I was reading another blog where the author was replying to a comment that most black slaves sold to Europeans were actually captured and sold by other Africans. The author really took exception to this statement and in arguing against it said, “That’s just as bad as saying that the Holocaust was committed by Europeans against themselves.” I had to reread that over and over before I could figure out what he was trying to say there. Because, honestly, as a Native People, that’s actually how I always viewed the Holocaust.
…and its not because of Thanksgiving.
I had marginally planned to take at least some of the day off, to do a little ahead of time cooking if my work load allowed. It doesn’t, but I’m staying home anyways.
I work in a part of the city that historically has had racial issues. And I’m talking about a city that was once know as the Mississippi of the West.
I love my neighborhood by the way. And it is mine. I lived there back in college with my sister and with my poor mad boy. His family home is there. The place where he hides in his little empty room. I always planned on going back. That’s why I looked so hard for a job in the area.
But I couldn’t get a house there. I was dumbfounded by the prices. I was only gone a couple of years. A couple of years! The gentrification that everyone seemed to be doom saying about back when I moved out was real, and it was here.
I work all day with black and Hispanic and Asian clients who used to live in the neighborhood like me. Their family homes were here for generations. Now they bus in from cheaper neighborhoods. Some of them hang on. A lot have moved into subsidized housing that has been built around the outside edges of the area as a concession to those who protested the gentrification. Right. Because a crappy little projects apartment where you have to get rid of your pets and can’t have a garden or a BBQ or a lot of other things is totally the same thing as the family home you lost because you couldn’t pay the hiked up taxes.
They go without food. The prices in local restaurants are hiked up too, but that’s not the real problem. The problem is you go up to the counter and you wait. And you wait. And you wait while the counter people keep waiting on all these white hipsters that keep coming in the door after you.
And this rears it head up constantly at my work. And I’m not just talking about the clients. I often catch people I work with speaking in terms of “us” and “them.”
The other week, I spent a lot of time dodging around corners when the Hispanic workers felt one of the black workers had unfairly denied funding to one if my Hispanic clients. “You’re on my side, right?” They kept literally saying that. Apparently there’s no Indian faction and we redskins are up for grabs.
I was unaware of the protesting in Portland initially when it started. And I got a weird phone call from a black client during that time. He put his girlfriend on the line too. She seemed confused, but offered her two cents too eventually. It made more sense later in context of the protests.
So I’m not going in to work today. I’m not afraid. I did a self-check: is this just my PTSD predicting a possible crisis and avoiding it? No, I don’t think so. Let’s face it, I’ve kind of sucked at avoiding conflict lately.
No. I just have this sinking feeling I’m not going to get much work done. Clients or coworkers are going to be too caught up in trying to find out from me, “Whose side are you on?”
And I think I’d rather just go cook some cranberries.
So. I’m leaving work and I have to walk a few blocks to my car. I’m looking down the street to the next corner I have to cross and there’s a black man standing there, looking up and down the street, obviously wanting to cross. But none of the cars stop, they just keep whizzing by. I knew what was going to happen next. It almost made me want to turn around and go the other way, but he’d seen me by then and I was worried that he would think it was afraid of him or something.
When I got to the corner, I barely had to break my stride. I just made sure the oncoming cars had room to stop before I stepped out into the street. they all stopped of course. For the white woman. As we walked across the street, I tried to give him, I don’t know, a sympathetic look? He just shrugged, smiled ruefully, and marched across the street with his hands in his pockets, looking kind of pissed at the world.
I didn’t want to apologize for my race (I’m actually 3/4 Native American–I just got the 1/4 white smack on my skin), but I did want to somehow let him know that I felt real bad that we live in a shitty-ass world where people who think they are liberal are actually racist.