To live in a world where you’re always right. Even when you’re completely wrong.
I have a little story to tell, although it still pains me to even think about it. (I think this is what’s called “Confessional Blogging.”)
When I was nineteen years old, I took an internship on Capitol Hill. I went to work for the Democratic Representative from my district, but I ended up doing a lot of work for John Lewis, since the guy for whom I went to work turned out to be a Dixiecrat nestled deep into the pockets of Northrup and Grumman and a half dozen other arms dealers. Besides being slimy, he was kind of dull to work for.
So, here I am, this 19 year old idealistic kid from Columbus, GA. I had some good ideas in my head, and some bad ideas in my head. I was not the upper-middle to upper-class child of privilege that Dani (America’s Top Racist, or whatever she’s trying to be, in the clip referenced above…) appears to be, since I had gone to fully integrated public schools, my mother had been an activist with the Urban League and I had played music in all sorts of bands when I was a teenager. However, I still had some persistent misconceptions about what it means to be Black in America, and I was headed for a collision with one member of Congressman Lewis’ staff.
*sigh* I hate to even tell this story.
So, we’re stuffing envelopes, one night, late. Me and John (my roommate, not the Congressman) and the Congressman’s Legislative Assistant. (I just called Lewis’ office to try and see if anyone could remember his name, and everyone was like “Wow, 20 years ago? Mmmmm…. nope.”)
When I got to DC, I almost immediately fell into a musical situation playing in a Blues band. As the only white player in that band, I felt pretty privileged and special to having that experience. So, I yapped about it at the drop of a hat.
So, here we are stuffing envelopes and I am yapping about playing with this blues band, so I turn to the Congressman’s LA and I say “Do you like blues or jazz?”
And he says “What do you mean?” He instantly sensed the assumption behind my question, which was “Well, you’re black- surely you like one or the other…” which was really, really naive and stupid of me. These are the preconceptions one carries away from Columbus, Georgia, I guess.
Not sensing what an ass I was being, I persisted “Well, do you like blues? or jazz?”
And he, sensing an opportunity to impart a life lesson, said “What makes you think I like either one?”
And I wasn’t about to say “Well, you’re black….and black people like Negro music, right?” but that WAS the implicit assumption in my question. I struggled to think of some OTHER way of saying “Well, you’re black…” and muttered some inanity just as it began to dawn on me that I was being presumptuous and that I was perhaps operating under some assumptions that might be kind of idiotic.
God, thinking back on it now, I can’t imagine what an idiot I must looked like. Of course, the full implication of it didn’t really dawn on me until some years later, but even at the moment, I realized I was out on some thin ice. I can only hope that dear Dani has some sort of moment of reflection at some point and realizes that the assumptions that she’s making may not be informed by anything other than her racism.
We live in hope.