Okay. I’m reading Bill White’s autobiography. The baseball guy. Because baseball history is really freaking cool and fun and I’m really glad I got to take a class on it in college. This was actually one of my “textbooks,” but I didn’t get to appreciate it as much at the time because I had to write a paper on it.
So! I love this book. I love the honesty. And I love that it taught me something I’ve been confused about. So I’m white, if you haven’t noticed. Bill White, regardless of name, is not and he tells many stories about his experiences with racism. He played in the minors in North Carolina and as I read about his least favorite game being an hour outside my hometown (spoiler, because of aggressive and open racism), it made me… well, disappointed. But I told myself these acts of blatant racism happened decades ago and we’re doing better now.
But we aren’t. Because the same day, one of my personal friends posted on facebook that someone spray painted something along the lines of….
LANGUAGE NSFW OR CHILDREN AHEAD.
They spray painted “Fuck you nigger” onto a fence near her home. It isn’t the first time this has happened. Also in my hometown. I though about censoring those words in my post, but why bother? Why shield you from what’s real and what people we know have to deal with?
It’s been a long time since Bill White’s experience with this, but here we are, in the same boat. The most I have to deal with is blatant sexism. So as far as racism goes, all I have to go on is stuff people tell me. Personally or in books. And I want to know about these experiences, you know? As someone with a tiny bit of writing influence and political passion, I want to know.
But it was really frustrating to hear a lot of my friends say “don’t make me (or whoever) your token black friend.” For a while, this was confusing. I wondered why they didn’t want to share their experiences with me and why I couldn’t feel “safe” asking difficult questions. Well, Bill White answered it for me, whether he meant to or not.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I finally realize it’s because we don’t really need to ask. Because we’ve already been told. These experiences we need to know have been written down in books for decades. We just need to pick one up and read it. They’ve been written in poems, in songs, short stories, in art. They’re being written on social media, in news articles, on protest signs. They’re shown in action.
So this is really a post of humility in saying sorry it took me so long to figure it out. I know that my friends will answer my questions if I need to ask them and they’ll happily share personal experiences… but they don’t have to be my one and only source of knowledge.
And this is true for all kinds of experiences, not just racism. I kinda understand in that I’m fine telling my husband about discrimination against women, but I don’t have the full story. The full story will come from the experiences of many people, not just me. Right?
If you have questions about things in the world, make an effort to learn about it. Don’t rely on someone else to do it for you.
And if you are southern like I am, take a little time. I’m so proud of being an NC native, but at the same time, there are a lot of faults in my place. There are a lot of faults in American history in general. We need to know them. We need to know history and we need to know the present and we need to take action to make it better. Knowledge is a good start.