Not very long after Bruce Jenner became “Caitlyn,” I read an article about how Caitlyn Jenner actually hurts the transgendered community. This is because Caitlyn Jenner is so far removed from the real issues of the transgendered community that she has no clue what those issues even are – but gives the rest of the world the illusion that she does. She has both fame and money, neither of which most other transgendered folks have. While most transgendered folks are met with spit and nasty comments, she gets called “brave” and is given awards. She once made a comment about how mtf people must do their best to look and act the part – must try to look feminine and beautiful. That’s easy to say when she has the money for the best clothes, makeup, and even “feminizing” surgery. Most people can’t do that. And if they were a hairy, brutish man in the first place… well, let’s just say that Caitlyn Jenner doesn’t get it. This is so damaging because now the world doesn’t get it either, but THINKS that it does. It’s deluded and made the real issue invisible.
I have recently come to believe that we’ve essentially done the same thing with racism. But we’ve integrated! We are one people now! Racism is a non issue! But that isn’t even close to being true. I’ve recently had a painful and ugly realization: racism has not only continued to flourish in modern American society, but has crept in and flourished in my very own heart as well. Because of that realization, I began to do research on the matter – lots and lots of research – and continually questioned my own perspectives, reactions, and reasonings. This has begun a process of weeding out that nasty root, which brings me to my first pondering: I used to believe that the cure for racism was to stop talking about (making a big deal about) racism. I can see from my own experience that the real cure is not to ignore it – which merely masks the problem like syrup on a bad cold – but rather, the opposite; to educate, better understand, and be actively aware of it.
My second pondering is this: we whites are totally cool with people of any color – as long as they act white. I think this is one way in which we delude ourselves into thinking that we’re over racism: “I have Hispanic friends, Indian friends, and half my family is black! There’s no way you can accuse me of being racist!” But they’re all respecting YOUR culture instead of the other way around; you just don’t realize it or think about it like that. (Blacks do; they realize it. Otherwise, the term “house nigger” wouldn’t be a modern thing.) I’ll do my best to illustrate what I mean: Michael has been working for Social Security for some time now, so he’s been well exposed to a variety of cultures. He told me of a particular eastern culture that turns away from you to show they are being submissive and giving you authority. “Still,” he says, “it can be hard not to feel disrespected.” In a case like that, it’s pretty easy to recognize that this is a foreign person with a foreign custom and they are NOT being disrespectful – even if you have to actively remind yourself of that. But we know it and we extend grace to that person because we know they’re from another culture. But do we even consider that same kind of difference and grace when dealing with another domestic culture? Urban black culture, for example? What really got me thinking about all of these things was Michael saying that he’s becoming accustomed to domestic cultures. “For example, I no longer get upset when a black woman starts talking loudly at me on the phone.” So many things that we scoff at or feel disrespected by may not be disrespect at all on their part, but simply part of their culture. I think we so often expect everyone else to act like us and we’re really disrespecting them by doing so.