Saturday, April 9, 2011

Race - My Prospective

By Langston Hughes

My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.

If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.

My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I'm gonna die,
Being neither white nor black?

In early 1992, me and two friends drove from Charleston to Champaign to go see Spike Lee's "Malcolm X".  We got there early because we didn't want to drive there for nothing. We bought our tickets and went in.  What happened during the next hour is both interesting and very telling of our society.  Since we were the first ones in the theater, we took the center seats in the middle of the room.  As others came in, we sat and waited.  I know "nothing interesting there".  Okay here it is.  As the theater filled, the patrons had formed a "white island" in the middle of the room.  I don't know why but the other white patrons had gravitated to where we were.  The audience was predominately black.  We found it amusing at the time.  There were no problems during our time there, even when Malcolm X said "the white man is the devil" and someone in the back yelled out "YUP! There it is!".  This was the first time I had been a minority anywhere.  It was a rather odd feeling but at 19 I didn't think too much about. 

Growing up, I was lucky my parents didn't teach us to hate other races.  I idolized Tony Dorsett, Sugar Ray Leonard, Doctor J,  Kirby Puckett, and Tommy Herr.  Herr was the only white in that bunch.  Later I would date inter-racially and quickly found out that not everyone was as open minded as I thought, including some, whom I thought of as friends.  I have to say I was a bit shocked at what others had to say.

During college, I was told by whites from northern Illinois that I talked black and acted black . I thought that was strange because I was just being me.  Once we were talking about hot chicks and I said "What about Halle Berry?" who has been my Hollywood crush for a very long time, and the guy gave me the weirdest look and "Dude she's black."  From then on, I knew things must be a little different in white suburbia Chicago.  But on the other side of the coin, I can remember going to the rec center to play basketball and getting picked last because nobody wanted the short white guy.  But I always got the last laugh when I lit 'em up.

Later in life I had to go to training in New Haven, Ct.  I met managers from all over the country.  One, that I had became friends with, was from New Hampshire. He actually said "We could tell that you weren't completely white."  I was floored.  First, I don't know why he said it.  Second, he was right.  Third, SO!?!   I'm not "completely white,"  I am very proud of my Iroquois, Blackfoot, and Cherokee heritage.  (although I can't claim to be bi-racial because I am not registered with a tribe.  More on this later) .  Since I have been in Louisiana have been told that it was apparent that I wasn't completely white, this time by a black man. 

When Gretchen and I had the chance to go out with some people she worked with last summer, we jumped at the chance.  A night without the kids... oh yeah.  The people she worked with were mostly black and during the conversation it was said "Oh Gretchen, yeah she's black" and everyone got a good laugh when they found out she had used straightener on her hair.  I, too, work with a mostly black staff.  They have said I'm black as well.  And have even gone as far as telling a customer.  The customer looked at me and "You're black?"  I responded, " That's what they tell me."  The black female customer reached over the counter to shake my my hand.  Recently, we went to a party where there were about 50 people.  8 were white ( Gretchen, our kids and me were 5 of them).  The people at the party were gracious and we had a good time (even with a fight breaking out). Gretchen and I are not black in our race but we take pride in the fact the we are accepted for who we are, good trustworthy people that are considered friends by others.  I by no means know what it is like being black nor would I ever want act like I do know.  I can only be me. Throughout my life, I've had conversations with people and customers who have used racial slurs.  I have corrected a few, others I just roll my eyes in my head and think "what idiots."  I am really tired of people speaking to me like that.  Just because our skin color is the same doesn't mean that I use those terms, think like you or consider you a friend.  My friendship is something you earn, no matter your color.

I mentioned earlier that while I am bi-racial ( white and native) I can't put that on any type of applications because I'm not registered with a tribe.  I don't even know where to start  to do that.  Anyhow, no other race has that problem.  In the end I don't understand racism or bigotry.  I, also, don't like some of the terms used today.  Take for instance African- American.  Let's say you are black but are from England and now live here, are you now African-European-American.  And why is the black race grouped all as African, while whites are divided into Italian, French, German etc, and Asians are Japanese,Chinese, etc.  Then we come to Native American. Ugh!  How could there be "Native Americans"?  America was named after an Italian explorer, Amerigo Vespucci.  Natives of the land were here long before he was born.

Maybe I'm just being too picky.  I don't know.   The fact is I'm ready for 1 race, that being the human race.

I decided to repost this because today I was told I was the "farthest thing from being white."  Thanks.  I take that as a compliment with great pride.  But really, from the beginning to the end, I'm just Shane.


  1. I have a black friend that hates the term African American. He has no African descent and he is only in this country for school, so he is not an American. He says, "I am black and I'm proud of it. Jesse Jackson does NOT speak for me."

    There are also many Africans that are not black. Egyptians are typically not black and much of South Africa has a white population. An American of Egyptian descent would literally be an African-American, but could not use that title because it is meant to only apply to blacks. It gets so confusing.

  2. My husband and I both have families that do not see people in the way we do. We teach our children to love everyone, no matter race, size, or religion. It was shocking to me one day when my oldest son and I went to see a friends baby. The baby was bi-racial. In the car on the way home my son said that is not her baby. He said it like he knew something we didn't. I said of course it is and asked him why he thought that. He said because that baby is brown and him "mom" (he used hand quotes lol) is peach. I explained that his mom was peach and his dad is brown. He said that could not happen. I said yes God makes people of all colors and that it is perfectly okay. I was a little concerned but he did not say it in an angry way just in a matter of fact tone. He came up with the terms peach and brown.
    -Kelly Ellis