I am a racist…so are you
There are certain things we say which reveal the dichotomy between truth and what we are attempting to sell a listener. For instance, a friend of mine, who was in law enforcement, told me one time to never, when getting questioned by law enforcement, either begin or end a pronouncement by swearing on the lives of your children.
The guy telling me this had been to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He said the training literally taught agents anything which either follows or concludes with I swear on the life of my children is a lie.
You get to a point you’re overselling. You’re trying too hard to convince the listener you’re a straight dealer. Your exertion makes the listener, instead, assume you’re sliding him something from off the bottom of the deck.
I left the Fall of 1987 for the University of Tennessee from my childhood home of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. Freshman year, UT was on Quarters so classes began in September. By my sophomore year, the University had switched over to Semesters so the Fall-term began in August.
I majored in English (Liberal Arts) with a minor in Religious Studies. English had two concentrations, Literature and Creative Writing. My concentration was Creative Writing. Readers are reaping the benefit of that decision right now.
While there, I took a required course entitled Black Aesthetic Literature. The instructor was named R. Baxter Miller. I have no idea for what the R stood.
He was a black man. I am assuming he still is should he be presently alive.
I was enormously influenced by him. He was among my favorite professors, if not my very favorite, and I would still call him Dr. Miller, out of esteem and respect, were I to see him today.
Dr. Miller was completely Ivy League educated. He had gotten both his undergraduate and graduate degrees (PhD) at Brown University. Black Aesthetic Literature was an upper-level course so it was taught by him and not his Graduate Assistant.
He asked me to come to his office after his lecture one day. He had heard I wanted to be a lawyer and he wanted to talk me out of it. He thought I should go to graduate school and become a professor of English.
I should have listened to him. My not listening to him has been one of my life’s profound regrets.
While in his office, and I am not sure even how the topic came up, he told me, “Long, I am going to tell you something which will upset you and will probably be offensive, though I mean no offense by it. You are a racist.”
I responded, “Dr. Miller, that is ridiculous.”
“It’s not your fault, Long. You’re a white, southerner who grew up around other white southerners and you are all racists. Owing to where you were born and how you were reared, you really had no other choice.”
I said, “Isn’t it racist for you to assume, owing to my color or race, that I am a certain way?”
He said, “I can’t be racist toward you. In order for any black person to be racist toward a white person, the black person has to be in a position of power over his victim.”
“The black person has to have the ability to suppress that white person and bend him or her to the black person’s whim resulting from the power and position the black person lauds over the white person. Racism, without power and position, doesn’t exist,” Dr. Miller reasoned.
Dr. Miller went on to say, “White people, not black people, run this country. And so, my being a racist towards you, is impossible.”
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have thought about the racism requires power over its intended victim argument as I have viewed the picture of Officer Chauvin kneeling on the neck of the late George Floyd. How many times I have thought of it during the “Black Lives Matter/Blue Lives Matter” debate.
Then I pulled from out of my I am not a racist arsenal the magic arrow. I pulled it from my figurative quiver of arguments and notched it in my long-bow like some sort of a Robin Hood of race relations.
I took aim and fired the projectile which I believed would make Dr. Miller’s position fall into rubble like Jericho’s wall fell to Joshua and his merry band of Israeli-trumpeters. “But Dr. Miller, I have lots of black friends!”
Take that Miller! The timed honored and true argument about the white-boy from Kentucky who is sufficiently evolved to have black friends. Not just black friends but lots of black friends.
Bet you never saw that coming did you, you Ivy-Leagued genius? Had I only thought to bring a black friend with me to his office, like some sort of live prop, he or she could have vouched for me.
Miller then looked at me with a wide grin and said, “Of course you have lots of black friends, Long. That’s exactly what any racist would say!”
What? I was shocked by that response.
He continued, “If you weren’t a racist, black people you know wouldn’t be your black friends…they would just be friends.”
I started to open my mouth to counter his argument when he said, “Long, I bet you don’t refer to your other friends by first mentioning their colors. Do you ever refer to white people as white friends? Are your middle-eastern associates brown friends?”
Check-mate. Crap! Miller had nailed me.
I had no response. I would suggest many of you reading this wouldn’t have had a response either.
I am turning 52-years old in August. This conversation happened when I was 21-years old.
For the past 30-to nearly 31-years, I have never called anyone since, who happened to be both black and my friend, a black friend. Miller was right, I was a racist.
You guys reading this are too. However, the first step toward recovery is identifying you have a problem in the first place. I have been working on my affliction for nearly 31-years, why don’t you join me?
Let’s make a commitment. Let’s commit ourselves to not see race and not make rash and imprudent suppositions based off of race. Let’s start seeing people. Let’s see people who may look different than we; but who really aren’t.
Let’s make a conscious effort to recognize we all have similar wants and similar desires. We are all people who love our families and our countries. We all work, pay taxes, worship, love our children and grandchildren. In so many ways, we are all really the same.
If you cut us, we all bleed. If you kneel on our necks for over 8-minutes, we all die.
Killing any of us, without sufficient provocation, is still murder. It is still murder no matter in what profession the murderer happens to be employed, whether or not he happens to wear blue.
Just because we are racist now, doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.
You can take this for whatever you think it is worth but THAT’S THE LONG VERSION!