Beneath The Confederate Flag

As most of you know, I come from a southern heritage. None moreso than the branch of my family that comes from the north. How my grandmother ended up in the south is a long story, but once there, the last thing she wanted to be was carpetbaggers, so she married quickly and embraced the southern identity.

When Mom was 16, she had a brother who was 14 and in a terrible accident. He needed blood. Everybody warned my grandmother not to let them give her son n*****’s blood. Told this one too many times, she screamed back that she didn’t care whose blood it was and she didn’t care if it turned her son into a n*****, as long as he lived. Mom remembers this, of all the things to remember when her brother was dying, because she didn’t understand what her mother was talking about. All of her life, she had been taught differently.

You’d have to know my mother, especially when she’s telling stories in an inebriated state, that this story was not a tribute to political correctness. This was not a story where Mom learned a valuable lesson and became progressive on racial issues. She didn’t, and is not, so progressive. She is a child who was raised in the south in the 1950’s.

She will vote for Anybody But Obama. Between 1976 and 1980, she was flipped by the Southern Strategy. She has views on a lot of things that put me on edge. She has close friends who are black, and neither emphasizes or conceals this fact. For a little while, she thought Herman Cain was the bomb. She thought it was neat that (African-American) Tim Scott beat Strom Thurmond’s son in SC CD1.

When I brought home a date of Egyptian extraction, she freaked out and asked me why I hadn’t warned her about it. The thought never occurred to me. When my brother married a girl of Middle Eastern descent, she was excited about what her grandchildren might look like. It was the upside of a marriage that she did not approve of — for reasons that genuinely had nothing to do with race.

We talk about southern racism some times as though it is a thing. It is many things. Many complicated things. Different things to different people. It’s usually more complex than a simple hatred, disdain, or a view of racial supremacy. There’s a desire not to be racist, and yet a stubborn determination not to be not racist. (This is, of course, leaving aside the natural racism that resides within us all.)

This isn’t an apology to attitudes that need to be condemned or corrected. Rather, it’s a concern that the misdiagnosis itself contributes to the problem. I come at this as a native southerner that detests these attitudes and, in a way, feels them more sharply than many because they reflect on me. To varying degrees, I have family and loved ones that are so infected by it. The struggle between southern history, my own roots in the south, and a desire for a different and better society and nature, is one that occurs at ground zero in my mind.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

38 Comments

  1. I believe the perception that there are many different things that are termed ‘racist’ is very adroit.
    Surely, such umbrella terms cause more heat than light.
    As in:
    Both depression and schizophrenia are ‘mental illness,’ but we recognize them differently and offer different treatment options for both conditions.
    Think of what auto repair would be if, “Change the oil!” was the only available diagnosis.
    I don’t think I would care to go back to that mechanic very often.

    • It would be a lot like talking to a computer tech support.

      Sir? First I’m going to ask you to shut off your computer, wait for all the lights to go out, and then turn it back on… What? Well, even if you’ve already tried that, I really need you to do it again for me. I’ll wait.

  2. Great post Burt. It cuts thru a lot of the bullshit that gets flung around. And I have a response, of a sort, to it, which begins with me telling the story of my family.

    I’m a yankee. Born in Detroit rock city, suckled in Milwaukee, raised in Chicago. My father was overtly, proudly, unapologetically racist. One time, in a moment of racist rage, he refused to let me call African Americans “blacks”, insisting I use the N word. (I was like, 10 I think, and refused, which created a rift between us and not because of our differences on racial issues.) My mother was covertly, ashamedly, apologetically racist. To her, blacks weren’t … inferior … but their culture was alien, slightly degenerate, and notably dangerous in her mind. My grandfather, bless his soul, was one of my true heroes in life, and it came as a shock to me that as he aged, the frequency with which he used the term “n****r” increased, especially when referring to important – to him – race issues. These usually involved ghettos, welfare, and crime. All of them burdens born by only the white man.

    Here’s the point, tho: I don’t think the opinions and actions of my family, and the surrounding culture I was embedded in (I went to one of the very first school systems to desegregate in 1976! we were recognized as a National American US city or something because of it) actually do reflect on me. Yankee culture is wierd, no doubt, and partly because there isn’t much of a culture there. Especially in contrast to the South.

    So, I think you’re right about this. The historical context of the South permeates thru it all, and Southerners, one way or the other, will deal with these issues differently than someone raised in abolition country will.

    • Will wrote this one. I’ve made the same mistake on this blog before, don’t feel too bad.

      • Dag nabbit! I do feel bad.

        Sorry about that Will. It makes more sense now, knowing what I know about you and Burt. And thanks for pointing out my mistake, MD.

    • Thanks, Still. I didn’t actually complete all of the thoughts. In part because I wrote it last night, decided not to post, saw it again this morning and changed my mind. A little revision, but I knew if I tried to say everything I wanted to say, it never would have been posted.

      The degree to which I feel associated with it kind of comes up when someone asks where I am from and I tell them. Sometimes people don’t care. Sometimes people are all “Thank god you’re not like those people” or (I appreciate the thought, I really do, but it doesn’t come across the way I think they want it to) the “you’re a credit to your people” response.

      And, of course, when people talk about those people it brings up a whole slew of mixed emotions. Due to the context, what I say here can lend itself to sounding like it’s from the “apologist” side. In other contexts, I can be extremely quick to say “fish those rednecks” when they do something that confirms so many perceptions of where I come from, what my birth certificate reads, and where I went to college.

      It all lends different things to different people. I have a bit of a “hometown pride” streak about me, partly because of how I was raised and partly for temperamental reasons, but objectively speaking having little to actually do with the virtues of my origins. Others have little or none beyond rooting for the hometown sports team, if that. I have little doubt that had I been raised in Vermont, I would be as harsh a critic of the south as anybody and talking about how great it is to come from such a more evolved place. Instead, I come from the wrong side of things, strictly speaking, and am confronted with a lot of… complexity.

    • How much of abolition country is the south?
      Plenty of hillfolk were pro-abolition…, no matter whether you drew those hills as north or south.

  3. “There‚Äôs a desire not to be racist, and yet a stubborn determination not to be not racist.”

    Can you explain what you mean by the second part of this sentence?

    • More generously put: A refusal to introspect on how their actions are perceived, in part due to fear that they are “giving in” to people that are naturally hostile to them (in some cases, regardless of what they do).

      Less generously put: Stubbornly doubling down on behavior that is at best racially insensitive because they’re not going to let anyone paint them in that damn corner.

      • Are you attributing this to society in general or individuals? I certainly see it true in individuals (and since you pointed this out similarly on the other thread, am really curious to investigate this more); I see it true in general in terms of folks being stubborn and doubling down on behavior, but that the “vice” in particular will vary and will not always be racism.

        Do I have that right?

        • The inclination is one of human nature. With some individuals, it is a stronger inclination with others, based on temperament. It is also a stronger inclination in some cultures than others. It is far from being unique to the South, but with the South the most conspicuous variation of that – and the variation most identifiable to the south – are things like the Confederate Flag (for example).

          An example in another context would be if someone asked you to turn down your radio and instead of thinking realizing that you had it playing too loud, you scowl and turn the radio up. This lacks much regional specificity. It’s the same dynamics at work, but typically not racist.

          We are inclined to come down harder on someone who does this on a subject with implications of racism. I’m not arguing that we are wrong to do so. I do think, however, we should recognize that sometimes that’s what it is, or something that plays a role.

          (I started a lengthy bit on how this might, or might not, apply to the incident regarding Byrd’s gravesite. The truth is that I don’t know what was going through their minds. My intent was mostly to provide a dynamic that we – the kind of people who would never do such a thing, drunk or sober – might understand in a vague way.)

          I fear that a lot of this comes across as apologetic. The Byrd thing literally makes me want to scream and throttle somebody and hit something (or someone). Sometimes the things I say are things that are going through my mind as I am trying to take a step back and understand that, however forcefully these things must be condemned (and they must), they do not occur in a vacuum. The fact that these things can occur and these attitudes persist in a society that might otherwise be decent (I’ve never been to Jasper, so I don’t know) somehow makes it all the more infuriating.

          • First of all , I identify with this piece quite a bit, as you well know. So thanks for making me feel not so alone.

            Secondly, this human tendency you speak of has been percolating around in my mind a lot when I am here at LoOG. There is one commenter, who shall remain nameless, that gets a lot of guff. Sometimes that is because he is clearly wrong (as we are all sometimes), or playing rhetorical games (which we all do sometimes).

            But sometimes I have sympathy for him because I think this dynamic you give name to here is actually at fault – he’s not wrong, he’s just having a different argument than his interlocutors are, and he knows this – he knows he is being misunderstood/misinterpreted, that the signals are getting crossed, and he just don’t care. Eff ’em if they don’t get what I am trying to say. A pride, that manifests as just plain stubbornness, a willingness (or almost perverse glee) to be misunderstood/misinterpreted and an unwillingness to explain further, to reach any sort of compromise or understanding.

            And I feel empathy when I feel like I am seeing this happen, whether I agree with his side of the argument or not, because I have that temperament too. Like I see someone coming at me, or so I think, and I just…can’t…bend. Can’t give them the satisfaction. Eff ’em if they can’t take a joke. Not my fault if they don’t get it.

            It’s not pretty but ‘getting yr back up’ is universal, and it definitely seems to come out more (on all sides) in discussions of race.

          • Gotcha. And I really appreciate the perspective you’ve brought to this. I was likewise both outraged and mystified by what happened to Byrd’s gravesite. Thinking of it in the terms you offered here make it… I dunno… Relateable feels like an icky word to use but it might be right.

            “Tell me what to do? Fuck you… I’ll do it that much more.”

            What I think is a major part of the problem is that first part… The part that results in the “Tell me what to do?” feeling. And I think that cuts both ways. Many/most attempts at bringing awareness to what might be a racialized incident take the form of accusations of racism. And even attempts that avoid this poor tact are often perceived as such. This is largely due to our inability and unwillingness to talk about race in mature, open, and honest ways.

          • This is largely due to our inability and unwillingness to talk about race in mature, open, and honest ways

            ya know Kazzy, I here ya on that. But the way I’m reading Trumwill’s OP here, it’s not like there is a paradigm of communication we need to invoke. It’s more about an emotional state, and coming to terms with that, or not. But the one thing that won’t work is to approach a person you think is racist or troubled by it and say: “let’s talk about race, shall we?” Even the most openest of hearts and goodest of intentions won’t get you outa that conversation with your pride in tact, I should think.

          • As Still says, I don’t know that there really is a right way of going about it (to be clear this isn’t an argument that it shouldn’t be discussed). But boy howdy are there some ways that are way more wrong than others.

            When I ask myself what I am doing to make the world (or the south) a better place, one of the things I do is that I almost never bite my tongue on the subject of the Confederate Flag. If it comes up, and I get a chance, I will make my arguments against it regardless of the politeness of company.

            I have my arguments down pat. I have a pretty good idea what to say and what not to say, from experience. The first part is not-at-all manipulative because I believe every word of it. The last part is maybe a little manipulative, as is my tendency to dial back my accent-nullifier during these conversations. But if I want them to hear what I say, I do need to speak their language. (Maybe I’ll write a post on the arguments I do and do not use.)

            I don’t know if I convince anybody, but I do get some “You make some really good points, I’ll need to think about it” responses. When I have transparently failed, it’s typically on one of two grounds:

            1. The Confederate Flag simply should not be viewed as offensive or racist. (Since I’ve already covered this, there’s no reason to go through it all again: I’ve failed.)

            2. If we let them take the flag down even though it’s not racist, we’re simply inviting them to declare other things offensive and take them down, too. This isn’t about the flag, this is about their sense of superiority and telling us what to do (or what not to do).

            Once they pull the second one out, there isn’t much I can say. They’re as likely as not in a state of perpetual defensiveness. I’ve done everything I can to alleviate that, but it’s still there. Essentially, they’ve said, “You think this is loud? I’ll show you loud, asshole.”

            There’s not much more to be said. To the extent that you want to be effective, try yourself not to say anything to make them believe that you are one of those assholes. Even that’s often not going to be successful, because there are a lot of assholes out there. And when they say “It doesn’t matter if we take the flag down, they’ll hate us anyway,” I can’t say that’s entirely false because some will. And I’ve never been able to open up anyone’s mind that sometimes, the assholes should be allowed to win simply because they happen to be right on this particular issue. Once that’s where their mind is, it’s us and them.

          • The Southern Cross (Confederate battle flag) is a living symbol of Southern identity, Confederate historical heritage, and memorial to Dixie’s noble dead.
            Only those who are descendants of Confederate soldiers who fought under it, and honor being descendants have the moral right to define what that flag stands for.
            It takes more than misuse by unsavory groups with anti-American agendas and false prophet versions of the Christian faith to turn an honorable symbol of sacrifice made by Southern men of all races and religious creeds into a symbol of evil, and so long as there are those willing to stand up for truth that will NEVER happen.

            Anyone who makes an argument AGAINST the Southern Cross on that basis, actively condemns the display of that flag, and favors its removal likewise makes an argument IN FAVOR of the very racism they claim to despise.

          • Carl,

            The thing is, it doesn’t take more than “misuse by unsavory groups with anti-American agendas and false prophet versions of the Christian faith” to tarnish a symbol. The swastika had a much longer and broader history before being forever tarnished in the west by the Nazis (and it took less time to tarnish the symbol).

            Communication occurs in two parts. The first part is the message that is intended, the second part is the message that is received. Regardless of what is intended by the flag – and often the intent is innocuous – it is received as the symbol it was for a home-grown terrorist group. Prior to this, it was used (typically in a different form, it should be noted), by an organization that declared war against our country in very large part to keep the ancestors of now-Americans in captivity.

            The negative symbolism attached to the flag by its critics is neither unreasonable nor ahistorical. If you want someone to blame for the association, blame those who absconded it in the name of something our country now, rightly, deplores. Whatever value the flag may have had, it remains for many a symbol of terror.

            To disregard this, and fly the flag anyway, is to make the declaration that you are putting your regional pride ahead of countless people who actually live in the region and who are, not without reason, very uncomfortable with it. In the vein of treating others as you would want to be treated, we simply shouldn’t be doing this.

            All of this is quite unfortunate, because the Navy Jack is a good looking flag. There is a reason that it was chosen after the war over any of the Confederacy’s actual national flags. None of that changes the fact that it has all of the wrong associations. It celebrates the periods of history where our states were on the wrong side of the nation’s greatest moral struggles. If we want a symbol of regional pride, we should find one that does not carry such baggage. And we should act in such a way that justifies the pride.

          • Only those who are descendants of Confederate soldiers who fought under it, and honor being descendants have the moral right to define what that flag stands for.

            The descendants of the people they owned might have some thoughts about it too.

          • I don’t think the flag is really so much a symbol of terror as a symbol of by-gone days.
            Wearing white sheets with a pointy white hat, OTOH, is a symbol of terror.
            Either that, or you’re Sinead O’Connor.

          • Will, it’s usually not meant as a symbol of terror when displayed, but it is received that way (or as a celebration of such) and not without reason. That matters.

          • Will and Still-

            I think the emotional state, in part, is due to the lack of dialogue we have. I don’t know how much of that can be changed in kids. But we can certainly change it in future generations. Right now, there is a certain “We don’t talk about *THAT*” attitude around race. Which means if someone feels racially offended, there isn’t always a comfortable and supportive ground to truly talk about that. And if someone else feels aggrieved by another’s racial offense (as Will very astutely articulates), there is even less ground for them to discuss. If instead we made race something that we talked about, instead of largely internally simmered about, I think we’d be in a better place.

            “When I ask myself what I am doing to make the world (or the south) a better place, one of the things I do is that I almost never bite my tongue on the subject of the Confederate Flag. If it comes up, and I get a chance, I will make my arguments against it regardless of the politeness of company.”

            This is a really important point and something I am trying to get better at, in general, when someone says something that I think is offensive (be it racial or otherwise). I do believe there is sometimes a tendency to fault the person calling out the behavior for “upsetting the waters” than the person who initially engaged in it. How many of us have racist/sexist/homophobic older folks in our family who’ll clearly cross the line and everyone just sort of stares at their feet and tries to ignore… but if someone DOES speak up, suddenly *they* have created an issue and made things awkward, etc. This is a broken mindset as well that empowers these folks.

      • Very well said Will. I think that’s exactly right.

      • A desire not be racist but a stubborn determination not to be anti-racist, perhaps?

        • Depends on how we define anti-racist (just as my own initial explanation depended on how one defines racism). There is a desire not to be on the side of the “racism scolds” though a perfect willingness to condemn racism even as they are steadfastly refusing to consider that, by siding with the “scolds”, they are siding with the racists.

          If we’re defining anti-racist as being with the people they would consider scolds, then that’s exactly right. If we’re defining it as viewing racism as okay, that’s probably not quite right – at least much of the time – outside the immediate heat of argument.

          • These days, “anti-racist” is an insult among the VDARE crowd [1], meaning “people who try to deny the obvious truths about how we’re smarter than the untermenschen”.

            1. Which has adopted Derbyshire as a martyr to Political Correctness and is even raising money for him, so no need for crocodile tears about how unfairly he was treated.

      • If you are on the right, voting for someone based on race is racist. If you are on the left, voting for someone based on race is a acceptable.

        • no, it’s really not. and nobody voted for lieberman anyhow, ya shmoo.

  4. My grandfather was the best example I know of the Southern problem with race. He grew up in Owensboro, which was a tiny little town in the early 20th century. He told me he had black playmates but he never knew to refer to them as anything but n*gger until he moved to Louisville at 14. In retrospect he didn’t believe it was racism, he just simply didn’t know anything different.

    From 1932 until 1968 he felt like he was fairly progressive for the time. He had blacks on his beat as a city cop and got along well with them. Some of them he considered friends. Then the race riots happened in Louisville. He worked 18 hour shifts for weeks and had to patrol the black parts of town armed to the teeth. He saw, blacks burning their own neighborhoods and looting stores owned by their neighbors and hurting each other. It changed him. He told me he didn’t feel like he was racist after that but he developed a prejudice about black culture. He was flawed but he knew he was flawed. I think that was as much as he could be expected to evolve given the experiences he had.

    I often think I am flawed too. I grew up in a Southern culture much like the one described in Will’s post. I think most Americans have prejudices. Southerners are both more open about ours and also more defensive. The n-word has become a description, not a noun. It’s used the same way someone might call someone white trash. It conveys a ‘trashy black person’. Or at least that’s the way I hear it used. I grew up in a house where it was okay to dislike parts of black culture but never okay to make generalizations or use the n-word. And that is the complexity of race for us.

    • I think we all ought to realize that, more or less, kids start out xenophobic by default. And that we get to change that, or we don’t.

      I also think it’s not wrong for someone to be upset about particular parts of another culture (even though I think your dad is probably ascribing it to black culture, where it’s inappropriate).

      I think, for this country to grow stronger, we ought to be able to say “you do that better’n me” –North,South,East and West.

  5. I think the part about natural racism that Will mentions is really important here. I grew up in Kansas and while that’s not really the South there was as much residual racism there as anywhere. The word, “nigger” was common enough. But we had the misfortune of not actually having any black people in our town. They were safely somewhere else.

    Anyway, as I came of age I deliberately tried to reject racism in my own thinking. But despite my best intentions I would catch myself thinking the word even though I would never use it.

    When the research came out verifying that basically everyone harbors unconscious racist thoughts it came as a big relief. I could finally forgive myself for the occasional racist thought and just concentrate on actual acts and utterances. After all that’s what really matters.

    In a way, I think the attitudes Will describes here are maybe just a bit more honest than the p.c. way we’re taught to speak. I really hate it when people speak or type the “n-word.” Thanks. Instead of just saying “nigger” you just alluded to it. That instantly gets translated in my head, and in my own voice into “nigger.” Instead of you saying it, you just forced me to say it.

    And I think a lot of this “not wanting to be racist and not wanting to not be racist” is a self-protective reaction to intellectually not wanting to be racist but not realizing that the racist feelings you have are totally natural and so not knowing how to forgive yourself for that and just moving on with not acting out the racism.

  6. It depends on the situation as to whether I reply when somebody says something I think is racist. In my group of family and friends the only people that use the N word are what I call the grandpas. Three of them in my opinion are decent enough people except for their racism, but they are not going to change their mind and nothing anybody says or does will make a difference. One of the grandpas sent an email to my wife with a picture of an Obama christmas ornament saying how he was happy now that people could hang N’s from a tree again. If he wasn’t a grandpa he would not be allowed within shouting distance. This man is so oblivious that he can make jokes about lesbians and not notice that his daughter wore a suit and tie to a funeral. Nothing in this world will allow him to change.
    But if I am at work and somebody goes on a racist rant I will speak up. I try to be diplomatic, but if they continue I have been known to yell.

    • There’s a very prescient point in there that I believe deserves to be scrutinized in greater detail.
      Suppose we have two statements:
      1). I don’t mind being around blacks so much, as long as they’re not the greasy, jeri-curled, drug-dealing type.
      2). I kind of enjoy the company of Southerners, as long as they’re not the ignorant racist ones.

      Q: Why on earth is it somehow worse to collectively project negatives on classes of persons if that class is race-defined?

      Isn’t the problem really one of that people are sort of snooty to one another generally?

  7. This is responding to the Kazzy-Stillwater-Trumwill thread above.

    When it comes to talking about race, one of the things I keep bumping up against are my own personal experiences. I went to two high schools in Memphis, one that is 80% black and the other that is 50/50. Those are the statistics now, that sounds about right for when I was a student. To be frank, neither was a very pleasant experience, the 80% in particular, and due in large part to race. One of the results is that I am going to look at a school two or three times before even thinking about sending my future children to a school that is largely African-American. This may make me a racist, but damn if I can do anything about it.

    One of the problems, from my vantage point, is an inability to relate these experiences to pretty much anyone. Those most likely to understand are, ironically, other minorities who are minorities at their own schools. Asian-Americans in particular are sympathetic. Sometimes African-Americans are. Whites? Only the wrong whites are sympathetic.

    When I have tried to talk about it, I’ve been told that my experiences are wrong. Not wrong as in bad, but wrong as in I am not telling it right. Like I have some sort of obligation to tell a story of walking hand-in-hand together. In some cases, an obligation that the story be about how the problem was the privilege of the 20% minority that was quite low in the social hierarchy. Except that whites can’t be low in any social hierarchy, so my experiences are wrong. Inaccurate. Sometimes this is said as gently as possible and sometimes it’s said harshly.

    I don’t know how to get out from under this, but the racism line in the sand will usually find me on the wrong side of it. Which is ironic, because in some ways I am more comfortable around more kinds of African-Americans than a lot of people who consider themselves their defenders are. I know they don’t bite. I have an exceptional sympathy for the black kid in a class full of white people. There were black classmates that were lifesavers and went out on a limb for me, so I know it’s not that “they’re all the same!!!!” I do see an us and a them, though, and it’s virtually impossible for me to see it any other way. There is so much history there, that I don’t know any way around the separation.

    • Mr. Blue-

      I went to a school that was “majority minority” and plurality black. In a graduating class of 400 total students, there were less than 40 white males (which I am myself, in case you didn’t know). We were a largely middle-class exurb of NYC, across the river, with a real but not super-exaggerated spread of economics.

      While I generally enjoyed high school, I remember being very bitter. Why did we have a Black Youth Organization but no corresponding white group when there was more of them than us? Why was there a club for every religion but mine (there was a Christian club, but as a Roman Catholic, the few visits I made felt completely foreign to me)? Why did we read so much literature by African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and female writers? Why didn’t we read “classics” like ‘Moby Dick’ and ‘Huck Finn’? I wondered all this and so much more. I wasn’t angry and didn’t walk around with a chip on my shoulder but these were unresolved questions, ones my white friends and I would openly ruminate about.

      Looking back, I am incredibly grateful I went to the school that I did, for a host of reasons I won’t dive in to right now. This is not to say that you should feel the same way. While you and I shared a similar experience that would make us distinct from most other white people (I am assuming you are white and apologize if I am wrong), there are likely enough differences in those experiences and a number of other things to lead us to two different but equally legitimate feelings on the matter.

      I guess this is a long way of saying… I get you. I’ve walked similar hallways and understand not only your experience, but your perspective on it. To the extent possible, I can serve as a white person to talk about it who is not the type of white person you mentioned.

      To your broader point, I think we need to stop shaming people for their thoughts and feelings. My hunch is you avoid talking about your feelings on the school you’d choose for your children because you don’t want to get labeled a racist and be dismissed and hated and told how horrible you were. No one wants to feel that way. Which is why any conversation that goes down that road is doomed to fail. Likewise, we also need to be willing to be challenged on things. I’d ask you… is there a way that someone COULD challenge you on your feelings that wouldn’t make you feel like they were calling you a racist?

      So, yea, bring it on, man. Let’s talk about it. Write that guest post that Will alluded to. Continued silence is acquiescing to the status quo, which I think we both see is fucked up. Say what you feel, feel what you say, leave any preconceived notions of what it means or how folks might respond aside and let’s just see what happens.

      In fact, why the hell don’t *I* do that? Preachy McPreacherson over here. Doesn’t really fit in MD anywhere… anyone want to offer me their page for a guest post on these matters?

      • Kazzy, I appreciate the sentiments expressed here. I might not be the best test case for how to approach the people that Will is talking about since, for me, it’s not being called a racist that bothers me. It’s that, after being called a racist, they stop listening or listen to everything I say as the rambling of someone who Hates Black People. That’s not true, or at best is a radical oversimplification. From everything I’ve read of you, personally, I wouldn’t expect that response before or after this conversation.

        Some – like Will – have suggested that the problems I had were, if not specific to my school, unusually intense. In a less intense situation, I might see it in a more positive light. In a way, I’m not sorry I had the experiences I did because they made me who I am – for the worse in some ways, but better in many. I guess I approach it like my grandfather, a WW2 veteran did: “Lord, please spare my children the amazing experiences that made me who I am.”

        Not that I’m saying an inner-city school in Memphis is like a tour of duty on the front lines in Germany. You get the idea, though, I hope.

        For the most part, to talk about these things with people like me, the rules are pretty simple: don’t assume I’m saying something I’m not saying and don’t assume that I am saying what I am saying simply out of hatred or superiority. These things are hard, because my experiences and what I have gotten from them are a challenge to the way that people believe things should be. It’s easier to simply expect me to play along and to get mad at me when I don’t. I totally understand that, because the problems I present have no easy answers.

        Your assumption about my race is mostly right. I self-identify as white. If I wanted to, I could identify as Hispanic, but that’s just because of the peculiarities of how we count Hispanics. My great-grandparents came over from Spain during World War I. I was given an anglofied version of his name. My skin is pale and my surname is English, so I’m white. I don’t know why I’m explaining all of this, but the winding roads of “where we come from” is one of the things I love about America, despite the challenges.

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