Los Angeles, CA
I used to live in St. Louis, Missouri. That was where I first experienced a taste of being “the other”. I worked at a restaurant where almost all servers and customers were black (I’m white). I had some close black friends before that, so I didn’t think anything of it. But it was St. Louis and I had only lived there a few months and I didn’t realize that it was a racial war zone. Some people at the restaurant were very kind to me. Others hated me because I was white, and would be very cruel, making fun of me, etc. I hated it. I’d go home and cry. I had to work there because I had crashed my car & I had no money & it was the closest place within walking distance that hired me. I knew I wasn’t racist, but that was when I started to become awkward around black people. Not because I had a personal reason, but because I felt what it was like to be hated for my skin color, and to not know who was cool with me or who wasn’t.
I guess it was the first time I experienced a very segregated vibe because it wasn’t like that where I grew up. I know that it was just a small taste of what it’s probably like being black in this country, being the “other face”, and having no choice at the time but to work in an environment where I was hated. It hurts.
My Asian friend Kelly tried to convince me that I had white privilege. I didn’t believe her, because I had a shitty childhood. I didn’t feel privileged. My parents were poor, divorced, they abused me, they let other adults abuse me, and there was drug abuse. I battled emotional problems and alcoholism for a long time because of how I grew up, and I’m gratefully sober now. But of course I had white privilege. I’ve talked my way out of speeding tickets without worrying about getting killed. I’ve probably gotten jobs and apartments much easier because of being white. I listened to a black woman ranting one time on youtube and it pissed me off at the time, but it opened my eyes. She said that everyone in America is a “white supremacist”. What she meant was that it’s the subliminal shit that gets us. We are born into a white supremacist society and we all unconsciously pick it up. Don’t get me started on Hollywood. We pick up these messages without even realizing it (standards of beauty, etc.) It’s everywhere. I personally think that the planet is run by a group of extremely rich (and racist) people, who want total power and control over everyone now, not just blacks, and they want to divide us. But I digress.
So what can we do about it? The thing that helped me get over that awkward and defensive feeling is that I constantly try to remind myself that one black person’s actions do not speak for all black people, and no one of any race speaks for their whole race. I honestly wish we didn’t have to be so identified with our races. Society makes it so we have to be. And the media makes it SO MUCH WORSE. They fuel racial tension 24/7. I think that now more than ever we all need to keep our heads on straight and not let ourselves be played by the media. I’m not talking about the outrage from the police murders – that deserves outrage. I’m talking about all the other subliminal shit that we are fed day in and day out, without even noticing. I think we heal this thing by starting with ourselves. And we protest, vote, make policy changes, of course, those things, but I want to start asking myself, “What can I do today that can help make things better?” We obviously need to do some big things but I think the small things can help us heal too. Thank you for listening to my St. Louis story. I’ve never told it.