Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Some Kind of Validation

"I think I've figured something out," I said to him. The market was hot and loud and full of beautiful things. Every booth demanded attention, especially the jewelry one at which we'd found ourselves.

"What?" he said absently, running his fingers over a bright gem.

"I think it has to do with me being an Oldest and you being an Almost the Youngest," I continued, scanning his profile for attentiveness. "but I have to show people things in order to have fun. Like, if I see a cool piece of jewelry like this," I pointed to a Celtic cross. "I want to show it to you. I want you to be excited about it and think that it's beautiful. If you're not around to see it or you don't reciprocate my enthusiasm, then it loses its beauty to me."

He made a thoughtful sound and kept looking at the merchandise. I continued:

"I guess it's because when I was little, I always had a younger sibling who I could 'perform' for, who wanted to see what I was doing and like what I liked. But you were the youngest, so probably no one would pay as much attention to you. You had to figure out how to have fun completely by yourself."

No response.

"Are you listening to me?"

"Yes!" He made eye contact. "I'm processing. I think it has to do with being Extroverted versus Introverted, too."

"Yeah, exactly! My experience of fun is dependent on other people. I can't enjoy myself in a vacuum. If I don't have someone to share things with, I honestly might as well not go at all. It's kind of frustrating, because you have fun so independently." I swallowed hard as I lost his eyes again. "You can pick up something pretty or fascinating and enjoy it 100% by yourself. You don't have to tell anyone about it or show it to anyone. But I can't do that. Nothing is fun or worth it to me unless I get some kind of validation."

I didn't know if the conversation would change anything. I didn't know if I was wasting my breath. My revelation was just another example of something that was useless without affirmation.

Maybe since I'd noticed the weakness of my codependent enjoyment, I could do something about it. Maybe I could learn to enjoy things by myself, without having to show another person.

But I couldn't imagine that. I wilted inside as he wandered away, to another booth where he would find cool things and not show them to me. Where I would seek out cool things and try to show him, but he'd have moved on.


Friday, July 3, 2015

I Have Black Friends

I have black friends.

Of course, in my day, we just called them "friends."

My first "boyfriend" was black (age 4, we ran that preschool). One of my best friends is black. My best friend at college is black.

For 21 years, I have interacted with "people." Some people I like a lot. Some people annoy me to death. I think some people are really attractive. I think some people are pretty dang homely. Some people make me uncomfortable. Some people make me feel at ease. For 21 years, the world has been made up of "people," each unique, each uniquely shaping my life.

But now, I see color.

I have never been a racist. I am not a racist now. But all the screaming, raging, and fighting about racism and political correctness has shifted me from racially colorblind to racially anxious.

Now, if I bump into a black person, I make sure to say excuse me AND that I'm so sorry, lest she think I have a white elitist attitude. Now, if the cashier at the store is black, I push myself to be overly friendly and smile a lot, lest he think I take him for granted because he's black. Now, if a black man is walking behind me at night, I make sure to go slowly and smile if he passes me, to make sure he knows I made no weird assumptions about being unsafe.


I'm sorry, but what the hell?

I agree that racism is a real issue, in that it should not ever be an issue. People are people. Black people are people, and white people are people, and everyone has the ability to be funny or attractive or arrogant or stupid and it has nothing to do with skin color.

I already understood this, and I think a lot of other people did too. However, all the recent shootings and media uproar and Confederate Flag ridiculousness and a HOST of other junk have made it really hard to be colorblind. Instead of encouraging equal treatment, I think all the fuss has actually encouraged and exacerbated racism. People like me, who have been non-racist almost to the point of obliviousness, now find themselves noticing skin color. Isn't that the very thing we're trying to avoid?

Slavery was horrific. I am tremendously glad that it is in the past. We must remember that it was terrible and wrong and never gloss over it in a history lesson--but can we also remember that it is history? I did not personally enslave anyone. Neither did my parents. Neither did my grandparents. I would not do it now if I had the chance. Neither would my parents. Neither would my grandparents. Slavery was and is WRONG.

Slavery was horrific--but it was not my FAULT. No white American alive today is personally responsible for institutionalized slavery. No black American today has been personally abused by institutionalized slavery.

Obviously, true racists do exist, and they should be ashamed of themselves. But I really don't think all the pettiness and anger and guilt-tripping is the way to make racists change--white racists or black racists. I truly believe that racism does not make sense and that the truth of equality will prevail.

We fight for equality so that everyone can be treated equally. But I think it's time to stop FIGHTING for equality--we've been doing that for fifty years--and time just to start treating people equally. Let's all assume that people are people, and shut up about the rest. Imagine raising your kids in a society where no one has to say "white people and black people are equal," because the kids have never known otherwise.

Morgan Freeman said it best last year when asked "How are we going to get rid of racism?"

"Stop talking about it."

Come on, guys. I want to be colorblind again.