Talking Race with the Privlidged and the Really Privlidged.

I’ve been stuck a lot lately listening to the moronic ramblings of both my hilljack friends and the not-nearly-as-moronic-but-still-annoying refined friends. Half of the folks I know have terminal degrees and the other half are just terminal, it’s usually COPD. I have footholds in both worlds. I’m not part of the intelligentsia, more like intelligentsia adjacent. Let’s just say this; I’ve been acquainted with no less than two MacArthur Fellows before they were bestowed their grants. Now, I’m not saying that I can actually pick MacArthur fellows but I kinda have my finger on the pulse of genius. Quite conversely, one of my toes is completely yellow and I literally have this tattoo. No one is particularly jealous of my life, of that I am sure.

I’m not particularly jealous of most of high school buddies, so it all works out. We grew up in an aging, lower middle-class suburb. In a way, I loved growing up with my options limited. Our parents were mostly working so the kids in my neighborhood were free range, we figured out about life by either breaking things or having to provide our own first aid and mostly the two things went together. We looked at the JC Penney catalogue for inspiration and I remember clearly taking turns picking out what we would buy from the jewelry section. When I was in the 3rd grade, I tore out the page that had the birthstones listed so I could memorize the monthly gemstones just in case I was invited on Merv Griffin I would have something interesting to talk about.

My Facebook friends list includes kids from the old neighborhood, many of whom were totally befuddled by Black Lives Matter protests. They wouldn’t condemn the protests but instead would post “lets be more loving and positive…. Post a picture of your dog and fill your timeline with fur” things like that. I don’t push back on those posts, but they bother me. I did push back on the “we all bleed red/I don’t see color” posts although it was tedious and tiring. One guy ended every response to me with the peace sign emoji. It went something like “if black people care so much about each other why are they killing each other in Chicago?!” (insert peace sign emoji) Then there were post that veered inexplicably from BLM to Hunter Biden and then to rich people pitting poor white people against poor black people to how mobs of antifa are pulling people out of cars in front of Target stores to beat them and the to something about how Joe Biden isn’t mentally stable. There were a lot of posts on various insane topics veering in and out of reality. Reading these posts was like changing your baby’s first diaper. It’s disgusting yet sweet and totally full of shit.

Meanwhile, my smarty pants fancy friends are all sharing articles from the Atlantic and posting graphs and charts and attempting to undo years upon years of miseducation through 3-minute reads about atrocities that were never taught in public school.  There was a lot of active listening and talk amongst themselves about institutional racism or passive racism and of course white privilege. If there is only one thing that academics do very well, it’s making urgent matters as inaccessible as possible by using unnecessarily clinical language. They love distancing themselves from anything that makes them feel which is probably why graduate students are the most horrible people to hang out with.

I had a fun come to Jesus moment last week thanks to Aunt Jemima. SO many, and I mean SO many of my high school friends posted a meme that wondered how Quaker Oats would deny the family of the real Aunt Jemima their family legacy by erasing her from history. I saw it so much that it seemed plausible.  This sounded like more big business garbage to me and I was having none of it “well, what about her intellectual property” I piped up to smarty friends using their smarty pants language. I completely bought that there was a real Aunt Jemima, a plucky young entrepreneurial southern lady churning out pancake mix from Georgia or Mississippi or wherever. A very quick Google search would have easily schooled me that she was just a character used to sell garbage.  But I wanted to feel something. Stupid human.

A smart academic once told me that when other people talk about personal responsibility, they are never talking about themselves.

It’s true that I really hate the nonsense that the Joe Rogan lovers of the world are spewing. But the truth is that l really like some of those guys. I even went to see Jim Breuer for my birthday this year even though I winced when he bragged about taking his daughter out of college because she was getting too politically correct for his taste. He did have a point, though, that pointing and yelling “racists” at your parents probably isn’t going to engender any self-reflection. Maybe she should have just called him an asshole.

It’s even more true that I hate that my better-read buds aren’t finding a way to connect. They also need to learn to feel something besides resentment and anger. (side bar—the resentment from my Trump voting Ohio family and my academic friends is the exact same thing…it’s uncanny) And yes, we should have learned about the Tulsa massacre in school. It would have made a difference. We should have been taught that our country was built by slaves…our collective educational system failed. Now we know. Once you know something, you must deal with it.  

I’m hardly enlightened. I love calling people names and I don’t deal with a lot of issues which is why I am slowly dying from my left pinky toe over. Denial is a luxury, and people who dwell there never get away with it. So, I’ll respectfully engage with my racists friends and family when I see and opportunity and I only hope that my other friends are as well.

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