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As a White Guy How Racism Fuck with my Life?

I’m a White middle class sixty eight year old man with more than a few dollars in the bank. I can see the police and wave at them and drive safely on by. Thought I do not identify as White, in my soul and world view, I am the rainbow of experiences I’ve lived. I’ve lived in Yemen, Morocco, and traveled around the world. I can converse in five languages. I do not identify with my heritage of Irish and Jewish. I do not limit or define myself by this narrow band of racial identity. Nevertheless, I am viewed as White, and thus I will continue this line of thinking.

I rarely have the fear the police will stop me with guns drawn, because I am viewed as White. I have my gossamer White protective shield.  If I reach into my coat pocket for my ID I will not get shot with forty bullets like Amidou Diallo or the dozens of Black men and woman who get shot every year, like Breeona Taylor. Their only “crime” is living while Black.

Being a White guy of European and Jewish descent I don’t have to worry that I will be mistaken for an American citizen named Mohammed, strip searched and given a rectal search at the airport looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction. However, given Timothy McVeigh’s role in blowing up the Federal buildings in Oklahoma it would seem reasonable that White guys should equally be suspect and the US. We should have launched an invasion of Scotland and given Mel Gibson a real war to fight. However, the United States generally doesn’t declare war on a White nations, we invade South American, Asian or Arabic countries. We seemed to have no moral compunction of dropping A bombs on civilians in Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

When I apply for work my employers will generally not wonder if I was successful because of Affirmative action: The employer assumes I did it on my own merit or at the least perhaps if I did get into an Ivy League school, it was because I was smart or in the case of GW from a wealthy and well connected family.

When I go into a grocery store and decide not to use a shopping cart and stuff a few things in my pockets; generally, it is assumed that I was in a rush and the management doesn’t call the police because there is a suspected shoplifter. Because I am a White elderly man who is not walking around in raggedy clothes mumbling to myself, it is assumed that I’m harmless, a little careless in not using a cart, but not a significant problem.  I can walk around in clothes that are a bit raggedy and people will usually assume I’m not a homeless bum.

I can usually walk into a bank and cash a check without ID.  They will not ask me for four pieces of ID. I will not have the bank guard calling for back up because I get in an argument with a teller over an error in my bank account. As a White man, I know she will defer to her manager, and we will resolve this. Or on the check out line at the supermarket the person in front is asked to swipe her credit card, but when my friend who is a well-dressed Black man comes to the counter, the young lady asks him, “Do you also have an ID?”  “Miss, the lady before me, didn’t have to have an ID.”

“Just a formality for out of towners.”

“How do you know I’m not from town?”

You get the drift of the conversation? Does being Black or Hispanic mean, “Special ID required.”

If I move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area I want I don’t need to ask my friend to find an apartment. Some years back friends of mine, he was Black and she White, were looking for an apartment. Rejected several times as a couple, I went back to the same apartments with my friend’s wife and we rented the apartment immediately. The lease was in her name. The landlord was a bit surprised when they moved in.

I can let the grass grow on my front lawn, have the hedges a bit shabby and the neighbors will think “He’s still a bit of a hippy.” But if my name was Gonzales would the neighbors think, “Those damn Hispanics – one moves into the neighborhood and look what happens!” When friends of mine who come to town, who are Black or Hispanic, do I need to tell them about our local police department’s history of racial profiling or bias? Like one Black friend of mine recounted his story with the local police.

“Yes, sir officer. I know it looks suspicious me being a six foot tall Black man wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and tie waiting on the street corner for my wife. No, I wasn’t casing the store for a robber. Yes, officer I have identification. Yes, officer. Observe my hands going into my pocket and no I don’t have a gun or a knife.”

It is the hundreds of small clues during the course of day that says, “You’re different. You’re not quite like us.” If it is a fistfight at the school do they assume the Black or Hispanic youngster is the aggressor? Is the same justice meted out to the Black and White kid? If there is drug activity in school are the minority kids the ones most suspected? Is justice really color blind?

As a White guy, how does racism affect my life? Sadly, I can be oblivious to the impact of racism in my life. I can live in a White neighborhood, in a mostly White town, and pretend that racism doesn’t exist. But, I can’t accept a society, American society, where bigotry and racism exists. As the singer Solomon Burke said, “None of us are free as long as one of us is chained.”  The cost of racism is economic and moral. Why are our prisons filled with Black and Latinos?  Can we afford the loss of African Americans to be fully productive and integrated into society? Do we provide the same opportunities to African Americans for education, health care, voting rights, and housing as White people?

Racism, and bigotry is the corrosive acid that destroys the fabric of our democracy. If we are White, Black, or any ethnicity,  we cannot accept this disease of racism.

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