Ha ha! Only a white American has the luxury of saying such things, but as you once said to me, I’m not offended. I’ve had to listen to this sort of thing my entire life, from well-meaning, good intentioned white folk, sadly, you are just wrong.
Color means everything here in America and I should know as someone who has had a lot of doors opened to me, because of my color. I’m what a lot of African-Americans calls “lite-brite.”
Lite, brite and damn near white. In fact one entire side of my family is this way. You would never know that half of them are black…unless they told you…and so, back in the day, they did this thing called “passing.” Have any idea what “passing” is? Probably not. It is pretending to be white. Primarily for the purpose of accessing better economic opportunities. So they did that and it worked. They had much easier lives than most black Americans.
Is about my family. That woman on the cover, is my great-grandmother. She looks white. She was a Kentucky plantation owners daughter. And yet, when she grew up in a small Kentucky town and worked as hard as anyone else, working her farm and teaching the colored children in town, her house was burned down, by the Klan, because she dared to register her two daughters, (also featured on the book cover) for the white high school in town.
So on her quest to get her daughters an education, and, if not for the kindness and decency of other white neighbors, everyone in her family would have been murdered. This is a true story. You know what my family took from that experience: look out for the good and decent white people, because they just might save your life.
And yet, I’m different because what I took from that experience is that the Klan will burn down your house when your family was well-respected in the community and did and said all the right things. You can be killed for anything, once white supremacists get all riled up with their irrational hatred.
Racism in America is very layered and complex- but here is what I do know for sure, there is good and bad in everyone and every race; and furthermore, due to what I’ve seen and experienced from a very early age, I’m slow to trust anyone.
The things that I write about are not only extraordinarily real, they are my family’s history. My great grandmother put her life on the line for these laws, so did my great Aunts. They were all very much apart of the civil rights agenda. They advocated for these laws, they pushed the limits, they “passed,” so they could see exactly what was on the other side…and even then, it wasn’t so great.
But passing for white, working 12 hour days under ruthless conditions was still better than not working at all and starving, so that’s what my great Aunts did to survive; and they wouldn’t have had those opportunities if they had darker skin, cause this was during the depression and those jobs were for whites only…
I live in the real world, where yeah there is an overwhelming amount of poverty and terror and fear and terrorist groups and wars and drugs, and wars on terror and wars on drugs and wars on women and clearly wars on men. And fear drives all of it.
I certainly wish the world wasn’t this way, but it is. I’ve known too many people affected by all of these sorts of things.
Do I like living in a world that I hate? Wow what a thing to say, to someone. No I do not like living in a world that is as deeply flawed as this one is, if I did, I guess I would be as complacent as you seem to be. I wish I could be; and I’m being real.
I desperately wish I had whatever you have that allows you to see the world the way you do. I get your perspective, your worldview. It’s not as if I haven’t bumped up against it before. It’s not like I don’t get told all the time that I am far too idealistic, because I wish for a world where everything is fair and people are primarily good and decent acting most of the time. A world where we haven’t grown so accostumed to horror that we think it’s the only way — and therefore don’t do much to change it, or see it otherwise.
This is what my father said to me, when I was complaining about the rampant corruption I had to encounter at one of my jobs:
“Amber, you are an idealist, working in an imperfect system. You have two choices 1.change the system or 2. Leave the system.
Since the system is everywhere and it is impossible to leave it, I work to change it. All day everyday.
And oh God how I wish! Truly I wish that I had in my brain, what a significant amount of other people have in their brains that allow them to look at this world and say:
“Wow! What a great and wonderful place!!!!”
I wish to God I had that. You seem to have that. Doesn’t that make life so much easier, better? But…I don’t. I am not hard- wired that way. I accepted that about myself long ago. You are not the first person to point out my pessimistic nature to me, and you probably won’t be the last.
And anyway, that doesn’t mean the things I say aren’t true. Lately, I haven’t said the glass is half-empty or half full, I’ve been saying it’s full of piss. And a lot of people agree with me.
But…as there is no escape hatch, from this world, I’ve decided(yesterday in fact) to make the best of it.
I mean I could come back and argue with you incessantly, like I’ve been doing with Svetlana, but you both helped me to realize something, based on your personal experiences, the world you describe makes perfect sense to you.
But, you have to realize this is well, based on my personal experiences the world I describe makes perfect sense to me.
But I would like to be more positive, truly. So no more of these pessimistic rants — although this one about the civil rights and affirmative action wasn’t particularly pessimistic- a little cynical. But not all that pessimistic.
I’ve spent a lot of time working in the field of Civil Rights/Equal Employment Opportunity/Diversity/Affirmative action so I know a lot about those systems, those games, those politics, until I walked away, disgusted. This pessimism and cynicism comes from a real place.
Looking back on it all, I’m beginning that I was naive, to try to do the right thing. I should have done like everyone else and played the politics so that I advanced myself and myself only. These are the people who win inside our systems.
But seriously. There has GOT to be a better way of seeing the world.
I am going to find it.
The glass is half-full. 😘 As always, thanks for the reminder. 😄