March 24, 2007

A Not-Coincidence

So today is Saturday. I've been wrestling with my thoughts for hours. This morning some friends in our area had a yard sale so we put Maisie in the stroller and walked over (about a mile away). We were there for a while, chatting. A little while before we left an older man pulled up to come and look over the things out for sale. I was holding Maisie and as he was looking around, he stopped, came over to me and said "Oh, it's good to see a white baby".

"What?" I said, partially because he was mumbling and I was hoping against hope that was not what he really said, partially because I couldn't believe he would dare to say something like that, partially because I wanted him to repeat it, hoping he would hear what an ass he sounded like.

"I said it's good to see a little white baby out here". My friend looked at me in disbelief, mouth gaping with lack of words.

My adrenaline started flowing. I wanted to to provoke him so that I might have a chance to show him that just because we were white doesn't make us racists. So I said "I'm sorry, I don't understand what you mean".

He said "Well, you know, it's just that every baby you see is either a little black baby or a little mixed baby".

I WANTED TO CHOKE HIM. I wanted to tell him "You make me sick".

I just half-laughed with disbelief and said "They're people, too, you know."

I felt weak, ineffective, dumb (as in not being able to speak).

Maybe it did something, maybe it didn't.

Then Rich and I decided to take a different way home. One of the things that irks me most about Memphis, and would likely irk me in other cities if we lived in an older part of the city, is that there are SO many streets that start one place, end at an intersection and zig zig up a block or two, or end completely and start again four streets over, with no connection in between. So began our journey home.

We intended to take a certain street all the way back. First we ended up going in a circle because the street we were on curved around to another street we had been near. Then we walked a block, zig zagged another block, walked two more blocks, and the road disappeared. After a series of irritating turns in an attempt to find where the street picks up again, we ended up on Macon. Everyone in Berclair knows that street divides this area between the "good" side of the street and the "bad". Well, at least as far as real estate goes. In actuality, it's not entirely true. We know people that live "on the north side of Macon" (tremble) and it is not bad.

The actual road of Macon, however, has some rundown and dingy blocks. So there we found ourselves walking, another not-coincidence. It was a challenge to me. Being the minority is uncomfortable. Please, this was not "the white girl finally getting a sense of what it's like". It's not the first time. I just wish that it wasn't an issue. Why does what's different from us have to scare us - both the majority being scared of the minority as well as the minority being afraid of the majority?

Why do people settle for the easy solution like mob-mentality instead of thinking for themselves, seeing clearly and loving well? Why are we so paralyzed to face fears that don't risk our lives or cause physical harm? Why are we so apathetic?

I really feel like poverty and expectations are the real issues. Why is it 2007 and these still haven't been addressed?

I don't have answers.

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