whole set of behaviors. You have to see people as people before you can treat them equally. No adjectives. No white people, black people, brown people, yellow people, red people, tall people, short people, slim people, fat people. Just PEOPLE. So we start with Black Lives Matter until they do.