Hello dear reader(s)!
To state the converse of Mindy’s tagline quote from a drunken man, I’m obviously white. And a male. So, believe it or not, I have enjoyed quite a bit of an advantage over my non-white, non-male friends. To quote the great Louis C.K. on choosing race in the next life, (if there is one) “Oh yeah, I’ll take ‘white’ again, absolutely!” So, if you were expecting a whiny post about reverse racism, you’ll have to search for the Tea Party tag.
Oh sure, I’ve been called names. Cracker. Honky. Whitey. I was told by a group of kids once that they didn’t want to play basketball with me because I’m white (but I think it is really because I suck at basketball). I’ve heard that white men can’t jump (which is not true, well it is now, but before I got sick I could jump far, but they’re right about me not being able to jump high). I’ve heard that white men can’t dance (also true, in my case). I’ve heard that white men have no rhythm (okay, that’s bull) but all of those are just stereotypes that don’t concern me. They aren’t real racism.
Oh no, your words, they hurt so much, you make me want to believe Fox News!!! (That’s sarcasm, in case you didn’t understand, but you’re my dear reader(s), so I’m sure you understood.)
I’ve never been beat out by an identical candidate for a job based on my race. I can say that with some certainty. Why? Because nobody is identical. No two candidates are exactly equally qualified. I’ve never gotten to the interview stage of a job I applied for without an offer. Ever. Why? Because I show up in interview clothes (even if I have to buy them from a thrift store), I prepare, I research the company and the position for which I am applying, I anticipate the interview questions, and I prepare answers in my head that sound spontaneous but are designed to sell myself as the perfect fit for that job. It doesn’t hurt that I have letters of recommendation from a few employers and am known to excel at every job I’ve had because I work hard…right up until the day I walk or the company closes and I am laid off. I’ve never been fired. I never will be. I do my job to the best of my ability until I either get too pissed off to do it anymore, or the company closes, or I get cancer. In the last few positions, I was even mature enough to give notice. Hooray for growth!
The poverty I have experienced was not the result of a century of slavery, Jim Crow, and continued purposeful tactics to deny my rights. It was the result of my parents having kids while they were still young and starting out, divorce, and our family’s inability to keep our mouth’s shut, even when we know it will come back on us; and now my health issues. Both my parents are very intelligent, and are relatively successful now, through work ethic and using their brains.
So basically, I have lived the good life, as far as discrimination is concerned.
But there was one time, where I actually suffered an injustice on an institutional level because of my race.
It was my Freshman year of high school. I was the starting Right Tackle on the school’s Freshman football team. I sucked at my first game. On the second game, I got a little better. On the third came, I learned how to read an offense, starting ignoring the calls of my coaches, and got to be pretty good. I had a few sacks, and quite a few tackles, some of them being pretty good hits. On my fourth game, I stopped a team from going to a great running back and helped turn the score from 22-0 to 22-21. (The team won one game that year, against a team that was barely able to field enough players.) But I was doing a good job, I was in pretty good shape, and I was having fun.
And then I caught a bug. There was a rule on the team that if you missed a practice, you couldn’t play in that week’s game. I went to practice sick. The only starting black kid on the team missed practice. The next day, I stayed home from school, and practice because I was sick. The day after, I returned to school and got ready for practice and they announced the game roster. I wasn’t on it (as expected), but the black kid was. When I went to confront the coaches about it, they were brutally honest. I thought it was because they thought they couldn’t win without him, and were bending the rules because of that (which I still would have been pissed about). Nope. He was fast, but “couldn’t keep from fumbling to save his life” (per one of my coaches). The reason they told me, and I’ll never forget these words, “He is the only black kid starting on the team, if we suspended him from the game, we would have to deal with the hassle of the Administration and his parents complaining. He should have been suspended for academic reasons last game, but we were forced to give him until month’s end to pull his grades up. We had to give him time to do make-up work. It’s crap.” That is not paraphrasing, that is an actual quote from one of my coaches.
And it was crap. So I quit.
I’m 215 lbs now. I was 185-190 at the time. I was never going to go anywhere playing football. And I wouldn’t want to anyway. That rigged game with a bunch of violent concussed, modern-day gladiators is not appealing to me in any real competitive level.
And that one denied opportunity, that one time I was actually, genuinely a victim of racism at an institutional level…does not even come close to the assumption of guilt other races see on a daily basis in our “justice” system. It does not come near the issues of being born into crumbling cities and schools, where my parents were barred from voting, from attaining jobs in some trades, from equal educational opportunities even outside of the inequality due to poverty, from growing up with my relatives in prison for a drug war that does target minorities more than white people.
Yes, discrimination can happen to anyone. And just because substantial racism hasn’t been a problem in my life, does not mean the same holds true for every white person. But if you actually listen to the racism experienced all of the time by minorities, I think you’ll find the real racism experienced by white people is a drop in the bucket of the injustices faced because of race, in the US and large swaths of the world.
And the next time you’re worried about an identical candidate getting that job you applied for, do something to not be identical.