Reflections During Black History Month

This is Black History Month.  The question begs, “why does there need to be a month specified for black history?”  Why do we not just teach history, inclusive history, truthful history?  I apologize to any who feel that a devotion must contain a Biblical reference, I have not included one, but feel this needs to be said.  This is a post I put on Facebook “a while back.”  Some may have heard me relate this before, or read the original post.  I have revised it slightly in this iteration.

I am racist.  

I am trying hard not to be, but I am racist.  What has led me to this conclusion?  Several things, here we go.  

After George Floyd was killed, I read a post about a flight attendant (SWA) who observed a passenger (CEO of AAL) reading the book “White Fragility,” by Robin Diangelo.  I was finishing another book, so I decided that “White Fragility,” would be my next read.  While it’s not a spellbinding read, it is challenging and mind opening.  We, whites, simply by being raised in a society that systematically undervalues people of color, are imprinted, like it or not.  Whether it be by rice, pancake syrup, Rochester on the Jack Benny Show or the waiter in the B&O dining car, we are imprinted.  Black people are subservient, and lesser individuals.  We are the superior.  Let’s move along.

In conversation, I was relating an interaction with another person in the grocery store.  I said something to the effect of, “there was this black lady behind me…”  If she had been white, would I have included the comment “there was this white lady…?”  Likely not.  Why do we separate?  Even if done in intended innocence, why do we feel the need to separate?  It made NO difference to the story.

This next story is something that occurred nearly thirty years ago, but it’s come back to mind, and haunts me, since it’s a parallel to the previous paragraph, and a theme from the book.  It’s a long story how I got there, but I attended a training course put on by my employer, the FAA.  The course was called “Cultural Diversity.”  Although I don’t remember the gentleman’s name, I’ll call him “John.”  In context of the course, the instructor asked the gentleman, a black man, “…what do you prefer to be called?”  The expected answer would have been, “black,” “African American,” etc.  He said, “I want to be called ‘John’.”  The silence was deafening.  How simple the answer.  How simple the request.  And we whites don’t get it.  

We cannot be colorblind.  For one thing it’s impossible, and for another, it devalues the non-white culture, background, and experience.  We must learn to not make color a division.  Even if it be of innocuous intent, we cannot allow it to proliferate.  Racial division cannot be legislated out of existence.  It can only be eradicated by conscious effort, directed by the hearts and minds of those who truly desire for this world to be equal and just, for ALL.

While we try to exonerate ourselves as we observe that we are not overtly bigoted, that does not mean that we do not enjoy the advantages of white privilege, and suffer from implicit bias.  

I am racist, but I’m trying not to be…

Bob Bullard