This will be too little, too late, but my inability to address this doesn't make it any less important. I've been working on this post in my mind for two years. I struggled with a justification for publishing a blog on racism. I am unqualified, but I do have to let the world know that I stand with those protesting the racism that led to the death of George Floyd. I have no confidence that his murderers will be held accountable in the same way he would be if the roles were reversed.
I was one of those happy liberals who saw the inauguration of Barack Obama as president as a turning point. There would be no turning back. This was indeed a great country if we could get past our history of slavery and racism to elect a black president. Racism itself would be dying with a few old stubborn confederates in the south and a bright new day lay ahead for all of us. We could work on real issues, hand in hand, and really call this country America.
I was an idiot.
I truly had no idea. Granted, I didn't dig very deep but it felt good to know that what was left of racism was slowly dying. You would think as a native Californian I would be more aware of our own transgressions against African Americans, the indigenous tribes, the Mexican immigrants, and even the Mexican Californios that were here before we entered the United States. I knew the legacies of the missions were a very mixed bag but surely it was nothing compared to what went on in Mississipi and in our bright new era, it wasn't much of a concern.
Again, I was an idiot.
I love old movies. Musicals, particular. I was telling a friend about how the world was just better than when you could break into songs to solve your woes. He's an Indian immigrant, and he said, not if you're brown or black. There were no options in my fantasies for people of color other than being the shoeshine boy in the train station scenes. Or maids. Or nothing. I thought he was being sensitive and then I thought about how invisible gays were. Persnickety Edward Everett Horton was about it and he was always married in these films. I was invisible, too, on a key level. I thought about how in the 1970s, coming of age with Charles Nelson Reilly or Paul Lynde as the only role models I had as a young gay man and the idea filled me with terror, even though I am now sure they were lovely fellows doing the best they could. What if I had seen someone like me on the screen or TV? How wonderful would a role model have been?
I remember a black man being interviewed on the radio and he described walking down a tony Washington D.C. suburban street, well-dressed and whistling Mozart, and hearing the click of car locks as scared neighbors passed him by. I thought this was silly and frankly, I doubted it was true. Now, I'm sure it was a reality. Watching scared privileged white people call the cops on blacks for using a public park or selling lemonade is too wild to contemplate yet there are the videos. And those white women probably think they mean well, listen to NPR, and voted for Obama.
I have no solutions. I have no real insight. I think this period of time is about listening and helping if I can. One way to help is to speak out, which I'm doing now. I know many of my friends, who would consider themselves allies, are silent, but it's more because we are freaked out and don't know what to do. This is white privilege. It's uncomfortable, but we don't have to be the solution. We don't control everything. We need to listen and together be the solution. Saying you're freaked out and lost is strength. Our silence can be interpreted as being complicit with the racists. Anything we do is too little, too late, but that doesn't mean we do nothing.
So I start here and now with this: I apologize.