I am not black.
I am not a woman.
I am not a hyphenated American.
I grew up in Westerville, OH. If you looked up a picture of white-bread America in the Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia, very likely a picture of Westerville would pop up.
I didn’t see a black kid in my elementary school until 2nd or 3rd grade. Maybe 4th. That’s almost 10 years of living without up close and personal contact with someone of color.
I don’t know the struggle. I will be the first to admit that.
I got in to rap music not because I identified with the struggles of the black man growing up on mean streets of whatever city. No. I got in to it because I thought it was amazing poetry. Naive perhaps of me to think it was just poetry. But I thought it was raw. Gritty. Heartfelt. And I had a knack for it when I wrote it myself.
There was fuck little of a rap career a kid like me from the burbs was going to have, but that didn’t stop me from penning hundreds of pages of lyrics and recording nearly a third of them.
Oh..so where was I?
Oh yes. Westerville.
In the Westerville of my teenage years, there were 2 high schools. Westerville North and Westerville South. I went to South.
At the time, South was not as great in some of the sports. But we knew we would dominate.. We knew that Westerville South would dominate once more.
Some of you may already be able to see where this is going. But at the time, I assure you, I had no fucking clue.
In high school, I had a flag on my wall. It was the Rebel flag with a skeleton of a confederate solder (a la Eddy from Iron Maiden) climbing the hill and the caption was ‘The South Will Rise Again.’
My dad one day, looked at the flag and said ‘I fucking hope not.’
I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time. At the time I had blinders. None of my friends, white or black, mentioned issues with it. It was like a theme at our school.. We were South…the rebels.
How fucking stupid.
Seriously. I look back on that now and realize that I had blinders on over my blinders. And when I say that none of my friends had issues with it. I think a part of me believed that. I didn’t hear about it. I didn’t hear about police picking on the black kids at my school more than the white kids. Fuck. We were teenagers. At the time we thought the Westerville PD had it in for anyone under 18.
Naive to the ways of the world doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But I realize that the naivete stemmed from the belief that people are basically good. And that given a choice, people will act from a place of love instead of a place of hate or anger.
And I would like to still think that.
But I know better.
I know that people will act, almost exclusively from a place of fear (and anger, and hate, and stupidity); especially if there is little chance that anyone will call them on their bullshit. And with the anonymity of social media, the chance for calling someone a racist prick to their face diminishes.
It was harder to be a dick to someone when we were growing up. You couldn’t troll or cyber bully someone. You had to do it to their face. Face the hurt in their eyes. These days people blast hateful bile from their keyboard and then turn away from the monitor. Off to go watch Access Hollywood for the latest misdirection from the media. Blind to the real pain they’re causing.
And I have to say, that it’s getting harder for me to walk around with blinders on.
The people in this country make me sad. Ever since the 24 Hour News Cycle, the citizens of this country have been fed a steady diet of fear.
I have issues with fear.
Not that I’m afraid, but that I tend to get really sad when I see someone acting from fear instead of love.
Maybe that’s the blinders again.
I never knew how it felt to be hated…or looked down on. Maybe I still don’t. But I do know what it feels like to carry something inside. Something that makes you feel guilty and terrible. Something that isn’t even something you had any control over. And the mere mention of it would invoke a deep sense of shame and sadness. So you don’t mention it. You just carry it around some more. It’s not the same as being black. But it’s the closest I have to understanding it.
Maybe being white in a country that accepts me as the default prohibits me from ever truly feeling that.
But it doesn’t prohibit me from speaking out against it.
My family can trace its line back to Ireland. And another branch back to Sicily. On the road back to Ireland there is Cherokee blood.
Am I Irish-American? Sicilian-American? Native-American? I honestly don’t know. I identify with my Irish lineage. And would like to identify more with my Cherokee heritage. To be honest, the Sicilian side intimidates me just a bit.
Most days I’m just Todd.
Caucasian if I have to check a box on a form. But really that’s only because there’s no box yet for ‘why the fuck do you need to know this kind of thing?’
I don’t know where I’m going with this. Other than to say that Love has to rule. Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood. That’s really what this is about.
If I see my brother, of any color, beaten for simply being different; I cannot sit idly by lest it be my hand that laid the first blow.
It’s time we figure out that if one of us loses, then none of us win.