Bobbi Ann Johnson Holmes

It is not necessary to understand why something is racist, for it to be racist…

I am currently working on Book 25 in my Haunting Danielle series. One segment of the story has to do with race relations in the 1920s in Oregon. The story idea came to me long before the tragic death of George Floyd, and it wasn’t written in response to the current racial tension in our country.

That being said, I want to move the topic for a moment to book reviews. Last year I received what I consider an annoying review on Book 22 in the series, The Ghost and the Halloween Haunt.  At this writing, that particular book has 160 reviews at Amazon with a 4.9 out of a 5-star average.

It was not annoying because the reviewer left me two stars—it was annoying because she said: “Definitely written by an elderly white lady.”

My response to that? WTF? Damn whipper snapper.

Yes, I think I made a blog post about this review before. But you will have to excuse me, us elderly white ladies have memory issues.

The reviewer also wrote: “…is the author afraid to write an inclusive book featuring some people of color? Heck, the author doesn’t even feature a token person of color!”

First, I don’t do token. Personally, I find that offensive. Second, the reviewer has obviously not read the other books in the series. I have had a number of people of color in my books—pivotal characters.  They were not just added to the stories to garner politically correct brownie points.  I get why authors should be more inclusive, yet it has to be natural. My series takes place in Oregon, and the black population of Oregon is 3%.

That being said, it seems I did commit a racial faux pas.

In The Ghost and the Christmas Spirit—one of the books in the series I am most proud of, I did a horrible thing. I did not know it was a horrible thing, and I still don’t really understand.

I described one of my black characters as having skin the color of coffee with a touch of cream. But before you lambast me, understand I saw that no different than an author saying a white person has peaches and cream skin. Personally, I would not use peaches and cream, but not because I see it as racist, but because it is cliché. 

I won’t be removing that bit of description from the book. I think that would be disingenuous. BUT, I will never ever again discuss black skin tone. Ever.  

I am not making this promise because I finally “get” why it is racist. I sincerely do not understand.  I honestly don’t get the difference between that and peaches and cream.  But if my black readers honestly find that type of description offensive, then I will not use it again. My desire is to entertain my readers with my Haunting Danielle series, not offend them. 

And you know what? It is not necessary for me to understand why something is racist for it to be racist. If something makes another person feel bad, why in the world would you want to keep doing it?

Umm….and I would appreciate future reviewers leave off that elderly crap. Seriously.  

Photo: Yes that is me. A photo I took last month. And I confess, I am 65. But elderly??????

*** Edit, I was not clear. It was not so much describing skin color, but using food as a comparison–like peaches and cream.

God Fearing American

Today I read a post by a Facebook friend who called himself a God Fearing American. After I read that, I thought, I have never called myself ‘God Fearing.’

I don’t fear God. Just like I have never feared my mother or father. Never.

As a child I was taught God is light, truth and love. I was taught I could trust God. Think of those team building exercises, the one where someone stands behind you and you fall back, and you have to trust the person will catch you. I think of God like that. I know that if I fall back, he is there to catch me.

I don’t fear God, because bullies rule by fear. I don’t believe God is a bully. I believe he is better than that.

I respect God. I don’t want to disappoint him. When I screw up, I ask for his forgiveness, and I know that if I am sincere, he will forgive me. I also don’t believe asking for forgiveness is some sort of get out of hell card. I see too many well-known Evangelist ministers blatantly breaking one commandment after another, and claiming they asked forgiveness—only to sin again. They think God is stupid or some chump. God is no chump, and he certainly is not stupid. And I believe God knows what is in your heart, and simply saying the words is not going to make it all better. But hey, THAT is between God and the person, and when it comes down to it, none of my business.

As for hell, if there is one, I don’t believe it is a fire and brimstone eternal suffering. In the same way I don’t believe God is a bully, or a chump, I do not believe he is a sadist.

Not fearing God doesn’t mean I doubt he has the power to smite me. I just trust him not to be unfair about it. I don’t fear God, I respect him.

As for this pandemic. I don’t believe he created it. And, I don’t believe he is going to jump in and suddenly save us all. I have a feeling he is sitting back and watching how we are handling the pandemic. Are we pulling together? Taking care of each other? Loving one and other?

He has already given the intelligence to scientist and doctors, to help us get through this. He also gave us free will, so if we choose not to listen, that is our fault, not God’s.

It could all be a lesson, and I am sure he is watching. What will we learn about ourselves?

Racism and me and you and our Facebook friends…

Social media is an interesting environment, and I suspect the generation that grew up with it will never truly appreciate how it gives them a glimpse into the world and the people we know—unlike anything before its invention.

There are many people whose paths I cross on social media. Some I knew from years ago, when I was a child or college student or young mother. Some are my real-life friends, online friends, or not really friends at all—Facebook or real life. It might be a person I knew from long ago who happens to belong to a group I do—and it has been enlightening.

During this time of turmoil there are many on social media pushing against the notion of systemic racism. Many of these people often share memes of adorable multiracial children in happy times—just to prove they are not racist.

There is a popular notion going around that many of the white people who refuse to acknowledge we have a problem do so because it never personally happened to them. We often focus on their limited life experience in this regard, and while we don’t necessarily give them a pass, we keep trying to educate them.

I have been giving this a great deal of thought after looking through my social media feeds, and I cry bullshit. Many have experienced racism—they simply never experienced it from the receiving end.

Let me explain…

One of these people I see professing the non-existence of racism, I remember her father. I remember as a child visiting her house as her father freely used the n-word and talked none too kindly about blacks. I remember being shocked, because we did not talk that way in my home. I was a small child. I said nothing, but I remembered.

Recently I crossed paths on social media with someone who I knew from years ago. This person’s feed is filled with anti-protest memes, along with photos of adorable black and white children, you know, to prove this person is not racist. However, I remember once, years ago, witnessing this person pointing to a black man on the corner and calling him a vile racist name—in my opinion worse than the N word. This black person was a stranger, just a man waiting to cross the street.

I see people I know—who claim there is no racism—twisting themselves into knots to find something derogatory to say about George Floyd or find something hinky about the video that captured the atrocity, in order to justify what was done to him.

I am a white woman who has lived most of her life in communities which were predominately white. One would assume I would have no experience with racism—and either I would be one of those people who assume it is not really happening because I never experienced it, or I would be a bleeding heart, swayed by those ugly things the media shows me, how horrible people are outside of my bubble.

But the fact is, it has always been there.

I remember being in grade school and my parents went on vacation, and my Grandma Hilda came to stay with us. While we were there, the grandson of Grandpa Pete (Hilda’s second husband) came to visit. He was in the army, and he brought along an army buddy—who happened to be black.

The grandson and friend had dinner with us, and while I rarely saw people of color, I just remember both he and Grandpa’s grandson, who I suppose was my step cousin, were very nice and we had a good time.

But after the visit a few weeks later, I remember overhearing a conversation between my parents. Apparently one of my grandmother’s sisters had thrown a fit about the “audacity” of bringing a black man to my parent’s home while they were out of town. My parents thought the aunt’s attitude ridiculous and narrow. They had absolutely no problem with my step cousin bringing his friend.

I remember once traveling on the school bus ride from Parker, Arizona to Parker Dam, California when I was a freshman. There was a black girl on the bus being verbally tormented by several white girls. I later told a boy I was dating how I should have said something. He told me to keep my mouth shut, those white girls would beat the crap out of me. I have always felt shame for remaining quiet.

I remember once in high school at Lake Havasu City, which had no black students at that time, a classmate told me that he could never like a black person. I thought that absurd, so I told him I was part black. I pointed out my dark brown eyes as proof.

He looked so sad, and said he wished I hadn’t told him. When he found out later that I was lying, he was relieved, because he thought we could be friends again. He had no idea that was no longer possible.

My point being in this long drawn out post—people see racism. Even people like me who have lived primarily in white communities. Unfortunately, many simply ascribe to the motto our first lady decided to once wear on the back of her jacket: I really don’t care, do u?