Saturday, May 19, 2012

Them, They, Us

Now that I have told you about my "friend," I feel free to tell you about a conversation he, D and I had a few weeks ago. (We do this weird thing when Rick's in town where we call D to discuss life, politics and, of course, my book - which is coming along slowwwly.) It was a discussion that almost turned into a heated debated, but ended up being a learning experience.

The topic: Race and the media (or race in the media).

My friend (I will call him "Rick") was talking about some news article. He got all heated because it's his feeling that the media generally slants toward negative racial stereotypes. He is Indian (think Eastern not Native American) and has the brain of a researcher and the soul of a civil rights activist. (I do have such interesting people in my life.) D is multi-racial (black and asian/black).

Rick was so upset that I got a little uncomfortable. I mean, I know about the ignorance of racism. I've been a guilty party (when I was younger, dumber and hotter-tempered) and a victim (at times, not as often as could be). Luckily, my skin is pretty thick and my brain is sometimes slow to absorb. When I am in the presence of the extreme stupidity of a bigot, I either blow it off or (and this is a plus side to my medical issues) I miss that shit entirely. Sometimes, I am an hour past the situation before I go, "Oh! Huh? Aw, hell no, they didn't!!!" (LOL) Most of the time, I just don't let it rain on my mental joy parade. Age brings mellow.

That's me. Rick, though, doesn't let too much fly past him. He doesn't look for stuff to get pissed about, but he has a kind of radar for it.

In the conversation we had, I tried to cool it all out by telling him about an Indian comedian I recently heard. The comic said he wins the "rough life" struggle hands down over black people. "You grew up in the "hood?" I grew up in the Third World. You had rats and roaches in your home? I did too and we called it dinner. You had hand-me-down shoes? I made those shoes!"

Thank goodness that Rick didn't think I was being insensitive in repeating the joke. He didn't, but it didn't cool things out much. (D, however, thought that was the funniest shit he'd ever heard and for the rest of the conversation, he'd break out into insane giggles at inappropriate moments.)

Nothing is going to chill Brother Malcom X Ghandi, but he did agree with me on one point. (Thank goodness I had a very clear and coherent few minutes at just the right time.) Here is my whole stance:

Until we all get past the whole "Them, They and Us" mentality, there won't be much understanding. We are somehow infected with the idea of separating ourselves by race, class, gender, likes, dislikes, size of hands, feet, etc. I think it's just such a human thing to compare. (I am almost sure this happens about two seconds after we leave the womb and breathe air.)  It's fine to distinguish  or identify ourselves, but anytime we start comparing - something or someone or some group is going to feel superior or inferior. Since we can't change that mentality, we have to learn to respect (or disrespect) each other as individuals and not as groups. (One day, I'm going to be able to go into Walmart and not cringe with personal shame when I see some black woman popping and rolling her neck as she screams across three aisles for her bad-ass child to "get back over here NOW!" Yeah, I said it.)

I'm really happy to say that Rick gave me a high five on that one. I respect and value his opinion because where I have common sense, he has tons of "book smarts." (You all know I love my geeks, right? Well, he is to Geekdom what Adonis is to hotness. Helps that he's pretty damn hot himself.)

Anyway, even D was able to control his manic giggling long enough to say that I'd given him something to think about. I wish he'd have thought about how his girlish laughter made it hard to keep my train of thought.

Of course, we didn't solve any major world crisis, but we all feel better about the subject. (And if Rick keeps it up, I'm going to make him a freaking red, green and black flag even though I have explained to him that I am a black American and not African-American. Hell, Charlize Theron is more African-American than I am, but that is a whole other discussion...)

Whatever, I hope that one day, we can all just learn to be a little less racially-affiliated and a whole lot more human. That's really the only race that matters to me. Yes, call me Pollyanna & see if I care.