“This is Us” had an incredibly powerful episode last night. In the episode, brothers Kevin and Randall (who is Black and was adopted at birth) had a long overdue face-to-face discussion, as they’ve had years of animosity between them, partially fueled with racial overtones. Although this was fictional, the dialogue hit me very hard, as I experienced some of the exact same situations and insults.
I didn’t go to my high school senior prom, because the parents of the White girl I asked would not let her go with me. I was one of four Black students in a graduating class of over 200. Both my brother and I were teased because we weren’t great basketball players (we were told we had “White Man’s Disease”) in addition to being called the “N word” and other racial insults by some of our “ignorance-gifted” classmates. When we both went to the same college/music school, we were called “pseudo-Black” and “Oreo” by some of the Black students, because we didn’t hang out with them. This was not by choice – the majority of our time was spent in classes and rehearsals. Even though I played bass for the college gospel choir, I was still considered “the outcast” for being different.
And let’s just address the “Carlton” issue….I could easily retire if I had $5 for every person who has called me that to my face. Sadly, when a very small number my Black friends do it as a cheap shot, more often than not, they’re the ones who also ask (excuse me, “axe”) me questions like “Hey, where you at?” See the irony here? Does using correct grammar make me want to be White? Are you fucking kidding me? Carlton was a caricature, but he was also a curse, as it made certain types of Black people a target of ridicule. For anyone who watches “The Simpsons”, voice character actor Hank Azeria has gone above and beyond with his regret and apologies to the Indian community for the character of Apu on the show. The stereotypes for that character have reached a point where “Apu” is now used as a racial insult. I plan to watch the documentary “The Problem With Apu” to truly understand the level of bigotry that now exists. Perhaps it’s time for a “The Problem With Carlton” documentary as well?
My big issue with “Miss Vitriol/The Karenator” was fueled by her ignorance and racism. She made threats towards me that she would not have made to a person of non-color. No matter how important she thinks she is in society, to me all of her other accomplishments and accolades are irrelevant – what she said was not “heat of the moment” – it was ingrained. PERIOD.
As we saw the African-American Lieutenant in Virginia get pepper-sprayed by police last week, what really infuriated me was that he did nothing “stereotypical” to deserve that type of abuse. Would the police have done the exact same things had he been White?
Our parents did not have a goal of making us want to be White….both of my parents endured extreme racism growing up in the 30’s and 40’s, even after they were married in the 50’s. They wanted my brother and me to have a better life than what they had. It’s that plain and simple. Yes, they knew that by living in a predominantly White community that they would face challenges, but they also taught us how to rise above it…..and that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with skin color.
A lot of my friends are now aware of something that severely impacted my first marriage…..about two years after our wedding, my ex-mother-in-law informed me that my ex-father-in-law had spoken to his pastor before we were married, to make sure that an interracial marriage was OK in the eyes of God. She told me this like it was no big deal….WHAT THE ENTIRE FUCK????? Had I known this prior to the wedding, there never would have been a wedding. From that moment and until this very day, I lost all respect for them, and that they consider themselves “exemplary Christians” makes me want to puke.
It was my “Whiteness” that made me a token in the JCPenney company. I was hired in Poughkeepsie NY in 1993, as the company was getting negative press for not having enough diversity in middle management (it was a “good ol’ boys club)….my management colleagues in the Poughkeepsie store treated me like I was stupid, almost as if they looked at me like I was their “Affirmative Action poster child.” I was then transferred to Scranton, and fed this line of bullshit that “we know that with your personality, you’ll be a good fit.” I ended up working for a misogynistic, racist store manager for two years (on more than one occasion, he referred to one of his female Asian colleagues as a “Sumo Wrestler” because she was not a Size 4). To my JCP colleagues who read this, please know that when I left (and you all know EXACTLY how I left!), I left because I’d had enough….I can only imagine what I would’ve truly endured if I acted based on stereotype. FUCK JCPENNEY.
One of the things that really stood out in last night’s episode was that Kevin apologized to Randall, but it was an apology based more on Kevin’s conscience and not based on his lack of understanding. By the end of the episode, Randall explained in great detail (and also in flashback sequences) what had truly hurt him for many years. I’ve received many apologies like Kevin’s apology for years….apologies done because they needed to be done, not because they wanted to be done. I’ve received these from both Black people and White people. Although appreciated, they rang very hollow. Now we’re at a point where phrases like “cancel culture” are used and mocked as excuses for not showing remorse for blatant bigotry. Seeing the verbal and physical abuse towards Asians because of COVID disgusts me – I have one soon-to-be-former friend who made a point of cracking “Wuhan Flu” jokes on social media, like being that bigoted is somehow OK. Ironically she got very sick from the vaccine – can you say KARMA?
It sucks that in 2021, we’re still having this same discussion, and that it’s coming from every nationality. Wanting to better yourself has nothing to do with “wanting to be White”…..if there are those who still don’t understand, I suggest you take a HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR.