I don’t usually write in first person that much, but it’s been a while since I’ve written anything (has it really been almost a year?), so I thought I’d take a page out of Joselyn’s book and bring a little personal touch to this week’s post to reintroduce myself. Plus, it’s a blog, so I can do whatever the fuck I want.
As both of my frequent readers can probably attest, I spend a lot of time talking about race. Specifically, the myriad of social and psychological reasons why black people in this country are fucked, and why that’s not okay. Also, as you might happen to notice by glancing at the little picture of me at the bottom of the page, I’m white. Now, for the record, I don’t think that this is a particular accomplishment or anything, and I’m not about to congratulate myself for being such an enlightened and tolerant white person. That ain’t setting the bar too high. But I will say that the discrepancy between my melanin levels and the causes that I take up has led people to ask me, on more than one occasion, “why?” Why do I, Brad the Caucasian, talk so much about Black issues?
First of all, I don’t think that many of these things really are only “Black issues.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a little personal biography…
I suppose the most obvious answer one would gather by looking at me is that I’m married to a Black woman (we actually ran a piece last August written by my father juxtaposing the wedding with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson the day before). Yes y’all, I really am, literally, invited to the cookout. My wife is Black. My in-laws are Black. If I have children one day, they will probably be considered Black. So it stands to reason that I would have some vested interest in the state of Black America. But it’s not like I only started caring after I became legally obligated to. Let’s look a little further back and see if we can get to the bottom of this…
It was afternoon in the spring of 1990. Future Atlanta Hawk Stacey Augmon and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels had just run all over future Atlanta Hawk Christian Laettner and the Duke Blue Devils to win the 1990 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. And in a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, young Bradley had just taken his first breath.
Ok, wait… I think that might have been a little too far back.
Fast-forward juuuust a little bit.
I grew up in an in-town Atlanta neighborhood that, while it wasn’t necessarily diverse per se, was certainly situated in close proximity to communities of color. And as I got older and remained in public school, my classmates began to look less and less like me, to the point where I was in the minority by the time I got to high school. Again, this doesn’t really mean much by itself. After all, people can still self-segregate, and my high school was no exception. But I can say that as the demographics of my school began to change, so too did the demographics of my after-school activities.
By the time I started the 9th grade, I had been in band for six years. I had also nearly reached my full adult stature of six and a half feet tall, so it was only natural that I was playing basketball (or was at least on the team anyway). Now this wasn’t the case when I started doing either of these things, but the further I got in school the more these two activities became racialized. They became “things that Black kids did.” I even witnessed quite a few of my talented white peers drop these activities as this association became stronger. But for some reason, I didn’t. And it led me to have truly meaningful relationships with Black people that I might not have otherwise had, and indeed many white people might not, be it due to segregation, geographic isolation, class differences, or what have you.
I suppose this is a good enough answer to that question, at least as a starting point, and to a certain extent it might explain why I took a more serious interest in topics related to race and racism in college (I studied sociology, if you couldn’t already tell). But, having said that, I think it really comes down to something bigger. All of that personal history is fine and dandy, but it isn’t and shouldn’t be a prerequisite for human empathy. You don’t need a personal connection to see racism and know that it’s wrong. You don’t need a college degree to be able to listen to Black people when they tell you about oppression.
Like I said at the beginning, these aren’t just Black issues. They are American issues. Human issues. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I’m privileged to have had these meaningful relationships with people different from myself, and privileged to have the educational opportunities to learn just how much of a role race has played in the history of the United States. And it continues to play a large role, both as a legacy of this history and in how we interact with one another. Many people don’t have that, so it’s probably a lot easier for me to see it. But once you do see the injustice, speaking out against it is the only right thing to do. It’s our social responsibility to use the privilege of wokeness to help raise awareness and maybe change some peoples’ minds. As white people, we might even have a bigger obligation to speak out because racism is a white people problem — we caused it, we benefit from it, and we have the collective power, not to mention moral obligation, to dismantle it!
So, that’s why I talk about race so much. Because how are we going to find solutions if half of the country doesn’t even see the problem?
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