“I Was Telling My Black Friends…”

I’m sitting in Arby’s with the recalcitrant brother trying to convince him that, when asked why he ever got together with my sister-in-law, the only explanation that’s ever going to make any sense is that he was on drugs.  He claims he wasn’t.  I don’t believe it, one, and two, I just can’t believe it.

Who dates a crack whore unless he’s on crack?

Anyway, he was laughing about how his black friends make fun of him because he’s only got two kids.  And then he was telling me how he had to lecture one of the guys on the job about using the word nigger, saying that it wasn’t cool and he didn’t like it and he wasn’t brought up that way.

As many of you know, my brother owes his continued existence to America’s most famous domestic terrorist group.  Granted, it’s probably one of the lazier, least philosophically consistent branches of this particular hate group, but there’s robes in closets of houses I refuse to visit, and for me, that’s what counts.

It’s got me thinking about what constitutes racism.  Sometimes, I think that most folks think that racism is some kind of meeting of the heart and mind–you hate someone because of what race they are and you act on it.  You might get most people to concede that hating someone because of what race they are is racist.

But is making a joke at the expense of someone’s race racist?  What if you make fun of whatever makes anyone different from how “normal” people are?  I would argue that that is racist–not because it’s overtly and intentionally harmful, but because it assumes that white people are what’s “normal.”

I think that a lot of folks kind of subconsciously draw a big line between “I hate and wish that person harm because he’s different than me” and “I like my own kind best.”  I think that line’s really fuzzy, in practice.

I don’t know.  I can’t figure out where I was going with this.

I may have lost the ability to make coherent posts.

Here’s what I want to know: what does it mean that the recalcitrant brother both stands up against racism when he sees it and that he lets the Klan babysit my nephews?  Am I a bitch for refusing to visit the Klan, even though they are the family of one of my nephews?  I think so, but I’m not sure.  Is loyalty to my belief that acting like a monumental asshole who, at the least, supports violence and murder based on fluke of birth is wrong more important than making an effort to have some larger role in the life of my nephew, a role that might positively counteract the bullshit he’s being served at home?

I don’t know.  I don’t have any real answers. It kind of makes me want to throw up a little just trying to figure out what the questions are.

12 thoughts on ““I Was Telling My Black Friends…”

  1. oooooooooh, you and the lofty questions. I can’t imagine having to make the choice between being an influence on the little boy, and having to be where the klan is. I have no great insight. Go with your gut. Either way you decide, you’re standing up for something you believe in. And I love you for worrying about it.

  2. You’re not going to be a very effective advocate of your ideal of tolerance if you never have to witness to its difficult demands. The kid does not understand your principles. He understands you don’t visit him and that he needs your love. Besides, you’re missing a prime opportunity to tie-dye those pretty white robes with Cherry-Blast Kool-Aid. That stuff just doesn’t come out. And Sharpie makes these great thick markers — think how happy they’d be if they reached into the closet and out came a lovely smiley-face? Why…you’d be doing them a favor.

  3. Reasons for dating a crack whore other than being on crack oneself:1) to have someone around who is undeniably worse off than oneself2) to rescue him/her, because one is into saving people3) I can’t think of any more reasons, but I’m sure they existI kind of agree with bridgett about putting your principles to the test (and thereby demonstrating them to your nephew). But I guess it depends on whether your brother habitually uses your visits to attack you and/or insist on involving you in unsavory events. But you can always invite him and your nephew to visit you.

  4. I like Bridgett’s idea about the robes, but cat pee is even better (and may just "stay" longer).Seriously, what a tough call? Makes me think about that show "Intervention." Can love ever be too tough? Not tough enough?

  5. actually, something that smells worse than cat pee is deer blood. Get some frozen venison and let it thaw – then smear the blood on the robes…..that smell doesn’t come out – trust me…

  6. Yeah, go out into the woods and piss off the Klan. Good call. When you’re done, bring back one of the robes and wander around east Nashville.I DO agree that your best course of action is to go visit the kid, and then influence him, and them, with your ideas.But watch out! Maybe they’ll win you over with their ideas and you’ll turn into a racist.(Tee Hee Hee)

  7. Yes, considering I saw my nephew’s grandfather try to beat the shit out of my nephew’s uncle with a 2×4 just for fun one Thanksgiving, I will not be defacing any robes of any sort.I guess what I’m doing is what I can do–to be a part of his life when he visits here and try to get down to Georgia more often, when I get the chance, but stay at the recalcitrant brother’s and not go out to their houses.I can remember when the recalcitrant brother’s best friend in high school became a neo-Nazi. I thought that was hilarious, seeing as his family was Irish and Catholic, and so I laughingly explained his stupidity to him.That was pretty stupid on my part. I thought for sure he was going to punch me. He didn’t, but he didn’t stop being a neo-Nazi either.It’s just weird. In some ways, your family is so much like you it can give you the willies. In other ways, it really is just a handful of strangers with nothing in common picked to live together by fate.

  8. Aunt B., having a problem with laughing at stereotypes because "it assumes that white people are what’s ‘normal’" doesn’t seem compelling to me. If you are in a mostly white community, with mostly white friends, then white is what’s ‘normal’ for you and your friends. I’m not sure that this is an issue as long as you don’t assume that white (or whatever your normal is) is ‘better’. If you live in a very diverse community with many different kinds of friends, you will probably tell funny stories about people who don’t interact with other races (klansmen, survivalists) or who don’t know what Matzos are.Funny story: I lived in Korea, and had some Korean friends. One of them told me two funny things that relate to this. She said "It’s hard for us to tell westerners apart". I had always thought that the "we can’t tell orientals apart" idea came from the fact that they have less individual variation (similar height, hair color, eye color, etc) than you find in the west. Statistically, westerners probably do have more variation, but what matters is the clues that we focus on when we differentiate individuals. Koreans don’t recognize each other based on hair color, so they can mistake a red-headed person for their blond friend.Another time, she confessed that after she ate at our house (western food), she always went home and had some rice. She wasn’t convinced that she had actually eaten a meal, unless she had eaten rice. How’s that for a funny twist on "you get hungry again after half-an-hour"?She had her ‘normal’, and she knew it. That was fine, and interesting to talk about, as long as she didn’t think that our abnormality meant that we were stupid or wrong.

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