Dad was President of the Arlington County NAACP for most of my life. In all those years, words were never uttered against any group of people. Hence, I was raised post racist before there was post racism. Spent so much time with white-folk that I became colorblind. Being the only non-white person in class for most of my education; the only non-white person in my workplaces; and the only non-white in many of my places of residence required that I be colorblind.
Twice in my life people took the opportunity to remind me of who and what I was. In the 4th grade, Johnny called me a nigger. Over 50 years later, the pain of that experience lingers in the recesses of my memory. As a nine-year old, I didn’t understand what he meant, but I knew it was bad by the way he said it. That one word and the hatred that projected it toward me was as painful as if someone had poured boiling water on me. My psyche was scalded. I cried all the way home.
While attending college, I was looking for an apartment closer to the university. The phone conversation with the owner of the apartment was very pleasant, and she invited me to come take a look. A half-hour later, when she answered the door, there was a brief pause before she explained that the apartment was just rented. Here it was thirteen years after the Johnny incident, and I felt just as hurt, and for the same reason… I couldn’t fathom the how and why of racism. As Spock would say…. It is illogical.
It is impossible to explain the unexplainable. Why so much hatred for the Jews, the Irish, the Sunis, the Shia, the Catholics. My personal experience with prejudice was against gays, and like all racists, it was based on my ignorance. Until the age of 30, I thought gay people chose to be gay. Not sure where I got that idea, but when I look back on it, I am ashamed.
Having walked the earth wearing my color-blind goggles, has allowed me to believe that Americans have evolved beyond the ignorance of racism. Thanks to my parents, I have always believed I am equal to everyone. This mindset has allowed me to move freely without the chains of suspicion, doubt, and fear. But, Charleston and Ferguson have caused me to peek over the top of my glasses and acknowledge the truth.
Acknowledging that racism is indeed alive has the downside of forcing me to consider that I am not judged based upon my character but by my mocha-colored skin. I am now temporarily hobbled by the possibility of discrimination. When looking for accommodations for the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, I left messages for the landlords and included the fact that I was African American so they could decide whether to return the call or not. When none of my ten calls was returned, I was left to consider that it was because of my Blackness. I proceeded to rent a hotel room. It is further away, but the law, my (deceased) parents, and the bible say they must accept everyone.