Yesterday morning, I was sitting with two other white women, all of us waiting for our daughters to finish horseback riding lessons. Now don’t get visions of country clubs, black jackets, and Arabians. This is small town, dirt ring, middle class horseback riding. And we’re small town, middle class white Moms.
For reasons I can’t recall, the conversation turned to a local town, where one of the women grew up, and why these two, who have lived around here much longer than I, didn’t like going there anymore. The background for you is that this town holds our closest shopping mall, large bookstore, toy store, etc. One of the women, let’s call her, “Mary,” for fun, opened with the classic white person cover, “I’m not prejudiced, but ….” White people, if you’re reading this, that’s your first tell. It’s a dead give away that you are, indeed, prejudiced. “Mary” continues, “… but the last time I was up there, I was sitting at a stoplight and I looked around me and every car, it was dark, dark, dark, dark, dark.” OK, she wasn’t talking about the cars themselves, folks, but who was in the cars. What she meant was, everywhere around her it was black folks, black folks, black folks, black folks, black folks.
At this point, “Jane,” spoke up. To her credit, she owned her prejudice saying, “I’ll admit that I am a little prejudiced,” but here’s where she blew it, “but it’s not just against blacks, it’s against anyone who’s stupid and lazy.” In other words, blacks are stupid and lazy and I don’t like anyone who’s like them. White people, this is another tell that you’re an out and out racist. So “Jane” continues: “The last time I was up there, we went to the food court at the mall and we were the only white people.” I could no longer shut up, so I said, “Now you know how black people feel most of the time.” To her credit again, “Jane” said, “You know, you’re right.” But then she blew it again, saying, “But at least when they’re in that situation, they feel safe.”
It was at this point that I began to come a little unhinged. My brain raced to find a way to tell this woman that she was totally off her rocker without completely losing my temper and my mind. So I calmly asked, “Do you that’s true in the deep South?” (Yes, I was perpetuating a steretype there. All apologies to my friends all across the South, but I was making a point.) She replied, “You know what? You’re right. Especially 50 to 60 years ago.” 50-60 years ago, my ass. But I took her realization and ran with it, saying, “Yeah, 50 to 60 years ago when there would have been a rope and tree nearby.” And then everyone was silent for what seemed like an eternity. And then “Mary” and “Jane” started talking about crime. Because when you’re talking about black people, you gotta talk about crime. Oh … my … Lord.
We have so much work to do.