I get called the "R" word

Saturday, April 05, 2008

In my last post, some anonymous person subtlety called me racist.

While I assume that this person was some random reader who clicked through and read the post, threw out a comment and left...the comment sat with me.

I have been with a man not of my own racial background for the past 17 years. In order to make our relationship work, we have had to discuss and be playful about the issues of race in America. While the normal investigations of likes and dislikes was part of our courting....we also had to explicitly discuss race and the implications of a mixed racial relationship. Moving beyond casual dating meant that we had to be aware of and ready to face the thing that no body wants to really talk about. What it means to be Black and what it means to be White in America.

To have pretended that no one noticed the racial difference between us in New Hampshire would have been ludicrous. In a state that is 97% white, I could be invisible while one could not help BUT to notice Terrance.

This has also meant that we have had to develop a sense of humor about race. Yes, I said it. We make JOKES about race in our family. I am often called a "trifling white woman" by my husband. We both tell our daughter to put lotion on her "ashy ass before her butt checks start a fire". I have even used the "n" word...in private, when teasing my husband. These are conversations and jokes which would make many of my white friends and family extremely uncomfortable.

Does that make me racist? Does that make him racist?

Does noticing that there are "typical" Hollywood devices which reflect stereotypes about race in America make us racist?

Hell to the nizz-o.

The conversation about race is a continuing dialog in our house. I haven't stopped thinking about race for 17 years. Now, seeing as I am 37 years old that in and of itself is a shameful reflection on the ability of White American culture to subjugate and/or dismiss honest conversations about race. I got to spend my first 20 years fairly unaware of my position within a dominant culture.

So it is in that light that I take the "racist" comment. It is much easier to yell "racist" or "unpatriotic" and STOP the conversation than to carry it further. It is much easier to use race to block the honest discussion that Americans desperately need to be having. A sort of "We are all friends here" or "I am so progressive that I don't even SEE race" mentality is intentionally deciding to absolve the individual of the responsibility of looking at the implications of race in America.

Being called racist won't stop my conversations about race with my husband, child and family. Being called racist won't stop me from writing about the conversations that I have within my family. Being called racist won't stop me from seeing the humor in situations where there is humor to be had, nor will I stop joking with my friends in family about race.

Humor is part of the conversation, maybe some of the most important parts of the conversation. Without the ability to negotiate these conversations with playfulness, humor and open mindedness Terrance and I would have never gotten this far.

So, Anon commenter: I don't think White people are stupid....just incredibly uptight, defensive and humorless when it comes to the way they benefit from Dominating American culture and society. May I suggest that you remove the Politically correct stick out of your small, flat white ass and relax a little.

14 Baleful Regards:

Mignon said...

Reminds me of the big broo-ha-ha many years back about Reggie White and his sermon about the differences between the races. As I recall, he was raked over the coals for noticing that cultures of different races are interesting and varied. I don't remember exactly what he said (black people are good at celebrating, asians are ambitious? something to that effect) - but my god. I thought he was going to jail.
Overly-earnest and poorly-intentioned white people react to race by sanctimoniously pretending it doesn't exist.
Madeleine has one black girl in her class (two total, in the entire school), and I heard a mom trying to describe her to another mom soon after school started, as "the little girl with the dark ponytails."

Anonymous said...

You weren't commenting about racial stereotypes in movies: you were saying that, in real life as opposed to the movie you were watching, only a white person would be so stupid as to make phone calls in an explosion. Thus the movie is incorrect because it shows a black person making this stupid, white action.

I never said you were racist. I was congratulating you on how non-racist you are.

Dawn said...

Semantics, Anon.

Thats my fancy way of calling bullshit.

MarciaAnn said...

Amen Sista!

Mitzi Green said...

my husband and i came up with the term "r'd and m'd" to stand in for "raped and murdered" when the 6 year old is present and listening. (i don't know why--i guess we talk about being raped and murdered a lot. maybe because we live in kansas city.)

so of course, when i saw the title to this post, i assumed someone had referred to you as a "rapist."

which would still have made me laugh, but not as much as someone referring to you as a "racist."

and for the record, as a white woman, i would not use my cell phone in the middle of an explosion. i'd probably just run around like a dumbass and scream like a girl.

Woman with Kids said...

A well put take on what is, unfortunately, a touchy subject.

Monie said...

Good post.

alyca said...

Having been in an interracial relationship for 12 years now, I totally know where you are coming from. Living in the Pacific Northwest makes things a little less conspicuous, but not a whole lot. Racial stereotypes exist and until we are all able to talk about them and poke fun at them are we really getting anywhere as a society??

Lisa said...

I will never forget the day a beloved cousin told me she had found a man who treated her well, was smart, accomplished, and handsome. She was very much in love. She was happy - glowing, even. But her face soon grew dark when she mentioned his race. We grew up in a German Catholic farming community. Oddly enough, it was "OK" to have more kids than sense or money. It was "Ok" for people to be alcoholics. And it was "ok" to beat your kids in the name of discipline. But it wasn't "ok" for blacks to live there. My cousin missed out on a chance at an incredible friendship/love because she knew her parents/sibs would never accept him. They would have a very hard road ahead of them and she was scared he'd end up very hurt by all of the blatant racism...

How very sad.

But another cousin met an incredible black man, fell in love and MARRIED him. I think they handle the whole race stuff the same way you guys do -- with humor, honestly and an open heart.

Oh and I don't know how I got one, but i got the "baby got back butt -- not the flat white butt." I had to laugh out loud when you made that white butt reference.

Anonymous said...

Racism is out there, differences are out there. Often we don't mention them for fear of being impolite or perceived as racist or ignorant.

I am a Lebanese-American Christian. One of my best friends is Jewish. She is my resource for questions about Judaism and Jewish culture I'd be embarrassed to ask anywhere else (like, how the hell do bald men keep yarmulkes from falling off?). Wish we could all be comfortable enough with each other and our differences to ask the Stupid Questions we're dying to ask, and make jokes about the things that are funny.

Bobita said...

Hoo-rah, sister!

Recently, I had several students in one of my classes try to have me FIRED from my University because I had the audacity to claim that there is such a thing as white privilege. Furthermore, I made them discuss it. Students were crying and throwing temper tantrums (I kid you NOT) because they were so upset that I was suggesting "not seeing" race was, in fact, the definition of white privilege.

My students protested because they believed I was preaching racism from the classroom pulpit. [Ultimately, I used their letters as evidence for why my University needs to require more classes aimed at addressing issues of race and privilege.]

I count myself lucky, though. Because, were it not for the color of my husband's brown ass, I might be just as blind to the privilege that my lily white pigment affords me.

Angel said...

AMEN Girl!!!!

My husband and I have been together for 22 years...he's Black, I'm the White one. We have 5 kids. We make jokes about race ALL THE TIME in our family. You HAVE too...otherwise, the rest of the world would beat you down....can't have that.

and my kids legs' are always ashy!!!

Suburban Gorgon said...

Atta girl. My best friend at work for the last 10 years has been a black woman. Her daughter was in my wedding. I love this woman like crazy, and we talk about race all the time, both seriously and in jest. When you don't it becomes the 900 pound elephant in the middle of the room.

Debbie said...

Dawn, i want to simultaneously make out with you, hug you, dance with you, high-five you and make out with you. oh, wait. i said that part twice. i meant to say it three times.

let's make out. k?


p.s. you are teh awez.

the end.

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