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Tue Sep 30, 2014, 03:50 PM

Please share your "you don't think we're like that" story

Last edited Tue Sep 30, 2014, 05:32 PM - Edit history (5)

I'll share my most egregious one. I was in an online Creativity class and each student had her/his own virtual room to post art, poetry, music, etc. I posted a poem titled "Never Trust the White Man." It was a poem about my maternal great grandmother's oft-repeated admonishment, as related to me by my older cousins. My great grandmother, for all intents and purposes, WAS a white woman, but she held onto that drop of African blood that coursed through her veins with her all. She married a very dark-skinned man, and they had eight children.

My great grandmother was a seamstress, and my great grandfather was a farmer. They were very prosperous for the time, and some of the white townsfolk didn't much care for that. Mama made all her children's clothes, and they were always dressed well. One day, one of my great uncles took the car into town to buy some supplies, and the local yokels accused him of stealing. Of course he had no need to steal because his parents made more money than most of the yokels. Anyway, he managed to get away from them and get home...but trouble was still on the horizon. Later that night a mob was assembled and headed towards the farm. My great grandparents were warned, and they managed to escape to safety with all their children. That mob would have probably lynched the entire family if they had not fled, and they had to flee the land THEY owned. Another parcel of land lost to a white lynch mob. I still wonder who owns that ill-gotten land to this day.

Anyway, my poem was about ALL OF THAT, and then some. It was a story about my life, my mother's life, my grandmother's life and my great grandmother's life...and it was ALL true! I wrote about my cousins running into their house and telling their mother that the neighborhood kids were teasing them about "white people" being in their house. I wrote about how TERRIFIED they were, and how they looked in the closets and under the beds trying to make sure there were no white people in their house. Because...in Texas in the 1950's and 60's, white people were TERRIFYING to little black children. They were the ones who lynched and bombed and intimidated and killed...they were the people you should stay away from and be afraid of. That was THEIR reality.

In Ft. Worth, TX, the black people lived on one side of the lake, and the white people lived on the other side. My uncle was married to a white woman, so she had to lay down in the car to travel to the black side of town, to visit his relatives. And, my great grandparents' children were fair-skinned, so they too had to be careful not to offend the sensibilities of the Jim Crow south. They were the "white people" the neighborhood children were alarmed about...they were just family.

So, my story was brimming with complexities and uncomfortable realities, all of which I poured into that poem. As my friend said later: White people do not understand the complexities of our lives or our realities. And boy, was she ever correct.

I posted the poem, and almost immediately, all hell broke loose. I was accused of racism and told my poem...the poem about the TRUTH of many generations of my family...was "offensive." I had only one ally, of the 20 or so students in the class: the other black person, a man. And thank goodness for him, because I got attacked like you would not believe: I couldn't believe it. I was in the supposed liberal bastion of San Francisco, and frankly, I was completely stunned by their reactions. To a one, they accused me of being racist, and offensive, and so on, simply for writing about what actually happened. I will never forget it.

The reactions were not about I wrote; they reacted to how what I wrote made them feel, and apparently it did not make them feel good. And too often in the american racial narrative, our job is to make white people feel good about themselves. Our job is to congratulate and to feel grateful, and to never, ever make anyone feel uncomfortable.
So, if I am thanked in an email for "fetching" reports, I am not supposed to challenge the word or the sentiment or the motive...no. I was supposed to feel grateful that I was even mentioned, no matter how offensively. And when I challenged the woman who wrote that bs? She bent over backwards trying to prove to me that she was "not like them." She was a Harvard grad, something she loved to mention often, so I asked her: were you thinking?! How could you possibly think equating my contribution to the team with the act of a dog was perfectly fine? Yeah...you ARE like THAT, so learn from this experience and stop being like THAT. And stop being a passive-aggressive asshole to boot.

I think I am done now. Please share. I think it is important to continue the dialogue about race that the teabaggers have awakened.

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Arrow 19 replies Author Time Post
Reply Please share your "you don't think we're like that" story (Original post)
noiretextatique Sep 2014 OP
SheilaT Sep 2014 #1
Blue_Tires Sep 2014 #2
noiretextatique Sep 2014 #3
NOLALady Sep 2014 #4
gollygee Sep 2014 #5
giftedgirl77 Sep 2014 #6
Mr_Jefferson_24 Sep 2014 #7
heaven05 Oct 2014 #17
Mr_Jefferson_24 Oct 2014 #18
heaven05 Oct 2014 #19
Number23 Sep 2014 #8
JustAnotherGen Oct 2014 #9
noiretextatique Oct 2014 #10
JustAnotherGen Oct 2014 #11
noiretextatique Oct 2014 #12
JustAnotherGen Oct 2014 #13
lunasun Oct 2014 #14
lunasun Oct 2014 #15
heaven05 Oct 2014 #16

Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 03:55 PM

1. Speaking as a white person

 

with only white relatives, I can tell you that our collective problem (for white people) is that we haven't a clue. Actually, come to think of it, I do have African relatives because a first cousin once removed did marry a woman from Africa, but because of the way our family is spread out, I've never met the wife nor their two children. Hmmm. Someone needs to hold a serious family reunion on that side of the family.

Anyway, all of the relatives I've ever interacted with have been white. Lucky for me I do have friends of color, who are kind enough to set me straight about all sorts of things that I need to be told about. Plus, of course, posts here.

And to be slightly facetious, I think the only criticism that should have been allowed about your poem was whether or not it worked as poetry or literature, not to cast judgements on its veracity.

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:00 PM

2. I'd like to read your work if it's still online somewhere...

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Response to Blue_Tires (Reply #2)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:04 PM

3. i have to head out shortly, but i will post it again

i posted it at DU a while back.

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:12 PM

4. I wasn't attacked,

thank goodness because I needed my job.

I lived in the Bay area at the time "Roots" was first aired. After a couple of shows, my boss called me in his office. He asked if I'd been following the saga and what was my views. (I was the only black in the office and I suppose he figured I could answer for all Blacks )

I replied that I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by the accurate description of families living under slavery.

He bowed his head and told me that his ancestors owned "slaves", but they were good people and good to their slaves. He asked if I believed that ALL slaveowners were bad.

I replied (sigh!) that anyone who believed it was OK to enslave a fellow human was Bad.

He hung his head and I walked out of the office.

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:15 PM

5. That history has been almost totally erased

I read this book called Sundown Towns, and that's where they came from, and there were hundreds and hundreds of them, all with stories of (usually) imagined crimes, and African American families, and often whole communities, being driven out of town with mass terrorism-style riots.

But history books are written by white people, who have edited all of that out of our collective memory. Most of those stories have been lost, at least to white people, and I'm so glad you wrote your family's story down. It's an important part of our country's history.

An awful lot of white people think anything negative and racial is racist, even if it's the truth, as in this case. That's probably another good reason for writing this history and putting it out there. We (we being white people) have largely forgotten the history of racism, except for a sanitized version of slavery and one iconic photo of segregated drinking fountains. We need a full context.

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Response to gollygee (Reply #5)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:36 PM

6. We live in SC & my son who is 1/2 blk 1/2 Puerto Rican

 

asked his history teacher about sundown towns earlier this year & the guy was clueless. There are still places today we wouldn't get caught after dark. I've had heated debates on DU with people who have no clue about what life is like for us with darker skin.

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 04:59 PM

7. Great post.

And you're right about the importance of continued dialogue about race, particularly living in the
age of what Professor Michelle Alexander calls The New Jim Crow right here in incarceration nation (USA):

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Response to Mr_Jefferson_24 (Reply #7)

Thu Oct 23, 2014, 09:36 PM

17. what's the purpose

 

of having dialog when it's always one sided. I mean most of the people who we would have to dialog with want to maintain the racial status quo.

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Response to heaven05 (Reply #17)

Fri Oct 24, 2014, 05:54 PM

18. A one sided dialog...

... is not real dialog and I don't see any purpose in that.

I don't know if most people want to preserve the racial status quo or not, I do know
understanding where people are coming from begins with honest talk and most importantly
LISTENING to what they have to say.

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Response to Mr_Jefferson_24 (Reply #18)

Fri Oct 24, 2014, 06:04 PM

19. I have been

 

'dialoging' for 50 years and racist status quo is just as entrenched as it has always been. There are good people out there willing to listen and I will listen to them. Just that those type of balanced well meaning people seem to be in minority status these days. People are not taking with each other about the deep entrenched problems this society is facing as exemplified by these recent murders of men who were not a threat. People are still talking at each other as has been going on since Reconstruction times. I do understand where a racist is coming from and the enablers of those racist and I call them out every time they rear their heads......if I am wrong....so be it.

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Tue Sep 30, 2014, 09:56 PM

8. In my opinion, the ones that run around crying all day that they cant be a racist because they're x

(a liberal/Harvard grad/Christian etc.) or they're from y (Europe, California, anyplace but the South etc.) usually tend to be the worse ones.

I have so many stories (though none as harrowing as what your great grandparents went through) but I remember working at this place where a young white woman (who loved to pat herself on the back with how liberal she was and all of the liberal things she was doing) had to talk to me about some changes she wanted me to make to some work I'd done. Despite the fact that I'd been nothing but pleasant to this woman (when I paid her any attention at all) she went and got my supervisor to come with her as she talked to me and stood there LITERALLY TREMBLING with fear as she stumbled out her half assed, inarticulate "revisions." She was so fucking ridiculous I actually sat in my chair and just stared at her.

Luckily, there was another black female co-worker of mine who was already at my desk talking to me about something else but stuck around as she was part of the team. She was looking at this white woman as if she was about to spring another head obviously as dumbfounded by her behavior as I was. And of course the second I opened my mouth, this woman screams "okay, can we all just CALM DOWN?!" to which I responded "I didn't realize anyone here was upset" and the other black woman responded, "I didn't either." After a few minutes of this idiocy, my supervisor suggested that this woman get her ideas together a bit better and come back later when she was more organized. Which, of course she never did. I'm lucky my supervisor seemed to be as embarrassed and confused by her behavior as I was and that she didn't cause problems for me -- which is what typically happens to the POC in these situations. When she left, the other black woman and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. We both knew what that mess was all about, same shit it's ALWAYS about.

I am so glad that you put that poem out there and I implore you to write down and share any other family history that you have. Just because those ignorant fools don't know about your story or deem it unimportant does not mean that it's not a CRITICAL part of American history. Nothing could explain how race relations have gotten so bad and continue to be so better than the ignorance of so many whites about the true history of this country. And you can tell the ones that are the most ignorant because they are usually the ones bemoaning how "horrible" America is NOW (as if it's always been so perfect for everyone) and wishing to return to the days of yesteryear.

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Wed Oct 1, 2014, 06:35 AM

9. I have to think about this . . .

What's the perfect example? That's my issue.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #9)

Wed Oct 1, 2014, 11:23 AM

10. too many examples?

i could write about this for days...

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Response to noiretextatique (Reply #10)

Wed Oct 1, 2014, 11:32 AM

11. Too some degree - yes

I was going to go with the 'Ghetto Barbie' comment while shopping in The Limited in October 2004 but I'm sure someone would come along and 'poo poo' that and say it was actually a compliment.


Same shit - different day.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #11)

Wed Oct 1, 2014, 11:37 AM

12. let them try

i will not tolerate any denial in this thread. this is a STFU and LISTEN thread

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Response to noiretextatique (Reply #12)

Wed Oct 1, 2014, 06:46 PM

13. So I'm in The Limited in Pittsburgh PA

I had just closed a deal for a Platinum Dealer - totally pumped. It was the day that the ABC show "Lost" Premiered. I'll always remember that because I was excited to see the show. I planned on doing a little tax free clothe shopping, take a shower and order room service and watch the show.

So I'm at the counter and had just paid for my clothing - again - excited. This was a Pre IPO Tech company and I'd been there a few months. Long sales cycle - and our FIRST Platinum deal. That's why they hired me - they knew I could close.

And as I'm putting my wallet away one of the little girls at the counter comments on how I look like a Christie doll - you know - the black Barbie. I remember this - she said I had a cute Cookie cutter nose (I remember that) and perfect body. I thanked her - thought it was odd but eh? Thank her and start to leave and one of the idiots says - Yeah! Like ghetto Barbie.

And I stood there stunned. I'm not sure if I was totally stunned - or if my arrogance kicked in. And I think it was the manager who said, "Oh! She didn't mean it like that."

I didn't do the return thing - those were cheap tax free jeans in that bag. But I did state - you never know who someone is and what their background is. And regardless - it was demeaning.

Now the next day I ran a few calls and drove down to Aliquippa to have dinner at my Aunt Clara and Uncle Frank's house. My Aunt Lela came over. I would do this is I was in a city where I had family. And I related this to those two birds - and let me tell you - they were piiiissssssed. And they hurt for me. Because they GOT it.

They shouldn't have said it to anyone - but that's the type of shit they put up with as young WELL educated women in Jim Crow. Aunt Clara today is 88 - so that gives a frame of reference of her life experience. All of those years - and still a stereotype over rules accomplishments.

Now I ask - what does a lower financial class black woman do in that situation? How does it FEEL?

I did write HQ - because I was connected a VP of marketing at Limited Brands. But I've never stepped foot in any of their stores since then. Ten years now?

That one comment - to me - that's WHAT they are. And another dose of arrogance - I can afford Brooks Brothers and BCBG and WHBM and J Jill so there's no reason for me to shop there. No loss.

And I never watched Lost. I've always associated it with that incident because it kept playing over and over while I was trying to watch it.

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Response to JustAnotherGen (Reply #13)

Fri Oct 3, 2014, 09:15 AM

14. People may think your connection to watching Lost is odd but I have had that too with triggers

And yes some racial incident will play over and over . I try to say to myself stop , or get out. when it comes back to haunt... Doesn't work all the time but staying away from the store is absolutely necessary .

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Fri Oct 3, 2014, 09:20 AM

15. "I was in the supposed liberal bastion of San Fran " found out long ago

that can make very little difference ....they don't want to hear it so don't want you to speak of it

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Response to noiretextatique (Original post)

Fri Oct 3, 2014, 11:32 AM

16. I really LOVE the

 

truth of living in this country. Just as bad today. Ferguson Mo. comes to mind. Sanford......oh you know what I'm getting at. Thank You for your contribution. I had or my family had a similar experience in the early 1900's in Georgia. Anywhere to read your poetry? If there is a link, book or whatever source, when you have time pass along please

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