Like the rest of America I was surprised by the Zimmerman verdict last Saturday. I was not shocked however. To me the verdict had to turn out this way because our justice system is a game of semantics, even when a young man has died. I don’t have a lot of faith in our justice system all the time, but that is a commentary for another post.
I am not going to debate the race card, but I will tell you I went through a myriad of different emotions regarding race since Saturday night.
I am a white American. My heritage includes Italian and Irish ancestry. There may be others, but quite frankly I don’t care. I am an American first and foremost.
You conjured up a picture of what I look like just by the my ancestry, didn’t you? Maybe you even snuck a look at my picture just to verify the “facts” I presented. It happens. We can’t help it.
In America, we work in stereotypes, good, bad, or indifferent.
I can’t help that I am white anymore than a black person can help their skin color.
I can, however, help how I treat others. That brings me to my point.
I have wronged people of color. Not in the Paula Deen sense, but in my complacency.
I am color-blind and assume others are too. I teach my children that skin color doesn’t matter.
We live in the deep South which is rich in civil rights history and I educate them on the atrocities of our American heritage. They are justifiably horrified. They know it is never right to treat any human being in that fashion EVER.
Clearly not everyone is color-blind. Color, and the subsequent racism because of color, affects people of color EVERYDAY. I have been ignorant of that fact.
Let me say, for the record…I am sorry. I am truly and deeply sorry for not acknowledging that.
Once upon a time in a land far away from where the white girl (now woman) currently lives there was a meeting of 2 young girls. One was white and one was black.
“Hi! My name’s Melissa!” said the black girl with her pony tails and bright smile.
“Hi! I’m Jennifer!” replied the white girl.
The beginnings of a beautiful friendship ensued. Unbeknownst to the white girl, though, the black girl had struggles. Her family struggled with the friendship. Her school friends struggled, too.
They persevered in their friendship though.
Years later, the white girl named her first born after her best friend. The black girl was the white girl’s maid of honor.
As they became adults the struggles started to take their toll on the black girl. She lashed out at the ignorance of the white girl who adored her. She was convinced that the white girl was prejudice in some fashion. What she didn’t understand was that the white girl didn’t know how to be anything but white. She could sympathize and be there for the black girl, but there was no way to bridge the gap.
The final straw to their friendship was the first election cycle of Barack Obama. There was no way the white girl could be anything but a racist if she didn’t vote for Mr. Obama. There was no way the black girl could see this was not a race issue for the white girl.
The black girl called and railed against something the white girl posted on Facebook. The friendship ended. It had been limping along for years at this point and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The white girl was “unfriended.” She was devastated. This had been their 3rd argument as adults about race. This seemed so final. The white girl wanted to understand, but it is hard to truly “get it” without being that person.
It has been years since the white girl has heard from the black girl and the pain is still raw. She is crying as she types this because she misses her friend so much.
I am not a racist and never have been. I have just been blinded to color. As I wrote in a comment on a friend’s blog: “It is easy to be color blind when you are the color of the favorite Barbie doll.” Shame on me.