People just can’t seem to make up their minds. Somedays they want open and honest dialogue about issues that matter, and then on other days, like any that end in ‘y,’ they don’t want to hear what real people have to say. And without a doubt, they don’t want to hear what white people have to say. Everyone else gets to talk about it in any way they choose, but we’re simply supposed to sit here with our mouths closed and listen.
Now, don’t get me wrong; listening is the key to any discussion and not enough people do so – that transcends any race or gender. I’m willing to listen, but fair is far so let me have my say too. It may be the cliché that you don’t want to hear, or I just might surprise you.
I am not a racist, nor am I politically correct. When I was a kid, and exploring my vocabulary options, my mom had a very frank talk with me. She said “I don’t care what you say when you’re with your friends, but know the time and the place, and that time and place is not in front of me, your grandparents, or pretty much anyone older than you.” It was a rule I followed for the first half of my life until one day I blew up at my dad. I can recount only once that I ever uttered the f word in front of my grandmother. There is a time and a place for everything. I’m not a stand up comedian, so I don’t think it’s wise to make jokes about race to a room full of people who showed up for a lecture on publishing. I am a lover of comedy, however, and if I’m going to go see a show or a movie I am therefore consenting to any kind of joke whether I might think it’s funny or not. And I have gotten up and walked out of a comedy show, a movie, and even author readings because I found material to be offensive. I’m smart enough to recognize that it’s offensive to me, and not the world at large. I have the choice to walk away, to boycott, to review or to write about it. That’s what makes it all free speech.
Let’s talk about #BlackLivesMatter. Last week, I almost fell off the sofa when watching Life in Pieces; the granddad takes the kids to a new age café where a dish is featured called “black beans matter.” My husband and I make a tremendous amount of jokes at home about our cats, because Georgie (the older orange tabby) and Sylvie (the younger tuxedo cat), and they range from ginger jokes to oppressed black jokes and going way back to when Sylvie wasn’t the smartest little kitten around so he nicknamed her ‘Short Bus.’ Does this mean we love them any less? No. We don’t pit them against each other, we love and care for them as much as we do each other. Because I had a good laugh at a very serious thing, that doesn't make me callous or evil. It is giving me a chance to catch my breath and move forward. It's like telling a funny story at a funeral - the sadness is real, but we have to work toward healing too and for many, humor is a step toward that.
Everyone has a sensitivity. I'm not the one to make rape jokes to, but nobody would know that just by looking at me. I know because someone made a crack about getting "raped in the ass" last week at his job. All I could do was blink. Should I get outraged? Or just take into consideration who I know him to be and its context?
Racism is about intent. If my intent is to hurt you, slight you or disregard you as being anything less than me for any reason based on your skin color, that would make me a racist. My intent Is to always laugh at our differences, our similarities and to not let the mainstream of the world dictate who we are. I listen to when my friends tell me they don’t like to hear the things that are said. I read what people say about people different from them, and it often saddens and even disgusts me. I don’t understand such a way of thinking. I see how people react and it doesn’t always jive with their words. I can’t truly speak for others, but in any situation, I am reacting to the person and their behavior, not anything else. You can be black, white or Chinese but if you act like a thug, I’m going to react to that. If you treat me with just one tiny bit of respect, you’re going to get mine in return. Not because I know you, but because you are a fellow human.
I am not a racial minority, or a gender minority, but I am a minority. Do not be mistaken in thinking I don't get what it's like to be hated just for existing.
I don’t hate anyone, especially someone I’ve never even met, because I don’t have that kind of energy but we do live in a hate culture and it’s exhausting just to be a part of it. Some days the negativity wears me out and takes me down. The things that are said regarding celebrities, politicians, even the drunk driver or the criminal whose circumstances aren’t clear enough for us to judge, that’s exactly what we do. Too many seem to think they can run the country or even coach a sports team better than those who were put in place to do it. It’s become quite ridiculous, yet everyone’s looking around in surprise at the support that someone like Donald Trump is garnering.
All day, I’ve been skimming my social media newsfeeds, seeing all of the comments from people who took offense to the opening monologue of comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars ceremony. I cringed at the line “When your grandmother is swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about Best Foreign Documentary Short.” I can respect that it’s about perspective, and this was Rock’s. I find it rather amusing that Jada Smith started the #OscarsSoWhite movement as if any Hollywood awards aren’t based on some sort of politics or another, and she waited to start it in a year that her husband wasn’t nominated for a major production. If it looks like sour grapes, and talks like sour grapes… because let’s face it, this isn’t a new problem. But Whoopi Goldberg said it best; there can’t be awards handed out to what doesn’t exist. The issue is at the roots, not the surface.
Not everything has to be dished out with an in-your-face attitude. It just needs to be talked about, not swept away like it doesn’t exist, because it does. Like a Stephen King book, the worst horrors in the world are born of our reality.
It’s the question that I ask when people run on about Trump and his campaign, or people who want to blame all police and military or hold them all up as golden gods. What is your take on it? Don’t quote knee-jerk statistics or send me a meme as if it’s an answer. Protestors want to shout and be heard, but don't want to listen. We have got to stop the extremism and start looking at the in betweens, the context of the words that are said, the situations as each one comes along, stop the blame where it doesn’t belong and start listening to each other. We need to make a change, but we also need to beware of what is around us. Change rarely happens from the outside, from the surface. It happens from within. To the next generations, I implore you to not become a part of the problem, but to become the solution. Sure, it’s easy for me to say, sitting here in my suburbia and talking from behind a keyboard, but to quote the sailor man, I am who I am and it may not be who you think.
If you’re not ready to listen, I’ll wait. I’m also open to learning something I don’t already know. Chances are that I’ve heard similar to your story. I have cried a little at the mistreatment of each other and rejoiced in the kindness too. All I ask is that you listen in return. We’re all in this together. There’s a time and a place for political correctness, but being PC doesn’t necessarily equate to respect. Honesty is what moves us forward. We can embrace it or turn and walk away if we don’t like what someone has to say. Know whose mind you can change and when to move on if you can’t. Determination will take anyone farther than anger ever will.
One person isn’t going to change the world, but one person at a time is a pretty good start.