I wanted to go so badly, but my friends convinced me otherwise.
“It’s too dangerous, and you’re far from home,” “Those rallies can become violent,” they told me.
It was my first semester of college – Oberlin College, fall semester 1999. A progressive school, Oberlin was taking a bus to protest a KKK rally in Ann Arbor, Mich. I was (am) just a small-town white girl void of much experience and worldliness. Still, I felt compelled to go. I live my life with few regrets, but not boarding that bus headed for Ann Arbor is one of them.
Besides migrant farm workers when I was a kid, I had met very few people of color, but I felt like as a human being, it was my duty to stand up for my fellow human beings. I feel guilty (White Guilt), especially now that I’m older and realize I’m one of the many beneficiaries of White Privilege.
The insidiously racist – and rather ironic -- thing about not going to Ann Arbor because of fearing violence is the fact that the history of people of color in our nation is rife with racism-fueled violence.
And I couldn’t even get on a damn bus.
However, I’m older now and have a platform to do whatever small part I can: my keyboard. I recently met Jennifer, who has lived in York for many years. Jennifer is bi-racial, and we talked about her experiences for a recent article. I had no idea – no idea that even in a small town like York people can be so ugly to another person. On top of blatant racism from white people, because her mother was white, Jennifer said she often felt racism from her father’s side of the family. She said for a while she lived a life fearing which side she’d “offend” – her mother’s side, who shunned the young couple, calling her father a n****r? Or her father’s side, who didn’t want him to bring that “white trash b***h” to Ohio.
The response to the article was encouraging – at least to me. And I hope the response made Jenni feel loved; clearly, she is, and by more people than she even knew – some people she doesn’t know at all. However, my feeling of encouragement only goes so far. A few of the supportive commenters had Facebook posts concerning recent developments in race relations, and not necessarily positive. Prime example: memes saying, to some effect, maybe the person of color being arrested would still be alive if they hadn’t [here’s where you choose an excuse]. The U.S. justice system doesn’t have the death penalty for resisting arrest. Or looking around a construction site. Or living at the wrong place at the wrong time. It would stand to reason that offenses like these, while criminal, don’t merit someone – anyone – dying. I fully believe the majority of our men and women in blue are upstanding citizens, who truly care about their communities. But, like any group, there are always a few fringe folks who aren’t representative of the whole. Maybe that’s White Naïvety. I hope not.
That said, I’m sure some people from all spectrums of our society are going to find this installment of “From the Pen of J.A.V.” insensitive, ignorant or just plain wrong. Even that considered, the fact is my keyboard and I are doing what we’re supposed to do: start conversations.
But I couldn’t even get on the damn bus.