Friday, June 30, 2006

A Drunk Night and Education

Pardon for the last two posts – I had been really in a rut, and Ddot suggested I write a little fiction to break the cycle. Not sure it worked, but I feel refreshed. Well, now, perhaps it did work.

I saw a wonderful post last week from Nikki. In the post, I understood quite clearly, her frustration, her opinion, and her observations on some racial issues. I will always remember something I heard Oprah say on the subject, something about black people thinking about racial issues each day, while some others think about this subject less often. Another viewpoint that actually may be a common viewpoint.

When I was in high school, I had a very good friend who was black. He was handsome, athletic and a very good student, so it came as no surprise to anyone that he was offered several scholarships in two sports. He chose baseball over football, in part because it was a lot easier on the body. I think he may have been a better football player than a baseball player, but he just wanted college paid for – and actually it worked out nicely for him.

He was actually drafted but chose to enter the engineering world – his choice that he has always been happy with. We were very good friends in high school, and we saw each other occasionally in college (went to different schools, but saw him on the breaks). I must have been a good friend, because I was invited to the wedding, held in a different state. My parents actually gave me some money so I could go to the wedding – financially, I was not doing well, and I needed to stay in a hotel overnight.

For many of us that went to the wedding, he invited us out to dinner before the wedding. I was not in the wedding, but because I traveled, I also was invited. I remember, after dinner, the party drifted into the hotel bar, and we stayed up chatting. By two in the morning, only he and I were still at the bar, and he was buying me drinks.

Ladies, I don't know if you do this, but when I am out, I normally make "will I sleep with him" decisions before I get too far gone. It has actually saved me from disoriented mornings, where I am sure I would be hunting for my panties in a strange room. That night, I thought to myself, "Eh, I would go to bed with him if he makes the first move." I was a little ambivalent, thinking that it would be an honor to be his last lay before getting married. I was single at the time, so I figured everthing was okay. Sorry to disappoint, but he did not bed me that night, but we got into some deep discussions including talking about race.

When he was in college, he was dating a white woman, but he told me that night he could not marry her; mostly because a great many members of his family would have been hurt, disowned him, etc. I actually met her, and I thought she was sort of a bitch; looking back, I am not sure if I was a tad bit jealous. He had always been a good friend to me, and I thought I was must better suited for him than this woman.

Anyway, his wife is so sweet; he make a good choice. I would say he got lucky, but I think his faith, his accomplishments and his intelligence steered him in the right direction.

Anyway, we were getting fairly sloppy at the bar, and we started talking more openly about race than I had ever talked about it with anyone.

At one point, I said I was saddened when friends of mine made racist comments. His reaction was different than I expected, but he should have been a philosopher because it was so clear to him. He said, "I am sorry your friends think of you so badly."

Then he explained that by them making those remarks, the must assume that I either shared their viewpoint or that my character was so passive that I would not challenge them. Ever since that night, I started challenging people who made certain comments, whether it be about race or gossiping or whatever. And you know what, once you challenge, people look at you in a new light and cease making the remarks. Challenging someone is so uncomfortable that it works so well. The same can be said about being a slut – but I will talk about that some other time.

But my friend was so cogent that night, even though he (1) did not even flirt with me, and (2) was smashed.

Nikki's comments were very interesting, and I suggest you read them.

He also talked about playing games. You see, like Nikki, he was the token black in his company. Actually, he was probably the token black engineer. He said he probably got a better job than he would have otherwise because he was black, and there were relatively few black engineers in the workforce. But he said when he was in college, he focused on European literature and art in his electives, mostly because he knew that assimilating with mostly white men, they had this education. He said that African art and literature is extremely rich, but he learned about this away from the classroom. He knew that he had to fit in around the water cooler, and being an ex-college athlete helped. But he also had to talk about things that interested this white crowd. I am not saying this is right or wrong, but I know it is prudent and he has done extremely well. Funny thing is that I can here some "good ol' boys from Georgia" inserting the phrase "for a black man" at the end of the previous sentence. And that, to me, is the subtle racism that permeates the South.

I remember in middle school, a social studies teacher was talking about how poor students were doing, and he said, "I had four black men miss the following multiple choice throw-away question: who one the Civil War?" It is as if the Civil War should mean more to black students than white students. Another form of subtle racism.

One of the comments on Nikki's blog was "I sure would like to lick Leesa's snatch." No, that was not the comment.

It concerned how she was teaching her children, and she said things I did not know. Because of slavery, black people have to wash cars. Because of slavery, black people don't have air conditioning and must drive with their windows down, and white people, because they were not slaves, could afford air conditioning. The problem is that this woman probably thinks she is being kind, compassionate and helpful to her children. All I can do is shake my head, wondering why the bar to procreate is set so low. I honestly think some people have no idea how to make babies – they just end up bumping their nasty parts into one another and having kids.

I have actually seen poverty – in Georgia, in Mississippi. Both black people and white people. My first car did not have air conditioning and I bought it in Georgia. Must have clued me into the fact that I came from slaves. Actually, since my relatives have come from this area for a long time, I am sure there was a little bit of color mixed in with my Lily-white relatives.

Okay, I broke many different rules with this post – too darned long, talking about race (which ensures no comments), and it will fall on the Monday before a holiday, so I am sure there will be few readers.

Perhaps I will post it for Friday – I know Rob will be upset, but he got the ending to a story. But then again, some that find erotica distasteful would have something else to nibble on. Did you notice that I am letting my participles dangle? And I said the f-word several times. I must be letting my hair down.


~Deb said...

I challenge you on this post.

Do you speak of affirmative action by his accomplishments? Hmmm....

In my heathen days....(wait--I'm still living it) I am no stranger to waking up fumbling for my panties. Such a sinner!

Great post! VERY entertaining!

Edtime Stories said...

You perspective is once again wonderful. I think the issue of race is simply not talked about openly enough between the people it most effects. I loved your friend's comment about you friends not respecting you by using racist language in front of you. I really get that.

When I first moved to the south, in the first few days I heard two things not normally heard in public where I came from.

1. In the Baldwin County Public Library an elderly women talking loudly because I learned she was quite deaf said "I am looking for a book but I don't want to do the N*g*er work."

2. At my Realtor's office they ask if I had met someone, and a man there yelled "He is the laziest white man I ever met".

Neither of these people would see what they said as racist. First clearly second more underhanded. Racism exists everywhere in this country and I think you are right to challenge it when you see it. I applaud you and never apologize for long posts, your wisdom is worth the time.

nikki said...

great story, leesa. thanks so much for sharing it.

Leesa said...

~deb: don't understand the challenge. I purposefully did not broach the subject of affirmative action. Some employers (and I intend to agree) want a diverse work force because employees bring different experiences that when working together, you get a superior product. Some offices, however, just play the numbers. He is a very successful engineer - and I did not mean to imply that his race got him where he is. It did, however, by his words, give him slightly more pay initially.

ed: thanks for sharing! Interesting stories.

nikki: your post sparked the memory!

kathi said...

Being raised by a very racist dad, in the KKK capital of the state and having the only black girl in our school system as one of my best friends, I learned early to challenge racist remarks. It's what I do, it's who I am. It's spilled over into a lot of areas. May explain why I don't have a lot of close friends, lol. Better to have a select few who are decent people than a whole boat load of racist idiots. Just my opinion.

Great post.

Grant said...

I don't know Oprah's intent, but I don't think that fixating on racial issues is a way to end them - it seems more of a way to prolong them. Morgan Freeman said something to that effect, that the issues won't go away as long as people keep dwelling on them. Some people like to shout racism whenever possible, even under the most asinine of circumstances.

When I was a poor factory worker in Birmingham, our (black) supervisor was told to put his best workers on the faster machine to get a rush-job completed. He separated the eight of us into two teams. By coincidence, his best four workers were white, the others black. (I don't think we were better workers because of our color, it was just a small group and that's how things fell.) A couple on the black team immediately began shouting racism, although they were laughing at themselves when they did. Becuase of the racial climate, he immediately moved the newest white guy (me) to the other team and replaced me with the next fastest worker. When it came time to reload the machine, we all pitched in to help the main operator. We rotated positions throughout the night, and when I became the main operator and had to reload the machine, the two loudmouths made a show of turning their back on me and sitting on the floor. The other guy just pretended he didn't notice the machine wasn't running and needed to be reloaded.

So, yes, if you keep your eyes open, you will see subtle incidents of racism in the South. It's just not as unidirectional as is popularly advertised.

Leesa said...

kathi: I understand completely.

grant: I never said it was unilateral.

Tony said...

I had black friends while growing up in Ohio. From there I went into the Army. When I came off active duty I came to good 'ol Birmingham, AL. Up north I didn't notice the racial issues or tensions. In the Army we all worked as a team, regardless of the color. We had separate social activities we engaged in, but I don't believe that constitutes racism. If that's the case then the white people were racist, the hispanic/latino people were racist and the white people were racist as these were the three basic social groups that were to be found. Like groups converge, not necessarily out of a dislike for another group. When I arrived in Birmingham I was initially shocked at the blatant racism. After being here a while I've come to understand the history of the south and realized the effects of socially accepted racism prevalent in earlier years. I often wonder if people actually realize what they are saying. They've grown up watching their parents behave in this manner and it has become a part of what they are. I have to agree with you and applaud you on confronting the issue when it appears. I believe that if more of us do this and bring to light what may be an unconscious action then we may have a better chance of removing the racist barriers that exist. No, we won't remove racism entirely, but we may be able to move it more into its correct standing as socially unacceptable.

Thanks for letting your hair down.


~Deb said...

(Oh I was only kidding with you when you spoke of 'challenging' questions...)



JD said...

the racism in the South may be as you described, but growing up in the North, i saw way more up there. i think your post is excellent, especially the part about your friend. and i saw a lot of passion in this post, that's great. but the best part is the visual of Nikki licking your snatch. ;) too funny. you really crack me up. and the f words make it even better, keep it up, lol.

there will always be racism, some of the most intense is in cultures that barely have a cunt-hair of difference between them, like in the middle east, africa and the far east. even europe is quite bad when you've experienced it like i have. compared to them, ours is pretty benign. just look at the rioting in France and other news stories, like genocide in Rwanda. let's keep our "lack of air conditioning" in perspective. in many parts of the world, your friend never would've even had a chance to graduate from high school, much less get an engineering degree. hope this isn't too preachy, it is really a glass is much more than half full type of comment. ;) feel free to email me to discuss further...

Leesa said...

tony: thanks for your kind words.

~deb: oh, I did not know. Tell you what, next time you need to find your panties, I will help locate them.

jd: were I living in the countries you described, I would probably not have a house or a decent job.

mal said...

thought provoking

he sounds like a heck of a guy. I suspect if we was a lesser man he would have bedded you.

He is right about the lack of black engineers and I do not think I have ever met a black woman engineer in my travels

finally, finding your chonies in the morning with a hangover is not fun

Again, great post, Thank you

sophia said...


I liked the story you wrote about.

I'm sorry that my comments came across in the way you communicated them here. Believe me, I've gone with out air-conditioning for more than one summer and worked at minimun wage jobs, too. I'm not saying that these things are the direct result of slavery. That would be ridiculous. I'm saying that I believe that inequality still exists in our country because of the slavery and racism that black people have had to endure for over 400 years. My mentioning the air conditioning and minimum wage jobs was to highlight the disparity between the races. Are there poor white people? Of course. Are there rich black people? Certainly. From my experience of working with lower-socioeconomic groups,though, I have noticed that there is a higher percentage of black people who fall into this group than white people. This is a problem, and I would like to work towards a solution.

Monica said...

Leesa- I loved LOVED the last paragraph....made me smile. Nibble.
As for the rest, compelling. It's true that I rarely consider race issues. I think more than anything it has to do with the voluntary segregation that is so common. I live in a little white town in the midwest...race isn't really an issue here, because there is so little diversity. When we lived in Des Moines, it was more of an issue--my 2 best friends were black women, my kids had friends from all sorts of races and nationalities, and our church is something like the UN.
And I think that the racism in the North is more dangerous than in the south...we don't see it or feel it, so it's tougher to eliminate. Down there, it's a big ol sliver in your it's the downy fine cactus prickles that you can't see or pull without them breaking off.......dunno.

Leesa said...

mal: I have not met a black female engineer either. Thanks for your comments!

sophia: I was not trying to denegrate. I sometimes fail to realize that comments are sometimes written more simply than other posts. Less power to edit.

monica: I think what you wrote is key - some do not see race is an issue because they are in areas with little diversity.

Jason said...

I think in the present the opportunity to succceed is available to everyone regardless of color. Sure, some have harder lives than others, but people do in those predicaments still manage to succeed if they try hard enough. Some people need to keep racism alive for whatever reason. To make their living, to divide and conquer, or to avoid personal responsibility for something.

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United We Lay said...

I had no idea what racism in this country was like until I married a hispanic man. People sure aren't shy about sharing their opinion. We moved from FL to PA so that we would get less flak about it. People would come up to me in restaurants when he was in the bathroom and ask me what I was doing with him. Once a man pulled his son aside as we were walking by and said loudly, "If you ever marry outside of our race, I WILL disown you." In VA a woman pulled over her car in a parking lot to provide us with a litany of racial remarks and promise us eternal damnation. No wonder we don't believe in god.

sophia said...

Leesa, I appreciate your comment here. Yes, I am more clumsy with my writing when I am commenting on someone's blog. So I'm glad I had the chance to clarify what I was trying to say.

Leesa said...

jason: you said, "Sure, some have harder lives than others, but people do in those predicaments still manage to succeed if they try hard enough." Effort is only a small part of success.

bar-codes: thanks for the spam.

united: not sure you would want to stop believing in God because of racist statements. Some of Jesus' parables deal directly with racism.

sophia: no problem.

jj mollo said...

I have never had air conditioning in my home, and until recently never had working AC in my car. Being in PA rather than GA might have something to do with it. Mostly I have a house that doesn't really need it except for a few days a year. It doesn't really reflect on my financial condition.

I like your mention of diversity as a way to strengthen companies. Most people look at it as a necessary duty rather than an actual positive attribute to be cultivated for reasons related to profit.

The thing I wanted to say about challenging your friends when they say outrageous things is that you will be training them what to say around you, and you may no longer know what they really think because they will be afraid to say it. I think it's a delicate trade off. You might influence people's thinking, but you might also cut off communication.

Georgiapeach said...

You said the f-word? Wonderful post Leesa! I think this was my favorite post ever.
And not because you mentioned sexy Derrick Thompson *wink*

Or because I almost passed out when I read this part "The same can be said about being a slut – but I will talk about that some other time."

But because I got to see your perspective on the issue. Lately I have been really racist. Girl, I have sat at this desk and scribble all sorts of racist obscenities about my co-workers. I have gotten so caught up with the race issue that I haven't even felt like working. I am even looking for another job. Maybe I am going through a phase.

One thing, I don't like is my accent and the fact that they mock me. Also, I don't like the fact that they don't invite me to lunch, or say thank you when I do something kind. Then there is this one guy that acts and looks like he is part of the KKK. I am not joking. Matter fact all of the men here act like they tell great nigger jokes.

I know for a fact that I am a token black employee. They are not many black landscape architects, therefore they have to hire a black receptionist. The other day, they interviewed this black girl for an architect position. WHy did my boss come up to me after she left and say "that's a nice girl". This man has interviewed over ten people, never said a comment to me about any other person he has interviewed. And the sad part is, I knew he would do that. Maybe I am just lonely here at my job. I have no clue. But it seems that people are always noticing things I do wrong and never the good things. Which is very irritating.

Reading these comments, while actually Edtime Stories, I didn't even knew white people talked like that. How often do white people say racist things. And do you think that my co-workers say racist things about me? Really, I am sure they do.
It's this one white guy here that calls me "girl". He is the v.p. He really looks like a KKK and acts like one. Because not only does he call me girl, he smiles in my face and complains about me behind my back. For some reason I am supposed to be a perfect little secretary but they don't pay enough at all. That's why I am looking for another job.

You have to answer this for me, because I really want to know: Do white men call white women "girl"?
Guess what else I found out Leesa? White women don't turn me on. Is that weird? And I am freak, wait.....!!!! I forgot, that I have a girl crush on I take that "white women don't turn me on" thing
I am talking crazy Great post.

Leesa said...

jj mollo: if I am training them to be more respectful in my presence, so be it. If they are hateful, I don't think I want to communicate with them.

GP: thanks, sweetie, for the long comment. It was one of the most powerful nights I have experienced. I have never heard a white man call me or any of my friends "girl". I have heard white women say to other white women, "you go girl." Or about someone, "she was such a lovely girl" (but not directly to someone, which is what I think you mean).