Monday, March 22, 2010

My name is Max Reddick. I am an adult African American male. And I’m afraid of becoming a racist.

For anyone who cares, I need to make a statement. My name is Maxwell Rene Reddick. And I’m afraid of becoming a racist. But perhaps racist is not the correct word to describe how I feel; however, in the same instance, perhaps it’s the only word.

You see, I am gradually experiencing an erosion of trust, a waning of faith. Suddenly, I am beginning to see my fellow Americans in a new light.

It began sometime during the last presidential election. And I am not so naïve as to believe that racism and racial resentment did not exist before that time, but I guess that the ease and the unabashed manner with which they dragged out the ghosts of the past caught me by surprise.

But then I reasoned that they had just given in to the emotions of the moment. That when President Obama took office, all the racist rhetoric would die down. That the Republican leadership would come forward as a united body and denounce the campaign’s racism and allay the imagined fears of some Negro take over.

However, they did not. Instead, they increased the rhetoric. They upped the ante. They even rolled out their own Gestapo like force skilled in the use of racist rhetoric and general mayhem. They called them the “Tea Party.” But soon the “Tea Party,” drunk off their new found sense of power, spurred on by their success, spun out of their control, out of their grasp, and they found themselves, too, at its capricious whims.

So, Saturday I’m watching the whole lead-up to the historic vote on health care reform unfold. I am seeing the crowds gather in protest on the street. I am watching the talking heads get in their talking points on the cable news networks. Then I get a text message. Someone has been called a nigger. Someone has been called a faggot. Someone has been spit on. And almost coincidently the cable network news people confirm these reports.

And I feel my ire rise. I feel a level of indignance that I have not felt in quite some time. And there is something else there too that causes me to clench my fist and bite down on my lower lip. Is that hate or just anger? And then the devil pours me another drink as he laughs at my vulnerability.

But then later I’m in my yard, and a pick-up truck passes with a “NOBAMA” sticker and a “Is it 2012 yet” sticker displayed prominently in the back window of the cab. And then a late model Mercedes-Benz passes going in the other direction. The driver has affixed a sticker with the word “SOCIALISM” with a big red circle with a slash through it.

Then I mentally count the distance between my home and the next home containing a black family. I note my neighbor out working in his yard with his shirt off—he’s really too big to be outside with his shirt off—and I think to myself, “Is he one of them?”. He certainly looks like one of them or what I believe one of them would look like.

And when I am in the grocery, I am looking in white faces, thinking to myself, “Is he one of them? Is she one of them?”. The lady at the gas station smiles at me as she swipes my card. I do not smile back. Is she one of them?

And I tell myself that I cannot be racist. Haven’t I got a plethora of white friends. But that’s the first thing racists say, isn’t it? I remember that from my first year of grammar school until my last year of grad school, I have been surrounded by white people; usually I have been the only, or one of a very few, Blacks in the class. In the military, I lived with white people, slept with white people, ate with white people. I remind myself that my aunt, my mother’s brother’s wife, is white though I have never thought of her as being white before this moment.

But I don’t think that it’s racism; I think it is a lack of trust, a lack of faith in my fellow Americans and their motives. This is, perhaps, how my grandfather felt when he was a young man. Which of you are for me? Which of you are against me? Because I have no way of knowing until you are standing in front of me, spitting on me and calling me a nigger.

However, I refuse to give in to hate. To calm my nerves, to clear my mind, I pick up a book to read, and I come across a quote by James Baldwin: “The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”

And then I realize that I cannot hate. That it is perhaps not in my best interest, our best interests. That it is perhaps not even in me to hold grudges. But I must work on this whole trust thing; I must work to rebuild my faith. But trust and faith are hard found when all around you hate and acrimony seems to be the order of the day.


BigmacInPittsburgh said...

I take White people one person at a time,I come to realize like Forest Gump,White people are like a box of chocolates,you just don't know who you going to get! For the record I find myself doing that with most Black folks I encounter here in Pittsburgh,because we here are a special breed of Black folk,I have traveled and lived in many places and have never seen so many ignorant people(social and political ignorance) both Black and White.

md20737 said...

Im back in business commenting at work .. I agree with bigmacinpitts you definitly have to judge everyone individually. But never put out of mind what all ppl are capable of.

Rosita said...

Thank you for writing this. You summed up the feelings I have been having recently so well - as you so often do.

Anonymous said...

Max I always appreciate your honesty in your writing. No one like you. Many people feel this way. I have no hangups about race at all and i found myself shocked at the way people have acted in recent days on both sides. What it really comes down to is not a race issue. It is individuals. It is the follow the leader mentality in this world. It is ignorance, selfishness, high mindedness and arrogance on the part of many people.

This world betrays its lack of ability to imitate God when things like this happens. Mature adults can judge based on the individual not such a limiting qualifier as race. This world is and will always be divided and I completely believe that no matter who is in office (or any position of authority for that matter) whether they are White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, female or anything else there will always be one set of people who need to assert their believed superiority and one set of people who oppose them.

This world was founded by man on a divided mentality and will go out in one. But, all this activity should continue to remind us of the times we live in.

Kristen Howerton said...

I hear you. But I don't think it means you are racist. We know that there are some crazy, scary freaks out there. I feel the paranoia too (on a different level, I'm sure). But you gotta keep believing that they don't represent most white people. At least not the ones I know.

Quintessence said...

my 2nd life (and realization) on racism began with listening to Bro. Tavis Smiley a few years back. Yep---My 1st hint at non-unison--{{{He's throwing up that *Black Panther fist** like cheeyah....but yet not as eager for a 'fellow Brah?'}}} At a time when we were needing community unison and were at that pinnacle, all hell broke loose, and a new movement began.

Totally messed my head up))

Well, Tavis bowed gracefully from the Tom Joyner show, but then begat a name I wasn't too familiar with, Michael Steele. Wow--Talk about an ass Kick to the African American Race...sorry--he does not represent me or any of my beliefs..and to be honest--it's scary having his likes THERE. By all means...this is a free country...and I encourage everyone to explore their options...

Let the decisions that plays on our hearts (which will ultimately affected by our votes) be met with some integrity. Don't we realize from whence we came? Do we not realize where we are? We're in a less than candid state right now, althought White America may see us all on "level".

i still tend to see the glass as half full of our community potential..and pray the other half will be met with might & muscle for the strength to catapult it!

We need to be careful on how we allow the Media to manipulate us.

Olivier said...


livinonfaith said...

Max, I don't think you are a racist. I am white (female) and even I am uncertain and "on edge" in these strange times.

Over the past year, I have been shocked by some of the utter insanity I have heard from the mouths of some people that I thought I knew. Some of them seem like sheep, following every word of the right wing media, living in fear of some unknown "revolution of the underclass" or reversal of their basic rights.

I even had to throw a guy out of my office about a month ago. He just wouldn't stop trying to get me to see "the truth" about President Obama and his "socialist policies."

I'm non partisan, although slightly more on the liberal side, and have always (and still do) have friends of both political parties, but this new wave of fear mongering is just plain scary! Until now, I've never been so infuriated over a political conversation that I felt the need to tell someone to shut up and leave just so that I didn't knock them upside the head!

If asked, these people all say that their beliefs have nothing to do with race, but then they quote right wing media personalities like God himself is speaking through them. (And we know how most of those media personalities feel about minorities.) They may not start out with a distinct racial bias, but the more they listen to those guys, the more you know they start to buy in to the whole message.

I am not a scholar, but I do have enough knowledge of history to know that some of the worst atrocities of all times probably started something like this, a nagging fear of change, unfounded rumors and accusations, a racial or class divide that is slowly wedged farther apart(again, usually through fear of "those people" taking away "our" livelihood.) Eventually even reasonable, non biased people are made to choose between overlooking (or even participating)in the insanity or being ostracized themselves.

No, I don't think you're racist at all. It's just a natural reaction when you sense that some people are lying to you.

The only thing I will say is that not all white people are buying into the insanity, and it seems to me that it is more important than ever to maintain the interracial relationships that we have. If we don't, then the divide grows even wider, and the uneasiness and fear keeps growing.

Joanna said...

OK, this is very late, but I just found your blog today. I have to say, I always tend the view white people with suspicion. I also am of the opinion that they are racists, until they can prove it to be a false assumption. Too bad not too many of them can do it to my satisfaction.
The thing that may make this seem kind of odd is that I am a white woman myself. (I prefer to identify myself by my ethnicity then by my race, but most people who see me cannot tell my ethnicity, they can only identify the color of my skin) I wasn't always like this. When I was younger, growing up in the sheltered suburban world of my parents, I KNEW racism existed, but I thought it only manifested itself in overt acts. I never thought "racist" when I heard a white person speak about things that now automatically set off an alarm in my head. I realize that the majority of white people are raised to be racist. Even if their parents are not the time to make blanket racist statement, there is still this implication that somehow others are beneath them They try to pretty it up in terms that do not mention race, but the undercurrent of racism is there. Once you become aware of your own ignorance as a white person, and confront your own prejudices, and attack them from within, you start to see it everywhere you go, in everyone you encounter. You have to cmake a concerted effort to do the work it takes to counter the subtle programming that you have since birth as a white person, that programming of the idea of that "others" are somehow different, and therefore inferior. The media tells you it is true, your parents tell you it is true, maybe not directly, but through their actions, through the "non racial" comments that are actually filled with racist ideology. The system of white privilege has tricked us into thinking that racism is not in fact racism. In order to combat your own prejudices you have to reexamine everything you have been taught about life in a new light. You have to be able to admit your own prejudices and counter them with new information, with the truth. Most white people are so comfortable in the world of white privilege that they are not willing to do that.

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