I have to write a response paper for my multicultural counseling class and the textbook for that class is so good I have too many feelings for a 1 to 2 page paper.
I just read the chapter on micro-aggressions.
And when I say I'm racist, it's micro-aggressions I really have the problem with. It doesn't seem like there's a big problem with who I want to be, or the political ideas I have, and I'm certainly not going around yelling about miscegenation.
But micro-aggressions are the arena I notice my own racism cropping up. One category in my book is 'assumed criminality,' and guys, I have a problem with it. Last week on my street I saw a black guy fiddling with the door of a truck. I thought "I better keep an eye out on this guy." And then he locked the door and walked away from the truck. Because it was his truck.
When I lived in Logan Square, which by the time I lived there and on the east side of the neighborhood was mostly white kids and latinos, I noticed these racist reactions happening more in my head. I saw a group of black teenagers walking down the street and thought, "What are they doing here?" And then I thought "Jesus Christ Carey, are you the cops now?"
Now, I'm a little bit of a masochist, so if I thought confessing to all my racist sins in the public square and getting tomatoes hurled at me would repair the situation I totally would volunteer for that. But no, a better goal would either be to slough all the racism off of my head so I don't go around suspiciously watching men lock their cars, or to be aware of it enough that I can keep those thoughts from manifesting into physical responses that hurt people.
Because that's the bottom line. These little micro-aggressions hurt people. You may say, "Sure, whatever, but not like the PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX." My friend, they are all parts of a whole. Micro-aggressions exhaust all the people who could be ending the prison industrial complex. Also, who do you think calls the cops when they see men locking their own cars? That's a micro aggression gone major.
So that's what I want to work on. And I think there's a couple of strategies to use here. I read some article back in my Logan Square days that said the more segregated the existence of a white person, the more racist we get. Yes yes yes I believe that. So one strategy is making sure I'm interacting with lots of different folks in different capacities. Not just as strangers on the street or yay friends!
Theme # 2:
We have to do an immersion assignment for this class where we visit another cultural environment for two hours and then write about it. Now. Two hours? That's weak. And I'm kind of over the idea of visiting people for a grade. The professor suggested to the class they could visit a gay bar and I got salty about it. Like, come on, that's a space for me to meet other gayze, don't turn my evening out into your paper. So I'd like to find an organization where people like me are not the majority or running the show, and build an ongoing relationship with them, so it's both not so one-sided of an interaction and actually brings a little something into my life past this class.
I might be inappropriately enthusiastic about this class. Like I might be making other people in the class uncomfortable, and I don't just mean the other whites. A student who's black in the last class talked about how uncomfortable it is when white folks try to prove how not racist they are to her. That's pretty clearly what I'm doing.
So I have to find a way to engage on a deep level with this class and not get in the way of other people's engagement.
Maybe I should not talk in class so much? Partly because when I've said my crazy activist things other people are not jumping on board. I said I was racist, and no one else did. And I said me getting angry at other people being uncomfortable with gay people might be a challenge, and did anyone else foresee issues they might get really angry about? And no one said a word.
Why am I so enthusiastic about this class? Ok, so it's pretty compelling to get to be one of the good white people. I'm not gonna front like that's not a big reason I like the idea of getting anti-racist. Isn't that what all white people want? To be officially excused from the legacy of this country? I would love that.
But on a more honorable level, I feel like I've poked around the queer oppression stuff for awhile. And I've identified the micro-aggressions that happen against me, and the harm they've done, and all the shame and internalization and yadda yadda THERAPY THERAPY THERAPY, and there's got to be a way to use those experiences for good. I don't want to not be able to use them. Like, sorry, that's it, you went through some bullshit and it was meaningless. I want it to be, great! You went through some bullshit and look where it took you! On a fabulous emotional journey and now you're the best white person on the planet. Congrats!
What I'd really like is to create an atmosphere around me where people can tell me when I've hurt them, because they know I'll listen to the criticism and not defensively attack them back. That, in all seriousness, is what I'd like out of this class, to push my not being defensive skills to the limit. And I don't want to cop out.