Thursday, September 18, 2008

Race, Compared To What...

I was born and raised in West Philadelphia and from kindergarten to about the fifth grade, I went to predominately black schools and lived in a predominately black neighborhood. There were some white people in the area... a Jewish Deli at the corner of my block, all the cops were white, and most of my teachers were white too. The thing is... they were adults and larger than life.

There may have been three or four white kids in my elementary school. I believe I was about five or six years old the first time I actually saw a white kid my age and my size. I remember running my hand through his hair, rubbing his skin, and staring at him for a long time... finally, convinced that he was indeed human like me, I went on about my business.

When I got a little older, I began to notice that even the small amount of whites who were in my neighborhood started moving away. It was the 1960's and it was the era of the so called long hot summers of "Rap Brown, Rioting, and Aretha Franklin", as some newscaster eloquently put it. In 1968, I was pulled out of my black and safe elementary school, given some tokens for the elevated train (or the "El", as we call it here in Philly) and shipped off to a predominately white middle school in West Kensington. I guess that move was this city's attempt to intergrate the schools and for the first time, I was in a strange neighborhood that wasn't all black. Now, I was the one who was being stared at and it was my humanity that was in question. While I gave the white kid in my kindergarten class the benefit of the doubt, I was not so lucky.

It also was around this time that I was first called a "nigger" by kids no older than myself and by kids who were ironically enough, worse off than me economically. My parents and Bill Gates would never get mixed up (granted) but, some of these white kids came from homes with one parent, homes where there were three siblings fathered by three different men, and homes where both the mother and father had to work two or more jobs to make ends meet... just like the families in my neighborhood. Yet (and this has always amazed me), these were some of the most histrionically racist people you would ever want to meet.

Ironically enough, the white kids who were my friends lived in nice upper class neighborhoods where I could not be caught walking after a certain hour (and neither could the poor white kids from West Kensington). You would think that I, as a black kid from West Philly, and one of these poor white kids from West Kensington who have had so much in common would have bonded but, it just didn't happen. We fought each other from the 5th to the 8th grade and when the Puerto Ricans moved into the neighborhood, both of us fought alongside of and against them, depending on the nature of the dispute.

None of this stuff was political... we were ten years old. I didn't know Huey P. Newton from a Fig Newton at the time. We were just kids... doing what kids do and repeating what we heard older adults around us say about "them niggers", "them honkies", and "them spicaricans" (as they were sometimes referred to back then). It was terrible. We were all poor... we were all victims of the same system... and we just didn't know it.

Well, it is the same now as it ever was... poor whites will not unite with poor blacks and poor latins. They cling to the American flag, a false patriotism, the ridiculous notion of racial superiority, and they uphold the same man who's got his foot on all of our necks. I've been saying it and now, other people are saying the same thing too. This is the racism and fear that keeps Obama from having a double digit lead right now. Working class (but, presently unemployed) guys who believe that I took a job away from them (like affirmative action has been that good to me) are choosing to vote against their class interest.

Somebody told you a lie, my friend. You and me ought to put our differences aside and vote for our common economic interest. Except for skin color, we ain't much different. Martin Luther King, Jr. might not have said it like this and Barack Obama couldn't dream of saying what I'm saying right now but, come on... you KNOW what I'm saying is true. We need to set all of this race stuff aside and vote for our common interest. I can't say it any plainer than that.

I'm not running for election so, I can say it like I feel it... in black and white. So, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and all of the rest who want to twist my words around can kick rocks because at the end of the day, they (and the masters they serve) fear the day that you and me, my white brothers, and our latino brothers sit down and have a beer together, open our eyes, and see them for who they really are.

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For the benefit of those who are too young to remember, the above image is the cover design from a classic album released in 1975 by the legendary group WAR (click on album image for more details).


The Dreamy One said...

Amen Keith, that is some real shyss that you are speaking this morning.

i was telling this to my white adopted mama the other day. i told her that we need to do whats right for the economy instead of focusing on what race or religion our next presidential candidate is!!!

Thoughts of a Southern gal said...

This is the truth.

It's all about skin color. You can be the richest, savvy, educated man in the world but poor whites still feel superior because they have less melanin in their system.

LadyLee said...

Yes sir. You broke it down right there. That what you said is really what it comes down to. Really.

And I love this term that is being run into the ground: "working whites". They should say what they REALLY mean. POOR whites. But that would be offensive, wouldn't it? And they have to get THAT vote, don't they?

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

My theory is that for poor whites race is the only thing they have to cling to in their worlds. They may be poor and broke but at least they are NOT black. I think successful and smart blacks upset them because they have years of generations who have passed on the belief that blacks are inferior so for the human brain to reconcile where it belongs in a world that has a inferior black man as president say about them. I mean if a black man can be POTUS then that means that they are inferior to the inferior…does not compute and the racist brain does a reboot or just explodes like that dude’s head on the Chapelle show when if found out Clinton Grisby was the blind black leader of the KKK.

I really think this economy is going to force the hands of many, I mean after all the color that runs this world is green, as W. I won’t even address the talking heads of the right I think W may have single handedly stifled them. Historically in hard times like these Democrats come through I mean times are tight! Keep hope alive!


ZACK said...

Well put, Bro. Keith!

This post was better than a lesson from a history book, because this account seems more true than others that I've read.

I think poor whites tend to be more openly racist (note, I wrote "openly") than well-to-do whites because of a combination of jealousy and lack of exposure. It goes back to that "vision" problem that I spoke of in my Good N' Da Hood post (September 9). They can't see a world in which we can be united. They feel a sense of "white privilege" that is being jeopardized by affirmative action.

Well, we must "affirm" to act on this lack of unity by opening up a dialogue. You have already taken the first step, and I will support you on the rest henceforth...


PCD (Pretty Circle Drawer) said...

tell it like it t-i-IS!


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