Trigger alert in case you’re into that.
I was talking to my friend Lita on the bus riding to downtown today. We talk about political things all the time and somehow we’re still friends. Today the conversation turns to the current events of the day with racism, police, and all that stuff. Not so happy times.
“Can a black person be racist?” she asks.
“Of course,” I reply.
She gives me an exasperated look and goes on to explain that the notion of “racism” involves the societal power differential between blacks and whites and that from a societal standpoint you can have a prejudiced black person, but not a racist one based on that fact.
I sat and processed this for a moment as the bus drove over the Fremont bridge over the ship canal.
Looking back at her I was thinking how to respond.
“That’s not the definition I’ve been thought,” I started saying. “Any time someone makes decisions based solely on race that’s racist, isn’t it?”
There was a strained half mile as we cruised down Dexter.
“If the definition changed then you really need to tell people about it. If a white person hears someone rant about ‘black people can’t be racist’ the next thing that’s going to go through their head is ‘that guy (or girl) is an idiot’ and proceed to ignore the rest of the statement. Beyond that they’ll feel even less likely to help.”
“But we’re tired of defining it all the time. You should google it or something. Be informed.”
The problem is that the Google definition isn’t that either.
“Based on your premise I agree with the statement — but there should be some more talk of engagement about this to let people know.”
If we left it back at the Fremont bridge I would be classed a racist based on the newfangled definition that hadn’t been communicated. She would be charged a kook with the old definition.
“You shouldn’t simple change definitions about what you’re talking about, you’ll just be, depending on your part of the conversation, be either resentful or angry. The conversation has to happen, even if it’s every damned time.”
We grudgingly agreed and called a truce.
Walking toward the 5 Point for brunch I asked “What about the Dallas shooter? What would you use to describe him?”
“Racist” we both agreed lacking another adjective.
The 5 Point was far too busy for our needs… we had someplace to be.