Stranger in a strange, and protesting, land
I am in Seattle, having just arrived last week from Hawaii.
In Hawaii, admittedly, there are few black people available to befriend, especially on coffee farms. All the workers there are Mexican, or Asian ancestry.
“I’m not racist: I have friends who are black!”
How can I be racist? This is the old, worn joke about tokenism, that admits, when said by a white person, that indeed you are the worst kind of racist.
If we could all be non-racist just because we interact with some black people, the problem would be sorted out by now.
But racism is still systemic and alive and well.
“I have a black friend”, tells people that you may not think you are racist, but, sadly, like all human beings who suffer from implicit bias, we are all racist. But awareness of it is the path to ending it. The whole system of policing, for example, began with subjugation of indigenous and African American people.
Policing is not the only place where the structural supports of racism have been upheld for so long.
It’s not enough to be aware of our racism. We have to be actively anti-racist. In view of that, I feel like it is not enough to be an ally. I want to have black people in my life, but I know none whatsoever out here in rural, country. I am staying right now within Seattle’s outer suburbs of Hay growers and chicken factory farms.
Will you be my black friends?
Of course, I hope to make friends of all colors, and genders, too. But all my life I have had trouble finding like-minded people of color who share writing classes, ecology and science events, or even science fiction conventions, my first geeky love.
It may be because of my rural, redneck roots, or because that’s just how truly damaging unofficial, racist segregation really is. Practices like red-lining and job discrimination fed the evil beast. The same opportunities to explore the interests that I have always had were often not there for BIPOC.
The one and only black man I knew in Hawaii was unresponsive to several invites. His social calendar wasn’t that full, but for whatever reason, he quit visiting our farm on the big island.
When Trump ran for president, My one “black friend,” didn’t vote, which I found disturbing, although I would never tell him that.
Non-voting tells me that some of us see just how rigged the system is, so there is no hope to affect change. I hope that is beginning to change. I hope he votes this year.
Can we love up the world in time to save ourselves?
Earth is running out of time and hostility seem high. But as many of us have observed in the last few weeks, hope and tenacity are powerful tools.
Strength in numbers, and audacious vision are also needed.
Inclusion among our species helps us to care about all living beings and ecosystems. To connect with those who suffer the brunt of worldly problems, disproportionately, such as climate crisis, healthcare crisis, brutality, and broken democracy, hearts and minds must be opened wide.
If we can change the world in time to save it, I am going to continue to look for more black friends; not as tokens, nor to be seen as virtuous, or edgy, but because I truly believe we must all know each other so that we can love each other more fully.
I understand that this movement is about long-overdue reforms, but I also hope we move toward reconciliation, a truly beloved community.
Email me, BIPOC, let’s mark the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Previously published on “Equality Includes You”, a Medium publication.
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