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?