Yes, because the effects of racism are different. One thing I’ve noticed that I didn’t note before because it was so intrinsic to my experience was that I know White people. I’ve had them over to my home, they’ve sat at my table, I’ve sat at theirs, I’ve held their children, I’ve had loving affairs with them, I’ve hung out with them, I’ve gone to school with them, I’ve worked with them. I was recently talking to and observing several Black people and from their discussion I realized they had less contact with White people. That White people supervised them at work, were administrators at banks and utility companies and passed them by with nodding glances and acknowledgements when they worked engaged with the public, even chatted amiably with them but none of those Black people knew White people. Like in your phone contacts know White people, how are you doing?
This meant that a whole wave of people had a very limited form and way of communicating to another group of people. Sometimes I listen to voices, tones, attitudes change when some Blacks are around Whites or their if not panic, concern when mine doesn’t. To me White people are just lighter human beings, race is a social constructed delusion and lighter skin tone and guns gave some an ideological advantage and control. But still just folk.
There’s also the expectation that we all know each other at Columbia or NYC or if we have companies in common in our past resume. Like I’ve just pointedly had lunch every single day with every single Black person at Columbia….because they’re Black. I joke about the Black National Meetings where all 50 million of us get together on Skype and discuss important issues like did we see Mary J. Blige on How To Get Away With Murder?
But Black people often talk to me and others in higher social classes ways that beg insanity. Like when I mention that I studied Italian and Italian literature and like Dario Fo. The question often comes up, how do you know that if I translate something in my rusty Italian or if somehow bring up how much I love Carmen, the opera. How could you know that? Not the question of where did you first encounter that but how could you, you brown thing, know that not brown thing? Just on here, there was a backhanded swipe from a White man….”if my credentials were real…” because you know, his could be, but not mine. That comes from Black folk too. School as a mandate and not a passion is often considered suspect.
Poorer less educated Whites are almost as dangerous as poorer less educated Blacks because both perceive that there was some benefit, there was something besides effort, work, smarts, grit, resilience that got me to this point and will carry me farther. Did I write the whole book? No, just the black ink parts. Did I read the whole book in my lap? No, I just hold it as a lap warmer. In my home, looking at a dozen bookcases—-have I read all of these books? No, I buy bookcases and books to use as decorative wall insulation against the cold.
Accomplishment when Black, not being poor, from poverty—-I was always asked were my parents White, was I adopted, was I from England in response to my grammar, my diction, my speaking well. Because it couldn’t have come from other brown people, could it? Black and White are good for this question.
The funny, ironic part is that I’ve learned over the years that the Black affluent, the upper middle class, the well educated are the solution to all of the problems of the lower classes. Yet we are the most often maligned and attacked when we arrive to help. I’ve learned that one a lot as a teacher. The ones to help the most, the ones most forgotten by White people, despise successful Black people even more.
So children and adult stare at me because sometimes I’m in places where a Black man in a suit with no funeral in sight is unusual to them.
Where I take out a book on the train to heads buried in smartphones and now it’s gone from basic games to videos—-both garnering revenues for someone else. The book though I hold, I’m often stared at quizzically. Though I was coming back from a project and was able to give a young lady with a baby who was reading several books from the class because I was so impressed that young, with a child she was trying to read Morrison.
My sons and daughters will walk in halls and castles that I had to take a deep breath to enter, that I had to spend coin and favor to get to. They will dine with multiple kings and queens and presidents, whereas I’ve met a couple. And I will have to tell them as I had to be told that there are cousins that we are different than, thinking that is different, resources that are different.
One of the best works on this so far is