The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed me down. I’m spending time with photo books, editing old writing, working in the garden and just sitting. 2020 is not a stellar year. We have, Covid, Trump and Riots. All threatening and all wrong. The National Catholic Reporter has a great read on racism in this country.
“Every white person in this country — I do not care what he says or what she says — knows one thing. … They know that they would not like to be black here. If they know that, they know everything they need to know. And whatever else they may say is a lie.” — James Baldwin,
Think about this one. Your skin is darker, so you are less than, ignorant, and can be killed without impunity. I am of primarily Norwegian background, with some Irish and German on the side. I am blond and blue-eyed and fair-skinned, so that makes me superior. Right? I look at all of you brown-eyed people who discriminate against those a bit darker than you and want to point out that I am indubitably superior because of my lack of melanin in my skin. Of course, my straight stringy hair is also superior to curls. It’s very white privilege.
My sisters are even fairer than I am, so I guess that gives them an up on me. When are we going to look at the content of a persons character instead of the color or lack of it of their skin.
Since I am a writer, I object to poetry and writing contests only for people of color. Since when was that a check for excellence on the author of anything? If you’re good enough it shouldn’t make a difference. There are no contests for white people only, so what does that tell me? I am sick of the whole people of color stuff. I am a color.
The killing of black people especially men is another issue. Why has it been excused for so long? A mother cannot send her son to the market without worrying he will be stopped or worse jailed and murdered. That’s what it is, murder.
I was stopped by an out of control cop one afternoon when I was going to pick up my daughter from school. I wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit on an unfamiliar street. He pulled me over in an empty parking lot. He asked if I knew the speed limit. I admitted I didn’t. I said I was on my way to pick up carpool so I couldn’t dispute him, write the ticket. I used no inflammatory language just told him I was concerned about my child. He said he was in charge and my child would have a good long wait. I went to turn around, backed up a bit, to leave the parking lot and he yelled, “Stop, you are trying to hit my motorcycle,” which was parked a good ways behind me. I said, “How stupid would I be hit your motorcycle with you standing there.” He replied, “I don’t know how stupid you are but you do as I say.” There was one way out of the parking lot, so I completed my U-turn and exited to the street.
I looked in my rear view mirror and there he was in hot pursuit like some B movie. I made a mistake by pulling to a side street. I stopped, got out of my car and stood by the door. He jumped off his motorcycle with his nightstick in his left hand beating it on his right hand as he came toward me.
At that moment I thought I would arrive at a hospital unconscious with no witnesses. I also had no doubt that if it were one of my sons that he stopped, they would be in the hospital. I also believed that if I were black or he stopped a black man we would be lucky to get to the hospital alive.
I told him I was getting back in my car and leaving, which I did. He didn’t follow me.
I reported this to the City of Orange Police, who said his version was the same as mine. I asked for this episode to be put on his record. The Sargent said he would. I was naive and believed him. I am forever sorry that I didn’t pursue this.
I appreciate the job and the sacrifice the police do in our cities. They don’t know if the person they stop has a gun or is drugged out. If I need someone to protect me I am happy to see a policeman. But I still tighten up when I see a cop behind me.
I worry when our black friends come to visit. I don’t want to be humiliated if they are stopped and asked what they are doing in Newport Beach. Yes, I would be humiliated. Unfortunately, they find it usual. It also really pisses me off when the affluent college graduates in this town, fly their flags and yell, “We beat them.” “We” is mainly a team of black athletes who, if those same people saw them walking down their street would call the police. Believe me, I’ve heard the comments when they think everyone agrees with their bigotry.
One of my friends, a black woman working on her graduate degree in finance at Claremont was stopped and asked what she was doing there. She is a lovely lady and was in her forties at the time. The policeman made her get out of the car and spread everything inside the car on the hood. She had books on finance and economics. He looked at her student ID and said, “Oh, you’re a student.” Then he turned and walked away. It seems driving while black is a mini crime and they’ll try get you for something else.
How many times would that have to happen to you before you would turn from just mad to rage. I can tell you my one encounter with the cop from the City of Orange still makes me mad.
I think diversity is great. But we need to celebrate diversity not stay in our comfortable groups. I love to go to the Latin First Communions and Quinceaneras. The Gospel Mass, the Hungarian celebrations and Papa Cristo’s Greek restaurant, Mayur Indian Food in Corona del Mar. But I want to be included, just as I want to include friends of every background in our lives.
We might have to go our of our own confort zone. We can be who we are, retain our cultural backgrounds, share and enrich our lives.