All last week I was pissed seeing posts about other’s trips to the store, or trips to go out jogging and other things that I believe to be very selfish during our Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, I totally took my planned weekend trip to the Outer Banks this weekend because I’m an AMERICAN and I already paid for it and FREEDOM….plus, I was staying in one room and all I wanted to do was look at the beach. I did take the ferry to Ocracoke Island and ate carry out. It was dismaying to see the folks not wearing masks. I wore mine to get my shrimp Po Boy (which wasn’t on a Po Boy bun but we live in tough times) tipped about 50% and held my head high as I ate uncomfortably in my car in the parking lot of a lighthouse. How much did I long to be sitting at the bar listening to the old couple who had their tiny dog with them talk all about their past vacations to the island and listen to that weird North Carolina lilt? A LOT. But they weren’t too interested in wearing a mask, and I’m not too interested in hearing their reasons for not wearing one and I’m about 100% positive it would have come up.
Or maybe it wouldn’t have come up. We do a lot of planned ignoring as a species. The great thing about ignoring a problem is that after a certain amount of time has passed we can totally change the narrative. Kind of like how there was lots of standing water on NC rt 12 today even though it only rained a little yesterday or how people all over the outer banks raise their houses on stilts to a ridiculous degree but we still debate climate change. I’m sure that somewhere is a real estate agent who convinced a client that folks put their homes on stilts to provide more storage space.
At some point, probably when their SUV’s can no longer be fitted with water wings, the folks who visit the Outer Banks will blame Obama for the flooded roads and the Outer Banks will no longer be the Big Truck Owner’s Choice of vacation destinations. I may be all wrong and I hope that I am because the loss of Nags Head would be a blow to my fellow white Ohioans. They will still have Virginia Beach. They can afford a little denial.
Denial is really pretty easy for most white Americans. Besides kissing our pets on the mouth, it’s one of the things we do best!
Because I am white myself, I have a few friends who are racists. They would never call themselves racists and thanks to the luxury afforded them by the same denial that allows them to go out to restaurants unmasked they don’t have to think much about other people. As we all have heard from any of our friends who took a Women’s Studies course in college, it’s a privilege to think about only oneself.
The word gets thrown a lot but like death and taxes…well, you know. I don’t know how to convince my fellow pink skinned buds that white privilege is a thing. Frankly, it’s an awful lot to ask people who were raised in the “land of opportunity” founded on the belief that “all men are created equal”. I was taught that this country was founded on freedom by hard working, industrious, scrappy farmers who built this country out of nothing. I was raised believing the pilgrims and the Indians sat down to celebrate a harvest together. Even my kids made hand turkeys in the late 90’s and talked about being taught pretty much the same.
Still, I have sat with my family for years on Thanksgiving and absolutely feasted, watched the Macy’s day parade and somehow morphed into the National Dog Show and totally accept this as normal. It’s a pretty big lie to feast to the “partnership” of American’s indigenous people and the Pilgrims. But we are pretty comfortable with the lie.
We want to believe that America was built by Americans out of grit and determination and hard work. Not that that is all a lie but the wholesale sale of humans who were forced to do so much of that hard work in the north and the south is something we tend to gloss over.
Clearly, exploiting others is not exclusive to America but the wholesale denial of it has to stop. Now.
So, I’m asking you to take a white person by the hand this week and remind them that the reason America exists as a country is due to free labor. Don’t sugar coat it, just say it. They may be confused, it’s to be expected because this is not at all what they were raised to believe and we build our knowledge bases off of information that we already have (Trust me, I took a college course in this and got a B- so I kinda know what I’m talking about.) Tell your favorite Caucasian that it’s not debatable, it’s just good common economic sense; not paying people to work is, was, and always will be a great way to make money. You may want to tell them that you know that everyone knows that their ancestors were in Ireland or Germany or wherever in the 400 years or so that people were bought and sold on this land and that they are in NO way responsible for slavery. This cannot be stressed enough, it is VERY IMPORTANT that this white person feels no discomfort or they will reject anything that you say to them out of hand.
I hear a lot of my white buds say things like “slavery was a long time ago and black people need to get over it.” I like to remind them that Jesus lived a long time ago, too and folks can’t seem to get over that one. Another fun thing to do is remind them the at the next Greek Fest, or Columbus Day or St. Patrick’s Day when they like to brag about their great grandparents leaving Greece, Italy or Ireland to come to America that they are all Americans now and that their grandparents came over here a long time ago, and anyway they just need to get over it.
The roots of this country were formed in greed and exploitation. We also got jazz and automobiles so it wasn’t a lost cause. We need to heal for what has happened to Black Americans. Slavery was already in this country 300 years before the Declaration of Independence so blame the British if it makes you feel better but we must acknowledge this tremendous abuse of human rights and recognize that it’s going to continue to take work to heal. If it’s all our country, it’s all our responsibility.