A recent conversation triggered a memory…
I remember being at a southern SF convention twenty years ago. Someplace in Mississippi, maybe? Or Texas? MAYBE Midwest? Anyway, after a panel dealing with diversity in the field, a young white man approached me, shyly, sadly, felt me out a bit until he sensed that I was open to hearing what he really had to say. And after a few preliminaries, he said in a sad soft voice: “it feels like a white man doesn’t have a chance any more. Everything is for black people.”
I wondered if he had any concept how deeply racist his attitude was (racism is the assumption of differential worth or capacity on the basis of genetics). The statistics are clear concerning infant mortality, incarceration, inherited wealth and more. If you believe blacks have a social advantage, but STILL underperform? You have to have total contempt for us, even if you’re polite about it. Even with all the advantages we can’t make it. Wow. That attitude, so deep that he didn’t even question it. It’s just…taken for granted. The ground on which he walked, the water in which he swam. How thick did his filters have to be to walk up to me and say that?
But…there was so much pain in his voice that I couldn’t be angry, or even laugh at him. Absurdly, I found myself opening my wallet, and showing him a few bills: “see? Every image: white people” Pointed out that every lead of every dramatic show on television–white. All presidents–white. All of the Senate–white. Every head of a fortune 500 company–white. And on, and on, watching his mood slowly, slowly improve as he began to agree that all was not lost.
Finally, his spirits lifted, he shook my hand and thanked me and went on his way. I sat there, wondering what the hell had just happened, and hoping that he got down on his knees every night and thanked God he’d been born white, because if he’d been black, life would have crushed him like a bug.
I’m a very strange human being some time. I really do love people, but it often feels like I love ’em from an alien and far-off perspective.