Thursday, July 5, 2012

Freedom and Parallel Realities

Freedom and Parallel Realities

I tend to avoid political talk for the most part because - well - most of my friends are dead wrong! Just kidding... I have a number of friends that tend to lean conservatively with a few even being self-described libertarians. I, on the other hand, am unapologetically liberal. It's less about being factually correct/incorrect and more about having major philosophical differences about how this country should be run and how our resources should be spent. Don't bother trying to change me, because it isn't going to happen. I have no intention of trying to win someone over to my side, either.

Being a Black man in this country, there are certain things that I just cannot take for granted. My mother was twelve years old before she attended public school after the landmark ruling of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. My father was likewise raised in segregation, had classmates who were lynched, and was still denied the right to vote after he came of age. My uncle enrolled in a Masters program at the University of Cincinnati, worked through it, and was denied the masters degree because of his race.

There are all sorts of stories of injustice that I could pull from both sides of my family history, but the main point is: I did not have to go through any of that. (Thank God; Praise Jesus; and NO, I'm not complaining!)

This isn't to say that I don't have my own share of stories. One of my elementary school principals accused me of threatening another student with a letter opener. (Thank God at the time that I had no clue what the hell a letter opener even was.) This same man eventually became assistant superintendent of the school district and shredded my application to work there. My ninth grade principal pulled me into the office the first week of school, read me the riot act, and warned me that I'd better not lie. Of course, he then accused me of lying when in fact students did racially harass me. (I'm not entirely convinced he didn't give them permission to have a go at me.) I remember sitting in his office with the goober STILL dripping on my shirt and he ripped into me. I told him I was done... and not long after that, I got Saturday school, removing me from consideration for the honor society. I had friends who witnessed it first-hand (and in some cases tried to speak out) and yet, I'm sure most of them had little idea this shit was even happening. Why would they if they didn't see it first-hand?

I would like to hope and dream that maybe that would also be something the next generation won't be dealing with, but I am not holding my breath.

Whether it is acknowledged or not, I am well aware that there is a double standard where I am concerned. The racism of today isn't embodied by dumbasses in dirty-ass bedsheets who go around burning crosses in people's front yards. It really isn't even embodied by the n-word or any of the other various racial slurs that get hurled in the open or uttered from the safety of closed doors or anonymously behind computer screens.

The racism of today is more akin to a parallel reality that is out of view and out of mind of those who don't experience it. It's the difference that happens when I use my first name (which is English in origin) versus my middle name (Arabic). It's when I go for a walk in my own neighborhood and the police arrive to talk to me because someone referred to me as "suspicious." It's in the fact that a white male high school dropout with a felony record has a greater chance of being employed than a black male college graduate with no criminal record at all. It's when businesses systematically hide their minorities (who may even own the business) in an effort to be competitive! It's in the routine dismissal and diminishing of the qualifications of minority professionals as being nothing but "affirmative action."

Out of sight; out of mind.

The next time you say "Race really isn't an issue between me and my (ethnically diverse) group of friends", are you really sure that is the case? Are you sure that you are not in fact living in a parallel world? Are you really aware of the challenges they have to face by virtue of their minority status?

Are they really enjoying the same freedoms/privileges that you take for granted?



  1. Well said. The husband and I had this very *cough* "discussion" just two days ago. He just couldn't swallow/accept the duality...

  2. I'm not surprised. Love him dearly, but if he's not watching out for it, he's not going to see it. No one is going to be stupid enough to admit "We can't bring her in front of the client! She's Arab/Indian/Latina/Black/A Woman!" publicly, much less in front of her White husband. (This is provided they are even aware of their biases.)

    People don't understand me when I tell them the people who are most likely to discriminate against me don't wear white bedsheets, swastikas, and rebel flags... but rather suits and ties and may not have any idea they are doing it!