I have “friends” in my life who deserve the air quotes around the word “friend.” They consider themselves friends of mine. I think not. They might proudly defend themselves to accusations of racism by pointing out they be friends of “Kumari.” Kumari? “You know – that nice Hawai’ian/Native American/Mexican (fill in ethnicity here) girl who works at the bank/post office/realty office.” Yes, those type of people. They mean well my white friends might dismissively point out. Such people never define me as “biracial” even though physically, factually, technically, actually, I am biracial. The word has been appropriated to mean “half-white.” Literally biracial is two races. In Hawaii we had a good word, “HapaHa’ole” for half whites, in contradistinction biracial is a person of two races, or what they call on the Mainland “mixed race.” I’m not any amount white. So somehow I fly under the wire of these bigoted types.
They don’t know how to type me.
I’m making a couple of points here that I want to sort out. 1) You’re not my friend if you refer to me as a “girl.” I am in my 50s. I’ve done past my reproductive years. I’ve worked professionally my whole life. I have college education and some post graduate education including a current, valid broker’s license. As the old Virginia Slims ad so aptly said, “I haven’t come a long way and I’m not your baby.” Sadly, America is on the backslide. I notice on Facebook half the memes are lark, toss off comments about moving to another country. The other half reek of anguish, real pain. No one is listening to the other. If those in real pain realize how the other half feels they’d be scared, real scared. The haters won. If the funny memes side were listening to those in real pain they wouldn’t be posting jokey comments, placating empty words.
Point 2) anyone who hasn’t yet figured out I’m a MidWestern American, raised on the South Side of Chicago but imagines instead I am a California Native American? Certainly, truly, can not be my friend. Such a person is an acquaintance. I use the word “friend” with air quotes only to be polite. Which begs the question, “Why bother being polite to a racist?” Why bother? Because the minority person, speaking as a minority, is never really safe. My voice is singular. There is no team of half-Japanese/half-Sinhala to support me. I’m not a voting bloc. I have no voice in politics. I have no voice in the community. What do I have? I had eggs thrown at my door when I first moved to Frazier Park. Kids threatening me. One damaged the hood to my first car. Others threw toilet paper as a “prank” all over my tree.
So why don’t you just move? I’ve been asked. I never actually answered that question because it was never asked in a spirit of curiosity but in a spirit of contempt. For you dear reader I’ll explain: I like the country. I like clean air more than the next person. Having grown up as urban as urban can be, I appreciate the lower crime rate. I like quiet. I’m uncomfortable around the clanging, banging of city life – rife with jackhammers, trains, traffic – which creates in me a constant low grade stress. I like hiking as much as the next majority stake holder. No one asks my room mate why she likes REI, if ya know what I mean. Tracy contends she’s mixed too, half European and half Mexican (from Mexico.) But her blonde hair and blue eyes coupled with a California accent, shield her effectively. Had she been an olive skinned brunette named “Maria” her life would have been different.
Point 3) Many people don’t consider themselves “haters” yet they propel the problem forward with their silence. These people are nice enough to me when we are alone together. They don’t mind me eating at the same lunch counter or drinking from the same water fountain but they draw the line at getting to know me. These people didn’t mean to be mean, they are just chicken shit. They explain their behavior by saying they don’t have anything in common with me. Or they figure I don’t have any interest in them. Or some other vague blame the victim type rational. The better ones of the bunch at least say “hello” to me, but as soon as another white person arrives I’m ignored in conversation. Many admit they thought I am Mexican and didn’t speak English. I tough it out. I hope the younger generation is different.
Now I’m not so sure. I woke up this morning to learn the haters won. Their guy is now in office. What will happen next? He vows to deport illegal immigrants and stop further immigration. I doubt it will stop there. Immigrants are in a fragile position. What was legal yesterday may not be legal tomorrow. This new president elect brags on how he can grab women. He’s a sexist. The men who hate feminism are on his side. What have they got against equal rights? They perceive it as a loss of their own right to be “more-than.” Who would want to give up special privilege? No one. Least of all people who did not view it as special to begin with but God-given right.
“They took our jobs!” is what these people complain when they see someone of my complexion working. I could quit working. I did when I was injured. What happens then? The same people complain about minorities on the dole. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s an observation: if people of color are unable to purchase homes outside of an invisibly bordered ghetto then they are subject to the ghetto. I mean if the only schools available for 50 miles are for shit then don’t wonder why certain people in my neighborhood are not so well educated. Go ahead an read a book? Educate yourself? My son pointed out his school library was empty! No funding. No books. Profound ignorance makes getting a job difficult. Not impossible but difficult.
What is the answer? For one, don’t pretend to be my friend if you are not my friend. My real friends speak up for me when someone makes a racist comment. They don’t justify their friend’s nastiness. They say, “Hey. That’s not cool.” They don’t sit by silently. They don’t act colorblind. They recognize my path has been different. I remember at the bank a co-worker getting worked up and huffy, defensively saying she could not be racist because she was married to a black man. As if? As if that exonerated her from being as rude as rude could be to our clients who spoke English as a second language. Wow. I begged to differ and surprise, surprise, our other co-workers defend her position. Go figure.
If you want to be a real Mensch seek to understand. You know. The same way you would if your white friend was crying. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. Just trying to understand, if done authentically, is enough. For two, when you see people beating up a gay, lesbian or transgender person Call The Police. Don’t be a pussy. Don’t stand around acting shocked, doing nothing. Pick Up The Phone. Be part of the solution not part of the violence. Stop with the slacktivism. No I will not re-post your useless meme. It doesn’t do a damn thing. Caring? Real compassion? Speaking up in real time? In person. That is the only thing that will effect change.
The election boldly gives the numbers. More haters than non-haters. More people utterly resent equal rights for all than embrace ’em. I am told to forget about that and forgive them. I don’t think forgiveness is helpful. Living in peace at the price of subjugation is too high a price to pay. Living in peace at that price has cost us the whole planet. Just look at all the animals gone extinct.
i vote we do away with race altogether which is an obvious invention of the white majority to categorize people other than themselves. If you think about it for even half a second the categories don’t match. Hispanic is based on language, black is based on color, Asian is a geographic distinction. It’s just a way for the white majority to say “This is how you are not like me.” The categories are not separate but equal. They are for shit. In lieu of treating everyone the same how about going for everyone as a unique individual, a distinct personality? I think that could really work. I would love to be known as a Kumari, a person and not “that girl.” I’d be willing to bet that the white people I haven’t yet met would like to known as Dakota and Kylie and not as “white people.” Do you know what I mean?
Just a thought. As my friend Dave da Handyman, God rest his soul, used to say, “Now y’all play nice.”