I never learn. I mean, sometimes I do. But with certain things, I never understood why they were the way they were. I didn’t abide much by the philosophy of things being better because that’s the way they’d always been done.
Take laundry for example. I know that a prevailing school of thought is that you don’t wash colors and whites together. You should wash them separately. At one time I’m sure there was a fairly logical explanation for this. The dye in fabrics was not of a caliber where it would stay colorfast in the wash. So if the colors ran, they would only be mixing back in with other, similar colors. The whites would stay white. And the colored clothes would stay colored. Sometimes, if the whites started to fade, an additive was put in the wash to bring out their brilliance, by stripping the traces of color that may have become blended in with the white fabric.
But that never made much sense to me as a child learning to do laundry. I had a basket of dirty clothes. A basket that would easily fit in to one load. So I would wash them together. One load. Not two separate half loads. Sometimes I would get some new colors. Things that used to be purely white had a new hue. I rolled with it. They were just clothes, right? No big deal.
I still do that. All of it goes in to one load. I don’t separate colors and whites. All in.
Some say our country was founded to be a melting pot. But I’m not quite seeing that these days. I’m seeing a country that’s a laundromat. And people are separating the clothes before they clean them.
It heavies my heart.
It would be terribly ignorant of me to spout some platitude about not seeing colors. And even worse to say that all lives matter in light of recent events. Such comments tend to close dialog. They stop the flow of understanding. A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook. A dude was just doing a live video of how the recent Alton Sterling killing affected him. It was thirty minutes long. I was looking at a video of a gentleman whose skin was darker than mine. With gold teeth, dreadlocks, and a snap back ball cap. I very nearly didn’t watch it. But my friend tagged me for it. Maybe he sees something in me that I don’t. I’m not sure. But I watched it none the less.
And it made my heart heavy. I knew that many of my friends would watch it and dismiss this man as a thug because of his demeanor. Because of his speech patterns and colloquialisms, they might miss the message. The intent of his message. Here was a man in pain. A man who is watching people get killed in this country by people who are supposed to be protecting our citizens.
I’m going to pause here. This is not a post about good cops and bad cops. This is not a post about criminals with intent to harm or not.
Police officers are humans. Some humans are assholes. Some humans are bigots. Some humans need to exert control over people who don’t look like them. And some of these humans get jobs as police officers. The truth is, these people have jobs everywhere, but we don’t really hear about it. If the 7/11 clerk is an asshole to a car full of Latino teenagers, nobody gives a shit. Because, that guy’s just a racist asshole. But when that same racist asshole has a badge and a gun and the authority to use both, we run in to problems. Nobody puts on a badge and suddenly stops being that asshole they were before the badge. And with a media that seems hellbent on feeding us fear, we run in to more problems.
I don’t know if you picked up on this from my profile picture or my charmingly naive worldview, but I’m white. Caucasian. Of primarily Irish and Italian descent.
My parents brought me up to see the world as one big load of laundry, though. Whites and colors weren’t done as separate loads. Some of my relatives further out on the family tree might disagree, but my folks were pretty good about making sure that I saw a person’s heart first, not their appearance.
As much as I would love to sit here in my apartment, far removed from the real strife in this world, and say that I’m not racist or that I don’t benefit from white privilege, I probably am. And I’m pretty sure I do.
I catch myself doing a double take sometimes when I’m out. Feel myself tensing up ever so slightly if two or more dudes with darker skin than mine walk toward me. And yeah, I know it’s fucked up. Look, I didn’t say I was fully enlightened yet–just working on it.
As for the white privilege piece of it, here’s where I figured that out. It hit me full force tonight. I’m doing laundry (and hence the inspiration), and I realize that no matter how fucked up my life is…no matter what I do…whether or not I get a conceal/carry license or not, or gods-forbid do something that saddles me with a criminal record. No matter how fucked up my life could possibly become, I can’t envision a scenario in which a traffic stop by a police officer will ever incite in me a feeling of terminal dread.
To me, that’s messed up. The part that is really messing me up, though, is trying to wrap my head around the other side of that. To be of a mindset that if I get pulled over for even the most minor of offense, my life could end.
The fact that I can’t fully imagine that is where the buffer of white privilege comes in. We can pretend it’s not there, but it is.
I’m just sad. And upset. And I don’t even really know how to start the dialog. How to understand. How to talk to my friends who happen to have more melanin in their genetic makeup than I.
I don’t know what to do about it.
So I write.
And continue to do laundry. Maybe the answer will come to me during the spin cycle.